Aurora Australis and Indian Ragas and Medieval Song album reviews

by Ian Dando / 21 July, 2012
AURORA AUSTRALIS, Various (Atoll 2CD). A quick call to Statistics NZ indicates why Aurora Australis, featuring performances from the 2007 Asia Pacific Festival in Wellington, is this country’s most significant world music release. Our rapidly growing Asian population – from 18 countries, with China (139,728) and India (97,443) leading the way – approaches 9%. Music is the last art to develop a national identity. Ours now stares us in the face as being Asia-Pacific Rim with added elements of Maori folklore. This is already happening with the assured Gao Ping and certain works by Jack Body, Gareth Farr, Lizzie Dobson, Ross Harris and Dylan Lardelli, plus Gillian Whitehead (Maori). Atoll offers 27 items from this festival – a regular event originating from Hong Kong in 1973. It celebrates nine days of music and cultural interchange curated by Body and hosted by our Composers Association (Canz).

Folkloric flagship is the Chinese guqin solo Yü Ko (Song of the Fisherman) c1280AD. This quiet zither-type seven-string plucked instrument with its 91 harmonics is rich in subtle sonorities. It’s called “the father of Chinese music”. Its unbroken 2500- year tradition harkens back to Confucius. Other selections include a Maori Ipurangi improvisation. Remarkably virtuosic solo throat singing from Japan’s Koichi Makigami beggars belief. Most items are composed art music flavoured by world music on the level of Stravinsky’s Firebird and Petrushka. Shirish Korde’s North Indian item played by the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra typifies that. Many ambitiously mirror Western modernism. Taiwanese Lin Mei-Fang’s Disintegration for piano reveals her intimate knowledge of George Crumb’s amplified piano innovations, especially his Makrokosmos 1 and 2 (1973). Ditto Pierre Boulez’s 1984 Répons influence of amplified electronics hugging the voice part of Indonesian Tony Prabowo’s Hampa. No intellectual abstruseness here. If you love exotic sonorities, this consummate production may thrill you.

INDIAN RAGAS AND MEDIEVAL SONG, Dominique Vellard (tenor), Ken Zuckerman (sarod, dhotar and medieval lute), Anindo Chatterjee (tabla and dhupki), Keyvan Chemirani (zarb and gattam) (Glossa/Southbound). The subtitle, Modal Melodies East to West, says it all. Europe’s roots were Eastern then. Modes are what they had in common. If you don’t know their sound – Dorian, Lydian, Phrygian – the erudite booklet helps. These chosen modes obviously flavour all melodies. The booklet describes Eastern relation between tala (rhythm, usually percussive) and raga (melody), but doesn’t trace this link through to isorhythmic structure in Western sacred music. Twelve tracks traverse India, Persia (spectacular drum talas), France, Spain, Gregorian chant and some improvisations “in the style” to reflect medieval performance practice. Guillaume de Machaut’s one virelai has solo voice in counterpoint against one melodic instrument. All others are monophonic. The Glossa label, new here, presents fastidious production and vibrant performances on period instruments enhanced by stunningly clear recorded sound.


Ian McEwan confronts the biggest mysteries of life in Machines Like Me
105820 2019-05-23 00:00:00Z Books

Ian McEwan confronts the biggest mysteries of life…

by Charlotte Grimshaw

Ian McEwan’s tale of human-robot love links emotional and artificial intelligence in intriguing ways, writes Charlotte Grimshaw.

Read more
Is chemical residue on fruit and vegetables worth worrying about?
105778 2019-05-23 00:00:00Z Nutrition

Is chemical residue on fruit and vegetables worth…

by Jennifer Bowden

The chemical residues on fruit and vegetables are not dangerous, but rinsing is still advisable.

Read more
Tech Week: Tech no substitute for human kindness in healthcare
106277 2019-05-23 00:00:00Z Tech

Tech Week: Tech no substitute for human kindness i…

by Peter Griffin

A three-month trial at Christchurch Hospital saw remarkable results.

Read more
How Auckland Museum's sustainability journey began on the rooftop
106248 2019-05-23 00:00:00Z Planet

How Auckland Museum's sustainability journey began…

by Ken Downie

Until recently, the Auckland War Memorial Museum’s buildings were highly dysfunctional, says John Glen, the museum’s head of building infrastructure.

Read more
Australia's remote islands home to 414 million pieces of plastic pollution
106295 2019-05-23 00:00:00Z Planet

Australia's remote islands home to 414 million pie…

by Noted

More than 230 tonnes of plastic including straws, bags and toothbrushes found on Australian islands.

Read more
Parliament bullying: Mallard urges rape victims to seek support
What drives 'lone wolf' terrorists? And how can we prevent future attacks?
106117 2019-05-22 00:00:00Z Social issues

What drives 'lone wolf' terrorists? And how can we…

by Devon Polaschek, Maryanne Garry and Joe Burton

Violent extremists are often depicted as “lone wolves”. But this belies the broader psychological, social and digital contexts in which they act.

Read more
Counterterrorism experts on why we must engage with online extremists
106123 2019-05-22 00:00:00Z Social issues

Counterterrorism experts on why we must engage wit…

by David Hall

Seeing an NZ flag flying at a neo-fascist rally in Germany prompted David Hall to ask why violent radicalisation was affecting even his fellow Kiwis.

Read more