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Since his impressive feat of experimentations in both fields of electronic and contemporary classical, piano music in the late sixties and seventies, the visionary composer’s interests have extended over omnifarious dimensions, and “Ssingggg Sschlllingg Sshpppingg,” in sound, spirit, and vision, captures that, without the least reservation.
An early hint comes in the form of the artwork, as photographed by Laurent Meurice — it stars an ensemble of stuffed animals, what Palestine has variously referred to as Animal Shamans and Little Singing Assholes, whose presence in “Ssingggg Sschlllingg Sshpppingg” is not merely limited to the visual or the nostalgic — referring to Palestine’s art installations and sculpture work — but as the latter might suggest, they assume an important role in the music, too.
The music of Charlemagne Palestine has been repeatedly categorized as minimal, though neither of the admirers of inaugural pieces like ‘Short And Sweet’ and ‘Strumming Music,’ nor the more recent collaborative body of work (e.g. “Rubhitbangklanghear Rubhitbangklangear”) would agree on the generalization. Sure, the terms set trends and trends help out artists to be known in a usually contradictory process, but they are always worthy of being questioned for the sake of works of art not being reduced to a journalist’s plaything, or an academician’s plaything for that matter.
“Ssingggg Sschlllingg Sshpppingg” is unlike any of Palestine’s previously documented pieces but certainly comparable to a many of them, that is to say; the performance is not separated into etudes as in “Four Manifestations On Six Elements,” and nor does it make use of strummed sonority similar to ‘Strumming Music,’ instead, it waits upon a raga sculptured with sounds and sounds only. And in that regard, “Ssingggg Sschlllingg Sshpppingg” is the ultimate sound art record, as it does not demarcate the music it redefines.
The sculpturing betides in the most orchestral fashion, and trancedly it both parodies and praises the divine. Layer after layer after layer accumulated, the piece eventually appears to reflect the multitude of Singing Assholes accompanying it, referencing the solitary sound of the piano in ‘Strumming Music,’ desperately attempting to multiply itself, and juxtaposing it with the open-ended drone of the Perfect Fifths from “Four Manifestations On Six Elements.” All of which lead us back to the maximal-or-minimal discussion in the Death Blues review from last year, which in the case of Palestine’s music at this point, comes down to one answer/question: how could this music not be maximal?
To which one might answer the following — one thing Palestine and the so-called minimalism school might have in common, or for the very least the Pran Nath disciples/the Theatre Of Eternal Music, is the foundation of spirituality. And by spirituality, especially when it concerns Palestine, I do not mean the notion or the belief system, but the sonic interpretation of anything contemplative and rapt, may it be the universe or the absence of it.
Written by Ari Wilson