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Jonathan Harvey Body Mandala

Tranquil Abiding; Body Mandala; Timepieces: I - III; White as Jasmine; ...towards a Pure Land

BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra/Ilan Volkov &Stefan Solyom
Anu Komsi (soprano)

NMC D 141

Laurie Scott Baker and Robert Evans

Liquid Metal Dreaming
(What is Music - Vol 1)

Musicnow MNCD010

Horses for courses... We need for Musical Pointers a reviewer attuned to the mystical and the minimal.

Jonathan Harvey's latest CD brings together music which is all sonically attractive but presented dauntingly with explanations which I find unhelpful for listening, in the emphasis on religiosity, stressing how Harvey's Buddhist preoccupations intensify the sometimes mystical Christianity of earlier works (Michael Downes)...

Ignore all that - but surely Harvey doesn't want you to - and you have however a rich assembly of orchestral tapestries of rich beauty. My own preference was for the complex Timepieces: I - III, which explore "how music can manipulate and trasform our perception of time". They require two conductors, each beating in different metres and tempi, and - to make things even harder - the musicians are at times instructed to transfer their attention from one conductor to another.

Presentation is good and includes English texts of the songs (translations from Kannadu). No reason to doubt that the performances and their recording will be exactly what the composer wanted; the BBC Scottish Symhony Orchestra, based in Candelriggs, displays itself as a high class outfit which specialises in contemporary music.

One curiosity is that this a packed disc totalling the maximum possible 79'59", necessitating a special note that you should have your zapper poised to create pauses between the works for 'the best listening experience' !

Liquid Metal Dreaming "ethereal, familiar, sometimes challenging" is based entirely on open strings and natural harmonics and recommended to people who like Adams, Riley, Oldfield, Skempton and Bedford, to which I would answer, well, some of Adams and Riley, but not most of the others. Laurie Scott Baker was a member of the historic Scratch Orchestra and involved with the English experimentalists and with Cornelius Cardew.

I found the notes here more engrossing than the music, which sounds as if it may be improvised (no publishing information is supplied). It is mostly slow and introduces a wide array of percussion to counterpoint acoustic and bowed electric bass.

Reports by afficionados of these musics, brought together here rather improbably - so both might think - would be welcomed.

Peter Grahame Woolf [Editor]

Jonathan Harvey: Other Presences

Markus Stockhausen, trumpet and live electronics

Sargasso SCD28057 [66']

Jonathan Harvey (born 1939): Other Presences
Kaffe Matthews (born 1961): Men being butterflies
Lawrence Casserley (born 1941): Lost wax
Gilbert Nouno (born 1970): Wataru Jikan
Evelyn Ficarra (born 1962): Fractured Marble
Daniel Biro (born 1963): Miles of Harvey
Anna Harvey: Lost Frontier
John Palmer (born 1959): Present Otherness

This sequel to Harvey's Body Mandela (above) is an intriguing compilation of music made by Harvey in association with Daniel Biro and mostly younger contemporary "electronics composers", all "remixed" from material recorded by Marcus Stockhausen. Each composer takes an invidual approach to the given material and describes it; e.g. Biro focusses on Stockausen's staccato playing; Anna Harvey approached the material with an open mind, letting the structure 'fall into place' without a prior plan; Casserley, probably the senior contributor, worked on underlying resonances and - uncommonly with electronic musics - urged listeners to play it back very quietly. For the composers' CVs you'll have to go to their websites; far better than the usual cluttering up the space with too small print...

A lot of this music is weird and wonderful - and beautiful! And I have particularly enjoyed re-hearing most of the pieces on my iPod, whcih enhances the stereo separation.

Harvey's own title work is complex (and its sounds had me banished to another room for listening !). Inspired by Tibetan ceremonies, it was a preparation for his orchestral Body Mandela [above] but I don't think this needs to concern listeners. But there is a serious disjunction between the concept of this innovative disc and how it reaches the listener.

Everything emanates from Stockhausen's trumpet playing with electronic manipulation, which is how he concertizes. But Harvey's collaborators (including his daughter Anna) were provided only with a pure version of the solo trumpet line, "without loops or electronic treatment".

Why are we deprived of that on a disc which has only 66 minutes of music? Is that available elsewhere, or was it restricted to the composers?

The individual pieces are described (with sound clips) in a specialist, expert review on Music & Vision, to which I happily defer. PGW