More than just world music, Ung’s muse contemplates a life experience.
CHINARY UNG: Singing Inside Aura; Water Rings Overture; Anicca; Antiphonal Spirals; Grand Spiral: Desert Flowers Bloom – Susan Ung, viola and voice/ Boston Modern Orchestra Project/ Gil Rose – BMOP/sound multichannel SACD 1044, 54:10 [Distr. by Albany] ****:
The Boston Modern Orchestra Project is now in its twentieth year of operation, and one is hard pressed to think of a more substantive and important enterprise for the furtherance of modern music. On top of that, the fact that they are able to establish and continue a fine audiophile label capturing the historical value of their efforts is only icing on the cake. Of course, I won’t claim to be a fan of every composer they have recorded, but that’s hardly the point; posterity might prove me wrong, and everyone deserves to hear what’s happening out there.
Chinary Ung was only a distant recollection in my memory, but since there are so many composers out there with decent resumes it is hard for all but the most devoted contemporary music fan to keep up. Hence my delight at hearing this mixed-orchestral release that gives a fine overview of what Mr. Ung, a native of Cambodia, has produced from 1970-2013.
I won’t dwell on the philosophical underpinning of his music, that revolves around Buddhism, multi-sound vocalization, and even the haunted memories of what the composer heard as a child; this is interesting and makes good album notes, but I don’t think it pertinent to the final result as a new listener coming to this music. Varese is often mentioned as an influence, but to leave that comment unattended is to give a highly misleading impression of what these pieces really sound like. Whereas Varese’s “organized sound” often comes across as miscellaneous noise, Ung masterminds the creation of sonic structures that are flush with complex and ecstatic harmonies, unalloyed lyrical propensities, and a deep connection to the southeast Asian forms of modes and timbres fully immersed into a western orchestral vehicle.
This is a terrific album well worth exploring, but why chance it? Go out on the web and listen to some samples if you are not convinced, though you won’t get the full impact of the wonderful surround sound on this disc. Once you decide, 50-odd minutes of fascinating music exploration awaits.
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