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exponentiation ezine: issue [5.0:culture]

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Artist: Jordi Savall
Album: The Medieval Fiddle
Label: Auvidis (1994)

Memories from a time now lost echoes throughout this highly emotive music. Folk songs of epic scale are painted upon a canvas of medieval spirit. Jordi Savall manages with great feeling to evoke ancient culture and ways of dealing with existential issues that always have plagued humanity.

These special moments of lament and awe are expressed through a cold and empty room of sound, where silence infiltrates between the occasional percussive sections. As such, "The Medieval Fiddle" offers the feeling of isolation in its listening experience.

Melodies coming from a soft fiddle often reoccur throughout the songs and serve as the main musical themes; they establish a general mood in the listener through high and low volume accentuations. However while Jordi gravitates towards dominant melodic themes, he occassionally builds on the basic melody in order to temporarily move away from the original musical theme of the song, and it is in these moments of transition that the music feels the most profound and entrancing.

Fans of Dead Can Dance will experience this album as authentic and inspiring. They will no doubt notice the beginning of "Saltarello" from a classic DCD album. Where many songs are filled with sorrow and contemplation, others celebrate the virtues of rich folk culture. The tense moments built up in songs like "Ritual" and "Dansa de les espases" most often depend on the perfect balance between the fiddle and the dark sounds of tribal drums that form the basic rhythm throughout this piece.

While musically it may not be able to compete with the more advanced structure of compositions found in medievalist bands like Dead Can Dance, Jordi Savall's "The Medieval Fiddle" still remains highly emotional, authentic and honest. This is as close as you can come to the expression of a lonely and aspiring individual, both engaging wildly in cultural bonds, and experiencing the gloomy sides of a life that in this age stand between poverty and happiness. - Alexis


Artist: Tangerine Dream
Album: Sorcerer
Label: MCA (1977)

In the late 70's, Tangerine Dream was asked to produce the sound track for William Friedkin's film "Sorcerer." The endevour ended up turning into a full length album, which today is somewhat of a classic example of the band moving into mainstream grounds, yet still preserving the genius of their early career. The music on this album is a more refined, simple, melodic style than the music found on earlier works.

In "Sorcerer" Tangerine Dream follow exotic melodic schemes to dictate the overall mood of the listening experience, but they do this liberally enough for each piece of the music to become a part of something larger. Gone are the half-hour long journeys of endless tempo changes and experimenting with harmony, melody and polyphonic rhythm. Instead the music remains very basic: synth loops run through a synthesizer, collaborating with a simple key melody that is recycled, accompanied with sound fillers to create a predictable counterpart in effect.

The music becomes passive in order to serve the film, but at the same time it contains glimpses of a life of its own and this is where the album stands out as an experience all its own. Luring, adventurous patterns sneak upon the listener and feel immediately rewarding, despite its very minimalist nature. The actual problem with this album is that the form is split and each piece of the music isn't interconnected with the others to form one long musical experience. Instead the parts and fragments of music are tied to specific events in Friedkin's movie. Moments where pieces fulfill their role as existentially significant, are also the highlights of this album and the parts that ultimately make this a rewarding listening from time to time; the music is brave, shifting in character and also carries a sense of vague but inherent beauty, which is a quality that always penetrates the work of this band.

It is apparent on this album that Tangerine Dream at this point in their career were sliding back and were not creating music that is able to sustain the listener. Tangerine dreams used to be the equivalence of classical music in modern, electronic form, but instead on this album they try to find organic space by using confined compositonal methods to please the crowd that most likely never will be able to understand their earlier works. Being a late, directionless product and perhaps the mark that future albums would become intelligent but mass-produced fodder for retro-fans, "Sorcerer" is nonetheless an interesting gem in its context. - Alexis

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