Various Artists

Glimpses of Tibet

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There is little about Rhymoi Music's package Glimpses of Tibet that isn't deluxe. It comes in a beautiful, bright red candy box with crushed yellow fabric inside, holding the CD, book, and a little Buddah statue made with clay quarried from Lhasa. The disc is in an XRCD format and the sound engineering is first rate; it opens with traditional Tibetan chanting, long trumpets, shawms, and drum, and listeners will be grateful for the resolution on the Dung Chen (long trumpets), where you can really tell that these are brass instruments. After this introduction, the remainder of the disc takes hold; Tibetan composer Jue Ga, whose doctorate came from Shangai Conservatory, coordinates the project as a whole. It is a seamless and lovingly constructed homage to Tibetan music and culture that utilizes the resources of traditional instruments, singers, and -- in comparatively small doses -- standard Western orchestral scoring. To Western ears, certain parts of Glimpses of Tibet might sound strongly under Chinese influence; however, it never descends to the level of travelog, but is very carefully managed for effect. "Echoes of Mountain Song," for example, contrasts the bizarre warbling of a Tibetan mountain Lu singer, pan flutes, and a modern chromatic harp, and it all works very well.

Jue's musical transformation of traditional Tibetan music is filtered not only through an understanding of his own musical roots but also through the experience gained in his conservatory training in China. In the West, with its support of the Tibetan Government in Exile and general suspicion in regard to Chinese political ideology, such a cultural mix may seem suspect to certain ears; the Dalai Lama has openly stated that Tibet requires autonomy, in part, to protect its unique, trans-Himalayan forms of culture. Glimpses of Tibet subtly underscores a sense of commonality between Chinese and Tibetan cultures, while remaining essentially true to the purpose of transmitting the distinctive flavor of Tibetan music on its own terms. Jue's music is certainly evocative and agreeable to listen to, and the gift box for Glimpses of Tibet is so nice you might want to keep it in your China cabinet, rather than on the record shelf.

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