José Maceda

José Maceda: Gongs and Bamboos

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Experimental contemporary music is not very big in the Philippines. Indeed, virtually the entire avant-garde community in that country is centered around one man, Jose Maceda, who, at the time of this release, was 84 years old and still teaching at the University of the Philippines. Maceda was responsible for introducing the music of Varese and Xenakis, among others, to his country and was the father figure to the small community of composers that has flourished there. Gongs and Bamboos is his first U.S. release and presents an interesting range of his compositions. "Pagsamba" (Mass) is scored for an enormous group of some 125 vocalists and hundreds of small percussion instruments and flutes. The whole affair is somewhat murky with Latin scriptures chanted over blurs of rattles and gongs and sounds reminiscent of works like Penderecki's Passion of St. Luke, though not nearly as rigorous or ecstatic. "Suling-Suling," for a mere 10 flutes, 10 bamboo buzzers and 10 gongs is more successful (played here by an ensemble of students and faculty of Mills College including Fred Frith), conjuring up a dreamy, clattering world halfway between Bali and Darmstadt. The final piece, "Colors Without Rhythm" is the one which really hits the mark, an odd melding of aspects of John Adams with Morton Feldman as colorful as the title implies and sounding rather different than anything else in the contemporary oeuvre. The softly surging and subsiding instrumental clusters are like glinting reflections off agitated water. This piece makes the world of this intriguing Filipino composer well worth investigating.

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