RON GEORGE: The Floating Bubble; JOHN BERGAMO: Gupta Slika Chand; BEN JOHNSTON: Sleep and Waking – Innova

by | Apr 30, 2008 | Classical CD Reviews | 0 comments

RON GEORGE: The Floating Bubble; JOHN BERGAMO: Gupta Slika Chand; BEN JOHNSTON: Sleep and Waking – Innova 215, 47 min. ****:

(Performers: Ron George. leader & soloist; Erik Forrester, David Johnson, Robert Slack, John Bergamo, Steven Schmidt, Keith Higgins, Bran Etheridge, Jeremy Reinbolt, Gabe Kader)

Ron George, who passed away in 2006, was a percussionist, composer, educator, instrument builder, and Zen Buddhist priest.  He built many different unique percussion instruments, and part of one of them – the Tembellan, is pictured on the cover. It is a gamelan-type ensemble of seven percussionists with George as the soloist. The work is based on a slowly evolving rhythmic/timbral structure culminating in a loud climax. It is a sort of chance music in that it’s not possible to play a wrong note – the composer only demonstrates for the performers what is to be played in each section. The performers decide themselves where to go within the ensemble and what to play when they get there.

With his unique instruments and the variable microtonal tuning system George worked out, he appears to be a sort of Harry Partch Jr.   I don’t know how his tuning system differs  from Partch’s – the resultant effects are very similar.  Ben Johnston’s three-movement Sleep and Waking derives its title from a statement by Gurdjieff: “…whatever your do, you will do it better when you are awake than when you are asleep.”  Agreed. 

These are some nice and enjoyable sounds which transcend their compositional calculations.  Some of them will exercise your subwoofers too.

 – John Sunier

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