I am back from extended holidays to the chagrin of all I'm sure. I couldn't keep quiet on hearing this album, Gustavson's second. The first is the most wigwam-like, by the third one (1980) one senses he has lost something or maybe the invincible steamroller of pop rock had crushed his progressive spirit. In the second however he truly went all-out, crafting a kind of progressive rock symphony with elements of jazz, modern classical, and electronics. I repeat the same themes that have come up over and again in my posts, how these brilliant musicians from the seventies assembled a style of music that transcends all styles. It's as if one had the 3 primary colours: jazz rock and classical, and all other artists worked in shades of one colour, but here we finally have a full palette with glorious mixed shades of every imaginable tint. We have three worlds of music that seem to never miscegenate but in progressive we at last get a kind of superior breed that is willing to heterotically mix genes. What makes music truly great? One has to accept that creative originality is a big component because this is an art form whereby one is often seeking new chord changes, melodies, structures-- this is the case even in baroque music or standard AM radio. But the powerful bond with emotion is another factor, like no other in my opinion, music does a kind of open-heart massage that is instantaneous and profoundly mysterious.
When I hear this piece of music, an evocation of the four seasons, I am amazed at every second. What are these chord changes doing clashing into each other so surprisingly? What are the sounds that change so constantly, new harmonies, played by new keyboards, constantly and swiftly moving like ships on enormous waves. How did these musicians so totally reinvent the language we use to communicate harmonious sounds? Certainly no one has played some of these chords in this sequence in the history of humankind before.
The album starts with a gorgeously full sounding shopping centre type electric organ sound that progresses into a very spacey whole tone scale, are we lifting off into the sky with ufos? (If so I hope I packed the prep H.) Suddenly patrick moraz makes an entrance with a sustained chord synth solo which repeats the whole tone pattern in chords this time, E flat F B A major chords all, very effectively giving that aurora borealis-space station feel.
Now we are into spring so the requisite flute and oboes play atop Jukka's keyboards. Some beethoven-like patterns are evocative of birdsongs, but I would give all of Ludwig's musical output for this one little slice of gustavson and as I said so many times before I will never understand why people sit in philharmonic halls for Eroica and not for this masterpiece performed live. Some quite remarkable dissonances appear after the flute heyday reminding me of Olivier Messiaen style compositions. I have to wonder again how deep the musical education of the composer was, or if we are dealing here with pure unadulterated genetic genius. Then the music gets even more symphonic with french horns and other chamber instruments rounding out the one-chord sostenutos. We are taken into Terry Riley territory with electronic pianos swirling all round playing diatonic scales, some repeated pentatonics like tangerine dreaming. Then, abruptly we get wigmamlike piano chords breaking into the electronic efflorescence and the summerish oboe (de rigeur in any estival evocation) plays some really beautiful short melodies atop changing piano chords. Some horn patterns suggest liveliness and the intense activity of the heat.
Side 2 presents the jazzier side of summer with vibes, significant percussion. After a minute we get a sudden break and that gorgeous, inimitable fender rhodes comes out, oh man, if I could marry a sound, I would marry the fender rhodes sound. Why are there so few of us left who adore it? What happened to loving the sound of instruments? It's as rare today in the general population as a night without wide-screen TV. So Jukka plays a very lazy, laid-back type of jazzrock song here, I guess we are in the dogdays of summer, long before there was any thought of global warming and the consequences of human depredations on the earth. Innocent were those days, few ever thought about limits, despite the club of rome, but as the years go by we are getting closer and closer to the bars of our cage, and the imminence of our potential for self-destruction.
A beautiful viola solo ensues on top of grand piano, again we get a sense from this of how great a composer Gustavson was. This track alone would make for an incredible song on its own, but he has hidden it away almost unseen within this symphony on which he must have spent hours and hours of hardworking time. For what sake? For the sake of his work being lost and forgotten on the internet amongst a few hundred fans in a world of 7 billion? Human existence looked at in this way is incredibly cruel. Listen in particular to the chords that Jukka plays, remarkably complex chords that would have impressed Scriabin or been stolen by Stravinsky in a bad mood. Now of course as we get further into autumn we get a cello playing, how predictable but necessary the instrumentation must be in these seasonal works. Why is this gorgeous chamber music not played in the local concert hall? The work closes with a more symphonic and bright passage, fittingly enough evoking the idea of light.
Wow-- this is the kind of work that Mike Oldfield attempted to do but couldn't. It truly is a cohesive, unique, well-crafted whole, flowing together beautifully, packed full of interesting ideas. It is neither rock nor classical nor jazz-rock, but a perfect and perfectly assembled combination of all sounds and styles and streams of music humanity has conceived of. What a masterpiece.
Valon vuoksi (1979): (For the sake of light)
1. Taivaan täyteyttä (Fullness of Sky)
2. Pieni talvinen ylistysruno (A Small Wintry Ode)
3. Kevättalven "kuume" (The Fever of Early Spring)
4. Kevät "raskaus" (Spring Pregnancy)
5. Kevät kesä "syntyneenä talven kohdusta" (Spring Summer Born From the Womb of Winter)
6. Kesä (Summer)
7. Kesän kunniaksi... (For Summer...)
8. Syys kesä (Autumn Summer)
9. Syksy (Autumn)
10. Syys talvi (Autumn Winter)
11. Ikuisuus jatkuvuus (Eternity Continuity)
12. Valon vuoksi (For the Sake of Light)
Jukka Gustavson, keyboards, percussions
Tim Ferchen, marimba, xylophone, clockwork, vibraphone, tubular bells, kettledrums
Pekka Suvanto, drums, gongs, cymbals, bells
Gunnar Lausund, alto flute
Panu Antere, oboe
Pentti Mikkonen, viola
Seppo Ristolainen, viola
Risto Fredriksson, cello
A million thanks to Isabel for this...