My wife loves the ocean. Her face transforms when we sea a beach, she smiles widely and takes great gulps of air. The ocean is a place where she comes alive. I on the other hand have a completely unfounded fear of it. It'd probably be a "condition" if it weren't so easy to avoid. I mean, I live amongst the concrete and safety of tarmac.
Why do I dislike the ocean? Well, lots of reasons. I don't like its depth, I don't like not knowing what is below me. I don't like that it's a place where I can't just survive, every moment is constant effort to just keep your head above water and breathing. I don't like you can't drink it.
Conversely, I love to swim. No matter how more unhygienic they may be, and all the chemicals used, I'd rather swim in a pool than the ocean any day of the week - to pay for what I could have for free. As a child I had nightmares about treading water in the ocean, and a huge liner would come right passed me, but I couldn't get up the side of the ship, it just slid by. I also had dreams where I'd be in the water and a huge submarine would begin to surface beside me, as big as the Empire State Building. I really don't like the ocean, despite nothing bad ever having happened to me there.
Others have found lots to like, and this CD is one manifestation of that. While such music won't make me rethink my deep seated distrust of the ocean, it does help me begin to appreciate that there are unique sounds of the ocean, and an ambiance that is special.
Alvin Curran has worked in many different styles of music, from free form Jazz through Musique Concrete. I found him by way of MEV, and I'm glad I did. He can be challenging, but that's all for the good in my book. I don't want things easy as I grow quickly bored, and the obvious becomes tedious right at the moment I hear it.
Martime Rites is a simple concept. Curran recorded sounds down the Eastern Seaboard. These sounds included Fog Horns, bells, wildlife, the oars of a boat cutting through the water. Along with this he interviewed lighthouse keepers, fishermen, and Coast Guard personnel and others. He then used these sounds to create a backdrop - a different fabric, as it were, to inspire and reflect upon. In all he created ten different tapes. Once done, the magic can happen.
The magic in this case was a serialized radio broadcast where he invited a musician to improvise against the background tape. No rules, just letting these martime sounds inspire. The artists invited along are a who's who: Wadada Leo Smith, Pauline Oliveros, Steve Lacy, Jon Gibson, George Lewis, John Cage and others.
The results are always interesting, as you might expect. Musically the artists aren't going to do things that surprise you exactly, but the real difference here is the ambiance these sea sounds bring to the event. Sometimes the artists will do battle with the fog horns, perform imitations of them, while others weave around them, playfully.
For me the taped sounds are a little disquieting. The ambiance is a little cold, and sometimes you can feel the dampness of the fog as it rolls in. But anything that can bring these feelings to the fore must be doing something right.
Bits and pieces of the conversations are also distributed throughout, like little snatches of over heard conversation. It makes for an almost documentary feel at times. Ultimately though this is a CD of music, music that takes in every day sounds from a specific locale, and makes them universal. As a mixture of Musique Concrete and Jazz, it's all worth while. So I humbly recommend it.