Terry Riley : The Cusp Of Magic CD
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The music is a great example of Kronos pushing the boundaries of their genre. Even within this single piece there is a tremendous range of colour and style. Each of the six movements has a completely different sound, but they come together as an aural patchwork.
Terry Riley used the title of the piece, The Cusp of Magic, to produce an exploration of "the permeable boundaries between the material and the spirit, reality and dream, humanity and the cosmos."
The opening bars resonate with a heavy drum which is overlaid by a rattle. The strings join in which tend to pull together the rhythm but add some dissonance and then the pipa brings some order. The first part finishes with a flourish and an optimistic upbeat tempo.
The second movement Budda's Bedroom, begins quietly then becomes more playful. It includes Wu Man singing a lullaby, but the mood darkens towards the nightmarish end.
Each movement is distinctive and has a rich sound world. If I had to pick a favourite and that I recommend listening to, then it would have to be the fifth movement, Emily and Alice. It is truly haunting and quite terrifying and could be the soundtrack to a horror movie.
This album is also available as part of the box set One Earth, One People, One Love: Kronos Plays Terry Riley which is worth considering if you want to explore the music of Terry Riley and Kronos Quartet.
The slightly sinister "Cusp of Magic" refers to the summer solstice and is soaked in world music influence, but other movements are more wide-ranging and whimsical. "Buddha's Bedroom" flirts with jazz, while "The Nursery" includes sampled musical boxes and rattles. "Royal Wedding" is in stern contrast, with its sober strings and an overlay of delicate embroidery from the pipa, evoking the weight of history and tradition. Finally, "Prayer Circle" is full of swirling circular figures which build in intensity and volume until the piece reaches its emphatic, almost violent close.
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