221

Stephan Micus: Life

AAJ Staff By

Sign in to view read count
Stephan Micus: Life German composer Stephan Micus has spent decades traveling the world in search of new music, as much figuratively as literally, and the results of his very serious globe-trotting experiences have been documented on sixteen ECM albums, the latest being Life. He brings together a large collection of instruments from Africa, Asia, and Europe for this particular journey, but he makes use of them in very idiosyncratic ways, preferring to explore sonorities in a purist fashion rather than replicate the traditional modes of play or musical styles from their cultures of origin. By the use of extensive overdubs he creates thickly textured pieces that resonate and reverberate openly and freely.

Whatever you may argue about music needing context in order to be properly appreciated, Life really requires some study of Micus' background and master plan. It's based around a koan (a Zen Buddhist riddle) about the essence of life, and rather than defeat that story by reductionist logic, I'll just refer you to the informative liner notes for the complete picture. The koan unfolds in ten parts, each performed by Micus alone on up to 20 overdubbed instruments (including most frequently, by number anyway, his own warm but otherwise neutral voice, which closes the suite in solitude). Each part has its own signature sound and texture, and that's important in conveying the emotional overtones appropriate to the ongoing stages in the koan's development.

One has to wonder what sort of meditation was required for Micus to put this recording together over the course of four years in his studio on Mallorca. Among the bagana (Ethiopian lyre), gongs, sho (Japanese "mouth organ"), nay (Egyptian reed flute), dondon (Ghanaian "talking drum"), and so forth he constructs discrete layers that progress very gradually and deliberately. Smooth, flowing melodies are the norm, and percussion is used as a way of coloring the music rather than marking time.

Listeners who fear the sort of glacial, self-referential displays of torpitude that characterize the global New Age movement will find Life a refreshing contrast. It's meditative but not somnolent, questioning without obtuseness, and deeply respectful of the tonal colors of the sound spectrum. Not for everyone, that's for sure, but I for one learned from listening and considering the messages this record conveys.


Track Listing: Narration One and the Master's Question; The Temple; Narration Two; The Monk's Answer; Narration Three; The Master's Anger; Narration Four; The Monk's Question; The Sky; The Master's Answer.

Personnel: Stephan Micus: bagana, Balinese and Burmese gongs, Bavarian zither, dilruba, dondon, kyeezee, maung, nay, sho, Thai singing bowls, Tibetan chimes, Tibetan cymbals, tin whistle, voice.

Year Released: 2004 | Record Label: ECM Records | Style: Beyond Jazz


Shop

More Articles

Read The Sound of Surprise: Live at the Side Door CD/LP/Track Review The Sound of Surprise: Live at the Side Door
by Edward Blanco
Published: February 25, 2017
Read The Angel and the Brute Sing Songs of Rapture CD/LP/Track Review The Angel and the Brute Sing Songs of Rapture
by Karl Ackermann
Published: February 25, 2017
Read Coldest Second Yesterday CD/LP/Track Review Coldest Second Yesterday
by John Sharpe
Published: February 25, 2017
Read Chicago II CD/LP/Track Review Chicago II
by Doug Collette
Published: February 25, 2017
Read Follow Your Heart CD/LP/Track Review Follow Your Heart
by Mark Corroto
Published: February 25, 2017
Read Over the Rainbow CD/LP/Track Review Over the Rainbow
by Paul Rauch
Published: February 24, 2017
Read "Super Petite" CD/LP/Track Review Super Petite
by Mark Corroto
Published: June 12, 2016
Read "Mass" CD/LP/Track Review Mass
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: November 2, 2016
Read "Spaces" CD/LP/Track Review Spaces
by Sacha O'Grady
Published: June 5, 2016
Read "Guess Who I Saw Today" CD/LP/Track Review Guess Who I Saw Today
by Edward Blanco
Published: July 14, 2016
Read "Tipico" CD/LP/Track Review Tipico
by James Nadal
Published: January 12, 2017
Read "Playgrounds" CD/LP/Track Review Playgrounds
by Ian Patterson
Published: February 10, 2017

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: ECM Records | BUY NOW  

Support our sponsor

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!

Buy it!