Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Wearing a face mask has become a habit


There is too much COVID-19 click bait elsewhere on classical blogs. But I do think that image is worth sharing. It comes via the Bangkok Post and shows one of sixty student monks at the Buddhist Wat Molilokayaram in Thailand. It is a striking image in its own right, but it also allows me to point readers who are tired of Zoom bait down an overgrown path to some little-known but relevant music.

I should have been in Thailand recently, but that trip was nuked by the pandemic. When I returned from another Buddhist nation Sri Lanka last year I wrote about classical music's many Buddhist connections. One composer missing from that overview was the Italian Giacinto Scelsi. He was one of a number of musicians attracted to Theosophy; but after travels in the East he became a practising Zen Buddhist.

Back in 2005 Alex Ross penned an excellent profile of Scelsi; his music is anything but easy, with one writer describing it as Gy├Ârgy Ligeti on acid. So why not break the lockdown blues with a cheap and safe tab of Scelsi? Brilliant Classics have a newly recorded super-budget CD of two of Scelsi's consciousness-altering works for solo cello, The Three Stages of Man and Voyages; listen via the label's website. The conclusion of a review of this disc on The Art Music Lounge website says it all:

Scelsi did not “develop” his music along conventional classical lines, but rather used a continually changing timbre and density of sound to make his points. Thus the average classical aficionado will undoubtedly feel lost listening to these works, but I urge you to give them a try. They may not be to your taste, but they will certainly open up your mind if you give them half a chance.
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