Karlheinz Stockhausen

Ceylon/Bird of Passage

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This is an odd Stockhausen release, apparently a mid-'70s attempt to market him to a crossover audience, one that would accept his brand of "noise" if couched in some quasi-Indian guise. Whether it worked or not, it does present a somewhat more accessible picture of the composer, though "accessible" only to fans, perhaps, of Sun Ra or even the Miles Davis of around the same period. In fact, Ceylon, with its two trumpets (including an early appearance by Markus Stockhausen) and piano, has a decidedly jazzy sound to it, sometimes reminiscent of things like Davis' Agharta, although sans the rhythm section. Other portions indeed evoke some of the spacier Sun Ra releases of the '60s and early '70s with the open improvisations and use of electronics, albeit with a more relaxed, Zen-like ambience. Bird of Passage is more percussive in nature, with bell-like tones and hand drums predominating. Here, the loose rhythms employed are more evocative of Java and Sumatra than India, but events again proceed in a very relaxed manner. In both pieces, electronics are used very effectively both to enhance the sounds of the acoustic instruments as well as in their own right. One of the surprising aspects of the album is how well they are integrated among the flutes, percussion, etc. There are some similarities to Jon Hassell's work in this regard. Most listeners coming upon these pieces 25 years or more after their release would find themselves amazed at how fresh they continue to sound. Not available on disc as of 2002, Ceylon/Bird of Passage is definitely one to snatch up if you come across it.

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