The Sarabite: Towards an Aesthetic Christianity

There is a continuous attraction, beginning with God, going to the world, and ending at last with God, an attraction which returns to the same place where it began as though in a kind of circle. -Marsilio Ficino

Thursday, January 12, 2006

CD review: Diamond Fiddle Language

Type of music: modern avant-garde
Composer Terry Riley and double bassist Stefano Scodanibbio

Not for general audiences.

Terry Riley has been one of the greatest musical minds in the last fifty years in the musical avant-garde. His seminal "In C" is really the beginning of the minimalist movement according to most musical historians. Aside from writing pieces played by others, he has also been a great improviser on the piano, synthesizer, and other instruments (including his own voice, for which he studied under the great Indian vocalist Pandit Pran Nath.)

This album is one such improvisation, set at three different times in three different venues, with the avant-garde double bassist Stefano Scodanibbio. While the first two tracks, Diamond Fiddle Language I and Tritono, have some interesting material in them, it is really in the last track, Diamond Fiddle Language II, that the two artists really reach true musical perfection.

True, it is not pleasant on the ear like Bach or the later Philip Glass, but the synthesizer and the double bass are used to create almost a symphony of instruments. The highlight for me, and I would say it is worth the price of the CD, is when Terry Riley stops playing and begins to sing part of a raga by Pandit Pran Nath, while the double bassist continues to improvise under him. It had an eery, ecstatic effect that Indian classical music often has, but with the added component of a very Western instrument. Very fascinating!

Bottom line: don't buy this album if you are into "easy listening" or you think all modern music is crap. Terry Riley likes to mix modern avant-garde with jazz, blues, and Indian classical music in order to take the ear to another level. I highly recommend this album to people who want to challenge their ear.