Being to Being by Tim Gerwing Channel Eau Communications, 2002 http://www.dreamwindow.net/lascaux21 http://www.channeleau.com This album by Canadian ambient artist Tim Gerwing can definitely be called "high-concept." For starters, the title on the CD label seems to be written in Greek, and only if you look closely will you see the real title, in tiny type. The other side of the label features untranslated poetry in Arabic and Greek script. Right away, you know you are in challenging global territory. The high-concept continues in the album itself. It opens with recitations of the Greek and Arabic poems, set against a somber, low-volume background played on Middle Eastern wind instruments. (The translations are available on the "dreamwindow" Webpage.) Spoken word is a big part of this album, and that's already a risky proposition, even more when it is in a language most of us don't understand. But throughout the album Gerwing manages to pull this off - first, because of the gentle, sometimes even sensuous quality of the reciting voices, then, because of the beautiful intrinsic sounds of the languages themselves, and last, because of his respectful, unobtrusive arrangements accompanying the voices. Thankfully, unlike many other current ambient composers, he keeps his voices easily audible, and does not electronically modify them into grating, barely heard whispers. Being to Being isn't just a "world word" album, though. The tracks range through a variety of styles, from mildly mechanical pop (track 2, "Whenever You're Ready" and track 5, "Suns") to minimalist techno (track 3, "Wheel"), to trip-hop-influenced overtone-singing (track 6, "Fire"). In between, in track 4, Gerwing returns to the spoken word with a Chinese lady sweetly reciting something (in Chinese) from Lao Tzu, accompanied by "Oriental" bells, which builds to a moody synthesizer melody backed by a Euro-sequencer sound. This rendition is quite reminiscent of Vangelis' famous 1979 China, and you will find a few more echoes of Vangelis elsewhere on this album. As Being to Being progresses, Gerwing moves into a more abstract space, and in my opinion this is where the album really begins to shine. A trilogy of purely electronic meditations, "Bowl of Light I, II, and III" fill the air with an understated sonic perfume. They are my favorite tracks on the album - remote, mystical, and delicate. The next spoken word track on the album is in English; it is a clip from a sermon by the twentieth century philosophical guru J.G. Bennett, a disciple of the controversial Near Eastern mystic, George I. Gurdjieff. Bennett rambles on earnestly about humanity, compassion, and "high purpose," while Gerwing sends forth electric guitar echoes in the background. A drum sequence follows, on the Indian tabla (the bongo of choice for mystical spirituality), and then the last spoken word track, chanted in Sanskrit (the language of Eastern mysticism). Once the Sanskrit is done, on the last track, Gerwing returns to what he does best, quiet synthesizer ambient, complete with comforting sounds of birdsong. The high-concept and the foreign words are only as good as the musical sound that accompanies and follows them, and Being to Being wins the listener over not because of its global diversity or its verbal content but because of its skillful and appealing music. Hannah M.G. Shapero 2/1/03
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