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Sun Rings : The Overview Effect, In Music

Outer space is far vaster, empty and lonely than we can imagine. Perhaps this is at the crux of Terry Riley's collaboration with the Kronos Quartet.

Door Elsa Siffert | News of the day | 3 september 2019

Sun Rings comes just about 50 years after Man first set foot on the moon. But its own story started in 2000, when N.A.S.A invited the Kronos Quartet to use sounds recorded during the 40 past years of space exploration in their music. The composer Terry Riley, assisted in his sampling by the young electro-acoustic composer David Dvorin, created a soundtrack which revolves around repetitive and minimalist influences. The Kronos Quartet travels through this soundscape much in the same way that Voyager and Galileo travel through the solar system.

Terry Riley’s modal vocabulary borrows from the orientalist trend of the early 20th centry (which employed percussions such as gongs), using pre-recorded sounds. The « music of the sphères » as perceived by Terry Riley is much like the soundtrack to a documentary. Static layers give a conventional snapshot of the immensity of the universe, and the instrumental dialog, which creates a few delicate echos on Planet Elf Sindoori, illustrates the idea of a benevolent universe: “Do the stars welcome us into their realms? I think so or we would not have made it this far.” says the composer. The album is a collection of sonic clichés, in a sense : repeated melodic phrases, and perpetual motion abolish any sort of rhythm; musical language and instrumental vocabularies are reduced to their illustrative power. Far from rocketing towards the stars, Sun Ring's trip quickly comes to a standstill, in a new age dream which leaves the listener sidelined, as a spectator of a frozen sonic canvas. © Elsa Siffert/Qobuz

Listen to Sun Rings by Terry Riley, interpreted by the Kronos Quartet, on Qobuz

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