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Have No Fear, Ye Who Enter Here

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Monday June 11, 2018

From For Folks Sake

Album | Thomas Bartlett & Nico Muhly – Peter Pears: Balinese Ceremonial Music
By: Lorenzo Righetto

The inscription on the imaginary doorstep leading to this record should read: “Have no fear, ye who enter here”. No 12-minutes long sessions of gamelan and drones are waiting beyond, but the vague fascination of two well-acquainted musicians for the studies of Colin McPhee of the popular music of Bali, which gives this record a very faint “world” undertone.

[…] The typical minimalist sound of Doveman’s records (think of his work with Sufjan Stevens’ music) is here ‘overtaken’ by the more colourful, if sparse, orchestration by Muhly. Strings, piano or piano-like instruments and minute electronic beats and sounds seem to float and wander as spirits around Bartlett’s ‘sighing’ voice.

The connection with previous scholars and artists and composers bringing Balinese elements into their music, from Peter Pears to precursor ethnomusicologist Colin McPhee, shows in two ways. Firstly, directly, as two excerpts from McPhee’s transcriptions appear in the record. Secondly, a more spiritual link. The musical tradition McPhee was studying appears, sometimes with a lot of manipulation, until it is almost a refraction, a remembrance, but also with palpable honesty – for instance, when Bartlett rearranges a song from his past material (‘Valentine’).

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