Listeners who enjoy the strangest ethnic music on earth have always had a special place in their hearts for Tibetan music. In terms of the joys of listening to music that hasn't been created by someone trying to be a genius in the recording studio, nothing says it better than a group of Tibetan monks solemnly chanting or blasting away on trumpets large enough to be used as drainpipes on a two-story house. The clang of Tibetan cymbals has also been known to clear wimpy listeners out of houses or record stores, and even cause a divorce or two along the way. This is just one level of the genius that can be appreciated on these recordings, because of course these albums can be dealt with on a much higher philosophical and intellectual level. And, as the years go on, recordings made in the early '70s in Bhutan acquire more and more historical value. The eventual repackaging of the entire Lyrichord Tibetan series into a CD set has also been done with taste and without the sacrifice of the vastly informative texts and musical examples that were tucked inside the glossy covers of these original albums. The first three volumes in this series were devoted to monastic orchestras and their instrumental arsenal. This includes the gyaling, which are shawms loud enough to deafen a chipmunk at 30 paces, as well as conch trumpets, short trumpets made of metal or human thigh bones, the aforementioned six-foot collapsible dungchen trumpets, large membrane drums, cymbals of all sizes, bells and sticks, and even a drum made out of human skull. The orchestra usually features more than 20 players, and the sounds created are hard to top in terms of sheer presence and sonic impact. The unaccompanied chants will serve as breathers after pieces such as this, although putting one on while small children are trying to fall asleep is not a wise idea. The processional music in which the shawms take the lead with wild percussion backup are phenomenal.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Eugene Chadbourne