Philip Gelb, Pauline
Oliveros & Dana Reason,
with Barre Phillips,
The Space Between
(482 Music, 2001)

The Space Between by Philip Gelb, Pauline Oliveros and Dana Reason, plus Barre Phillips, is a CD I find hard to listen to for the most part. There are some beautiful pieces of new music on the CD, but there is a strangeness to the music and it is that edge I sometimes have troubles with.

The musicians are skilled and very good at what they do. However, I am not always able to approach their music and understand it. In any case, they are Philip Gelb (shakuhachi), Pauline Oliveros (accordion), Dana Reason (piano) and Barre Phillips (bass).

The CD starts off with "King Kong Passes Through the Gates of Shaolin Temple and Contemplates Life," a piece that sounds good at times and sounds like they are warming up at others. Don't ask my about the names of any of the songs, I have yet to make any connections between song title and music. In "Natto Breath," the various elements fit together smoothly to create a soundscape I can approach and enjoy. The next piece, "After Long Life," is also quiet and gently layered.

"The Lonely Halibut" has a strange feel to it that leaves me cold. "Fantastic Increments" is likewise beyond me. Then comes "Penguin" with its fevered energy, and the music has lost me completely.

"Do We Deserve Dubya?" highlights the gap between title and music. It is a nice soft piece, not a protest song. "Incandescent Gesture" is mostly beautiful with the various instruments soaring over then supporting each other, although there is a stretch where the piece becomes literally painful to listen to. The high droning that made "Incandescent Gesture" painful runs right through "David's Soapbox."

"Candles on the Lake Shore" has the same fevered intensity of an orchestra pit during a pre-performance warm-up. "Several Moments" and "Surely it Was" are both strange-sounding songs that leave me outside. I can sense that they are put together with a definite purpose, I just cannot find a message in either song.

This CD has some beautiful moments, but those moments are not enough. The music seldom matches the imagery of the titles. There are better ways to spend an hour than listening to this CD.

[ by Paul de Bruijn ]
Rambles: 13 April 2002

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