Ensemble Multifoon

Gongs & Strings

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What do you get when you put a classical string quartet together with a five-piece ensemble that plays Western-tuned gamelans? If you ever wondered, here is the result. While the music, composed by two Dutchmen and Balinese composer Sinta Wuller, is exotically beautiful and full of tonal variety and color, it lacks the raw textural elegance that the original instruments in their resident tunings have to offer. This is not an argument for primitivism, but for contrast. Also, though each piece was written with a string quartet and gamelan quintet as equals, the string quartet invariably ends up as the rhythm section. There are exceptions, but what all of these pieces seem to want to put before the listener is a showcase of the new diversity in a very old percussion instrument. While it may indeed seem unfair to lump three composers' works together in a single criticism, it is because they all share the same lack: edges. There is nothing but rounded corners on this set. This is a tragedy in that strings in and of themselves have such angular power; it would have been far more interesting to hear them juxtaposed against the warm overtones of the gamelans. In concept, this was a fine idea; in execution, it is very disappointing.

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