Alain Presencer

The Singing Bowls of Tibet

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First off, this is not Tibetan music but music composed and arranged by a Westerner, a self-described Tibetologist and poet whose jacket photo bears a strong resemblance to Gary Oldman's Count Dracula. It's a one-man band effort, wherein Dr. Presencer plays the titular singing bowls, various horns and flutes, some cymbals and gongs, and a human femur. He also sings a little, but more as a sound effect than as a song. Perhaps you've seen the glass harmonica, an instrument consisting of water glasses filled with different amounts of water and played by running a finger around the rims to ring them. Tibet's singing bowls work on the same principle, except that they're metal bowls instead of glasses. The sound they emit is unearthly, softer than a ringing but continuous and sometimes more piercing. The effect is a little like a musical saw. The tone can be made to sound nearer and farther and to vary in pitch. Dr. Presencer does not overuse them. The music would have to be described as mood music: slow, atmospheric, not terribly tuneful, punctuated by terribly meaningful gong rings and bowl whoops. Imagine Wendy Carlos' music from A Clockwork Orange, only stripped down, acoustic, and much slower, and you'll have it.

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