Sunday, October 21, 2007

Rhys Chatham - A Crimson Grail (For 400 Electric Guitars)

Commissioned for a Paris arts festival called "La Nuit Blanche", this is a project created in 2005 by New York composer Rhys Chatham, to be played by an orchestra of 400 guitars. Yes, you read it right, 400 guitars, as monumental as that. While the original performance was more than 12 hours long, this recording edited everything and divided it into three pieces, each one taking between 15 and 20 minutes. The end result, full of cinematic and evocative sounds, is quite frankly breathtaking. The first piece is the most symphonic one and is basically a long and beautiful atmospheric drone with dramatic textures, where it's virtually impossible to distinguish each sound, as they're all so well integrated into each other, while the second piece sounds like an hypnotic loop that keeps following a very subtle metronomic rhythm until evolving into a cathartic cascade of sounds. Finally, the third piece begins with an enigmatic wall of sound, adding more and more dissonance and slowly building an involving sonic monument. As a whole, and with so many unique and detailed textures, "A Crimson Grail" could be seen as an hypnotic and abstract wave that keeps drawing circles until it's virtually impossible not to be fully immersed by it. And at that point, with such an epic soundtrack as this, anything becomes possible. One can only think what an intense experience the original 12-hour marathon must have been. (8/10)

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