Scummy Job Rec. John Ringer : Stravinsky : the rite of spring for electric guitar, electric bass and percussion (US,2003)*°°
There has been lots of attention paid to "the scummy job" Johnny Ringer has, like in the name of the label, or by describing this job at another complete webpage, while the theory, thoughts and visions behind this project didn’t get any attention. Just “buy the CD !” -because of a scummy job ?- makes me wonder how much this music fits in...
I happen to be a fan of Strawinsky’s “Rite of Spring”, “Firebird”, “Nightingale”, and “The Flood” where except for “Firebird” -which is more classical-, there is a much more a natural feel and melodic flow I’ve never heard before in any other classical music piece from earlier periods (-It was the same feeling I had here as with Pink Floyd’s “Interstellar Overdrive”-), so I expected at least to have this advanced element here in this version too.
The starting theme on Strawinsky's piece is one the most unobvious selections of a combination of melody inspired with its own rhythm and sounds, which does not make it successful when playing it only melodically, just note by note on guitar. That still does not sound "right" or give it that sort of 'natural flow' it needs, which I expect to come from a harmonic pulsation from within an occasion, in this case, the occasional instrument. For this, new, electric version in the first minute I think it just starts wrong. The guitar sounds too sticky. Although some ideas are potentially in development, it doesn’t have this 'natural flow' yet which groups from the Zeuhl and Rock-In-Opposition genres almost always has. The playing does not progress beyond its attempted playing and still is a bit too stiff for it. On the other hand the drumming is much more on the right spot. The bass line still needs more notes and interfering layers (-listen to the best Magma-) to really convince as something which comes naturaly. (listen to the first minutes of "The adoration of the Earth").
After more or less 4 minutes the musical guitar elements build up much better, although I think the complete piece still would be better replayed with a live group, with an additional live energy and with a recording after having replayed the whole piece a couple of 100 times more. This practice is necessary before the execution itself really begins to work as a ‘new vividly brooding new piece’.
The hard rock edge here and there could have been even harder. And this version could use also some echoing and other effects to overcome these -let's say- small failures.
Thoroughly when the “rocky” edge is there, several parts are really successful in its core. Some theme changes could have still been stricter, perhaps with again such corrections in the production itself, but in general I must say the middle part of the CD works well. But except for the melodic part of the guitar playing, there must be some work done on the idea of the connection between the natural sounds of the instruments and the melodies, which has been done partly in some of the more "rocky" interpretations, but not enough with the melodic structure of the vivid creation of the piece itself. Melody, structure, rhythm but also the natural flow of sounds on its own (from the instruments) must be interconnected to make an intuitively justified piece, which for the whole score of this version -except for some elements and for various ideas- still is not. Just listen to some arrangements which Italian symphonic groups did (like Latte e Miele, New Trolls, Il Rovescio della Medaglia,etc..) or to the arrangements of some R.I.O. groups (like the reinterpretation of Bartok by Univers Zero’s around '1313',…) and you’ll hear some essential difference.
Making an interpretetation of such a complex piece as this needs the sacrifice and hard labour work on music, preferably with a group. This again will need even more time, perhaps even leaving any scummy job, to practice for weeks to make the piece really alive to something that only than can achieve this creative vividness when it begins to create and write its own life. This particular result sadly still is, unless some great rocking ideas, tempting too much and therefore in many parts is even too tedious, both in the execution and the arrangements.
I heard of another existing version by the Butcher Shop Quartet. They worked on the same piece calling their version “Spring Rounds” and "Mystic Circles of the Young Girls". The soundfiles I heard on the net, seemed to have a somewhat natural feel to me, also at their starting off, and seems to have some good ideas as well, but I still need to hear the CD version itself, to see if it will leave me unsatisfied as well or not.
I don’t care how much someone is close to the original piece or not. When the final result is perfect on its own, it was worth the try. If it still is not, it still needs more effort, like I think it will need that here as well.
On the webpage there’s also enclosed a remark “Go to The Sound Garden CD store. Hit the e-mail option and tell them they are jerks for not selling my CD”. With so much anger I wish Johnny had put even more a “flow of anger” into this music, and more skilled improvisation around the core of sounds within the music, so that it had given that final energy it still needed to finish it. Now he will probably blame me too for it, because me, asking about his music and now not being over-enthusiastic enough about it ? Why not just be realistic and see the positive elements in it as well as what is still failing. We’re lucky that Stravinsky lived in this century. This way we can still enjoy the classical recording which he directed himself. That version is of course prefect as it is.
I'm sure there will be listeners left who don't mind if there is a possibility of we can have a better electric version one day. Who else would attempt this and create a better result ? I only know I can imagine already some improvements..
Another version of the same piece by Stravinski is reviewed here :