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Robert Rich: Inner Landscapes

AAJ Staff By

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Inner Landscapes is a compilation of the "best moments" from one of Robert Rich's live music concerts in 1985. At that time Rich was producing all-night musical events at which people were invited to come and sleep as well as listen. The idea was to re-create, in a modern way, the ancient practice of "dream incubation" in which a seeker would lie down to sleep in a temple, hoping to receive enlightening dreams from the deity. So this is by nature a music of black darkness and uneasy rest, relying throughout on long sustained notes from synthesizers. It begins with the sound of crickets, subtly chirping in the background, as if it were the beginning of a warm summer night. As the piece progresses, you hear soft synthesized moans and sighs interspersed in the sound-texture.

Later on, as the crickets fade and true night begins, a high siren- like wail rises out of the deep drones. This is a Robert Rich trademark, which here could be a nightmarish alarm of a nuclear catastrophe, or a more folkloric banshee call. Dissonant chords based on sevenths and seconds float in, giving the soundscape an atmosphere of aching remoteness and interstellar spaces. If the Deity is giving dreams, these are harsh dreams.

After this, sections follow in which low flute melodies float in. The Oriental flutes are tuned to another of Rich's trademarks, the weird otherworldly tuning known as "just intonation." Other fragments of melody are carried on by low synthesizer lines, while tweets and squeaks imitating birds resound overhead. Some of these melodies are so drifting and distant, they are hardly there – this is the deepest part of this musical "night." Yes, this music is so nocturnal that I cannot imagine listening to it by day. Certainly I would immediately be struck with an enchanted sleep, even in sunlight. The last section evokes the end of sleep, as the mythical seeker begins to rise out of the dreaming darkness. The delicate synthesized string sounds are less dissonant, tuned to bright harmonies of fifths and fourths, singing and luminous like the pale dawn of the sun after a long winter night.

Inner Landscapes may be seen as more than just an ambient album; it is an ambitious attempt by a mythically aware and erudite composer who wishes to re-create a transcendent experience with sound and music. If this effect is real, then a complete run through Inner Landscapes will be more than just a piece of leisure time spent listening to "new age" music. It will be, as I believe Robert Rich intended it to be, a ritual which, like the world of dreams itself, has aspects that are both disturbing and sacred.


Title: Inner Landscapes | Year Released: 2000 | Record Label: Hypnos Recordings

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