Boomkat Product Review:
The Kronos Quartet’s long-in-the-making recital of Terry Riley’s ’Sun Rings’ - a piece inspired by his peyote-induced vision of a Mandala in the stars, and Dr. Donald Gurnett’s plasma receiver recordings for NASA - finally made available for armchair astronauts
“The ten “spacescapes” that comprise Sun Rings were begun in August of 2001 and finished in July of 2002. They were written as separate musical atmospheres with the intention to let the sounds of space influence the string quartet writing and then to let there be an interplay between live “string” and recorded “space” sound.
In some movements, the intention was to place the quartet in such a way that it felt like they were traveling through spatial atmospheres, as a symbolic representation of the wanderings of space probes Voyager and Galileo as they moved through what must have been the incredible atmospheres of our solar system. In some cases, fragments of melody that I observed in these sounds became the basis for themes that were developed in the quartet writing. The addition of the two movements with the choirs was to further emphasize that this work is largely about humans as they reach out from earth to gain an awareness of their solar system neighborhood.
When Dr. Donald Gurnett handed me these original NASA recordings, which were to be the point of departure for this challenging adventure, my thoughts became filled with images stimulated by locales as distant as Jupiter and Uranus. I could almost feel myself propelled through space as one atmosphere gave way to another.
Space is surely the realm of dreams and imagination and a fertile feeding ground for poets and musicians. Ancient astrologers were aware of the significant influences of planetary movements on our lives. I feel these influences are somehow responsible for this amazing collaboration which has been so enthusiastically undertaken by all the participants responsible for its outcome.
Do the stars welcome us into their realms? I think so or we would not have made it this far. Do they wish us to come in peace? I am sure of it. If only we let the stars mirror back to us the big picture of the universe and the tiny precious speck of it we inhabit that we call Earth, maybe we will be given the humility and insight to love and appreciate all life and living forms wherever our journeys take us.
I dedicate Sun Rings to Dr. Donald Gurnett, whose brilliant mind has wandered the solar system and beyond for a lifetime, who inspired and launched all of us Sun Rings collaborators with his twinkle and the depth of his understanding, and who generously shared with us some of the Universe’s secrets.
Terry Riley, August 2002”