Mass Consumption

April 23, 2007

I’ve had a pretty depressing, stressful last few days, work as ever the culprit. Often when in low spirits I fall back upon music to keep going, and that’s what I’ve done over the last week, and one new arrival here in particular has been played over and over.

I’ve been a fan of Klaus Lang’s music for a while now, but over the last six months have found myself going back to his music more and more often, his wonderful Trauermusiken (Mourning Music) is a particular favourite. So when a new Lang falls through the letterbox at Pinnell Towers I’m a happy bunny.
There arent many Klaus Lang releases out there, four all told I believe before this new disc entitled Missa beati pauperes spiritu on the Col Legno label and another forthcoming on the ever reliable Editions RZ imprint. This new release though varies quite a bit from his previous compositions. Missa beati pauperes spiritu is essentially, a mass. Its an astonishingly beautiful, haunting piece of music, but yes its a mass, played pretty straight.
The music is scored for two voices, one male, one female, a string trio, trombone, minimal percussion and some very subtle electronics, performed and recorded live in a slow, quiet and very beautiful manner, with gaps left in the sound for vocal interludes sung in Latin. the vocals have a very ‘early music’ feel to them, softly sung ethereal calls into the silence. The percussion, courtesy of Günter Meinhart is very restrained, made up of tiny pin pricks of chiming metal, and the trombone, courtesy of Roland Dahinden (a composer in his own right whose Flying White disc has had much play here lately) is reduced to low humming notes. The electonics are barely noticeable, though here and there a tone sounds artificially flattened, or a note seems to be sustained unnaturally long.

All in all this is very relaxing and charming piece of music, but it is also very clearly a mass, a recognisably religous musical form. So is the music religous? Well my latin isn’t so great, so its hard to tell, but there are a few hallelujahs to be heard, and the male vocalist is a practising priest so I suspect it is. Lang’s sleeve notes are interesting, basically playing down the importance of the religous connection, and stating that the purpose of the mass is not to fill the mind with religous imagery and thought, but rather to free it completely. Lang in fact leans firmly in an Eastern direction for much of his theological inspiration, and a small chinese poem appears (as they often do with Lang’s recordings) amongst the sleeve notes. His use of the mass seems to be to use this powerful musical form to transcend theological matters, providing merley a vehicle for contemplation, wherever your beliefs may lie.

Missa beati pauperes spiritu is a wonderful work that I find intensely calming. Quite unlike most of Lang’s other work, but just as beautiful. My falling for this piece of music comes hot on the heels of my experience watching the film Into Great Silence and its trappist monks. Keep going like this I’ll have shaved my head before winter…!

One last thing, the sleeve “art” is hideous. It seems like Col Legno have decided they need a corporate graphic look to their releases, something I wouldn’t usually have any problem with at all, but it seems that this new look is just an excuse to not have to worry about sleeve art as such, replacing it with some pretty tasteless typography laid out in awful colour schemes. I guess this means they can knock out twenty releases a year and not have to worry about comissioning paintings etc for the front of the booklet any longer, but its a real shame to me. Wandelweiser have done something similar, but they had to reduce costs, so moved from colour booklets to minimal (and rather tasteful) black and white type designs, whereas the Col Legno design is no cheaper to print than their previous releases, just quicker and easier. All rather sad to me.

“…i went and returned
it was nothing special.
rozan for its misty mountains
sekko for its water…”

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