As the form of the orchestra beautifully conveys, bringing together willing musicians into one space can be one of the most emotive musical experiences. It’s a fact we have understood for centuries. The precision, the creativity, the human and organic sense of things fitting together democratically like a hive mind.
Whilst, the ability with an orchestra is to cover the light and shade a composition may require, expanding the number of players whilst performing more minimal compositions was always going to one modern take on the ancient form…
Based on even boring stuff like organisation and logistics, works like Phill Niblock’s G2,44+ / x2 or Boredoms spiralling 77 Boa Drum constructs music from ever enlarging masses with brain popping results.
Rhys Chatham’s A Crimson Grail (for 400 electric guitars) brings the concept to some form of natural conclusion though. This recording selects x3 20-minute chunks of a much larger live performance in and around the iconic Sacré-Cœur in Paris.
There is of course something both ridiculous and insanely beautiful about what ended up being recorded that night. A shimmering sonic block of emotive ascending joy. A thick soup of fragments, struck strings, amplification, the resonance of the space and the sense of humans, players and audience alike, aghast as these layers soar together.
Listening to Crimson Grail blind, with no sense of the title or the methods used in its construction might broadly make it a very good ambient or drone recording. Knowing the story and hitting play elevates the whole into an absolutely immense heaving celebration of simple ideas being passionately realised. Aching beautiful.