Monday, September 27, 2010

Happy Hunting Ground

by fandorin

This little intermezzo from Heyday makes me think of my musical socialization.

Apart from the odd Beatles song and, in earlier childhood some E.L.O. (sic!), rock music didn’t play the first violin in my life. In fact, rock music didn’t play any violins at all. Rock music sat somewhere else, and I wouldn’t discover its magic before age 14. Not that I hated it. I just didn’t care. My heroes were (and are) Bach, Ravel, Dvor├ík, Beethoven and Sibelius. That was the stuff building inner worlds and galaxies, this is where i found unearthly power and amazing results of sonic thinking. Rock was fun, loved it on the radio, but I won’t have thought about putting a rock record on - except the White Album, Sgt. Pepper and The Best Of The Kinks.

Now most combinations of rock and the classical-romantic heritage I heard about not only sucked big time, but they were probably the most atrocious and ghoulish unholy aberrations of music you could encounter. And E.L.O. were even the best within the limits. It was nothing real. It was phony. I could hear the fake, the lies, the poses. Why should I listen to an ersatz orchestra when a recording of Mahler’s symphonies took me to places the fakers apparently had no idea about. Getting a rock band up with a supersized orchestra wasn’t necessarily a good idea, too. Theatralic guitar-banging. Circus. Novelty. And I hated how little of that huge realm of 1000 years of sonic invention was transferred to the planet of rock. We mostly get a camp and hyper-dramatically idea of operatic, incarnated at its worst but most influential in Frederick Bulsara from Zanzibar, or a fluffy carpet of background strings. Or, with “Y” as in “Yngwie”, we get . Or Sting’s puckered forehead in Thinker Pose, whenever he is on his Elizabethan trips, often resulting in Elizabethan tripe. Why did noone care about Debussy’s radical inventions of beauty, about Ravel’s art of orchestration, about Ligeti’s abilities to explore the universe he created by himself, about Mahler’s roaring depths!?

And that’s where Happy Hunting Ground comes into the picture.

I was totally flabbergasted.

Happy Hunting Ground’s extensive use of dynamic possibilities is blindingly amazing. I have no idea how this piece was developed. In HHG, band and orchestra merge seamlessly. The voices and guitars diving up and down, coming in coming out, the playing with sonic rooms, the two different blocks of sound juxtaposed. The ultra-fine orchestration (yearning guitar, golden Takamine jangle, almost sensual percussion textures, drums n bells - then before your very ears, the whole thing transfers into a kind of archaic dance, increasing and reducing intensity until a giant string rainbow breakthrough feels like the sun rising over Stonehenge....the feelings HHG evokes It’s like an arcadian smile, it’s like something very very old, mysterious. Listen to the pagan cro-magnon background vocals, the growling guitars, like animals purring, the saturated's so ALIVE!

They are uniting in a musical place rarely visited. Traces and lost images from this wonderland do appear - I can hear them in “Day 5”, “A New Season”...and I always get that feeling of having lost this weird little wonderland somewhere in the past. The spirit of the Happy Hunting Ground also dwells in Talk Talk’s “Spirit of Eden” and “Laughing Stock” (not the worst places to live).

Still, there is nothing like driving through the snowy Alps with Happy Hunting Ground...well...”blaring” from the speakers. And when I listened to it, age 15, the rock n the romantic/impressionistic were united - even if only for 5 minutes.


Anonymous said...

nice one
a real compliment

snorkelhound said...

good review, Fandorin. Quite primal with high resonance and no words getting in the way...the song, that is. J