Temple of the Invisible


Released 2003

Soundscape Productions, CD

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Temple of the Invisible finds Robert Rich at his most organic, eschewing the trappings of modernity or stylistic boundaries. Using only simple acoustic instruments, Rich has crafted a document from a distant time and place, a lost culture with musical underpinnings that reach from Java to North Africa, from Medieval Europe to the Tibetan Plateau. Rich uses the music of this unknown civilization as a platform to express an intensely personal quest.

Each piece documents part of a lost ritual, with mythical and spiritual components conveyed through a strangely familiar yet foreign musical language, as if unearthed from an ancient common ancestry.

Contributors include Sukhawat Ali Khan (son of the great Indian vocalist Salamat Ali Khan), Paul Hanson (from Bela Fleck & Flecktones, Wayne Shorter, Zenith Patrol), Percy Howard (from Meridiem, Bill Laswell), and noted solo artists Forrest Fang and Tom Heasley, adding dimension and power to this mysterious world out of time.

Robert Rich: prepared piano, mallet kalimba, flutes, percussion, zithers
Sukhawat Ali Khan: voice
Forrest Fang: baglama, gu zheng
Paul Hanson: bombard, bassoon
Tom Heasley: voice, conch
Percy Howard: voice

Here is a brief interview with writer Sergey Lenkov:

Sergey Lenkov: Your album - it's like you were returned from ethnographic expedition from Ancient World. I'm listening and as Stanyslavsky I could say: I believe! The most unexpected thing for me - I'm listening to Medieval music or Ancient Greek music after Temple and it sounds as harmonical continuation of this listening experience. I discussed this with my friend who also likes Temple but don't like reconstructed Ancient music and he said that he couldn't find aesthetics in Sumerian or Ancient Greek melodies while Temple sounds lively, ecstatic and stunning.

Robert Rich: Thank you for such generous comments. I agree that most reconstructions of ancient Sumerian/Akkadian, Greek and Roman music sound very stiff. For this reason I searched more for inspiration within traditional Persian, Karnatic and Indonesian music. To me, these traditions have a language of ecstatic melody. I imagined a culture that might have existed 1000 years ago, after the invention of metallurgy that could stretch a wire into musical strings, and make gongs for example. I thought that metal instruments would add more energy, and most ancient music only used wood, skin, bones, gourds and gut strings.

SL: What was the inspiration behind Temple of the Invisible? I'm historian and I very like reconstructions, historically interpreted performances of Ancient and Medieval music - do you listening to such records?

RR: This project started with the idea that I would make a performing group and create all of the music live in ensemble. I wanted to travel and make concerts with this music, and record an audiophile live album. But the logistics were too complicated, and my friends with ancient music skill were too busy for such a plan. So the project became a solo album with many contributions. The original title was "Rites of the Bronze Age" but I changed that to "Temple of the Invisible" to make it something from *inside* that culture and not from our outside modern historical perspective. (And yes, I was familiar with some of the ancient music revivals, and I am quite fond of the Paniagua brothers.)

SL: Please, the meaning of the titles (or they are also metaphorical as in Medicine Box)? "Etranon" - Entrance, "Otranon" - Closing the Ceremony?

RR: The titles on the album are in an invented language. I use bits of Sanskrit and some Latin/Greek roots, but mostly they have abstract connotation, onomatopoetic association, or just feel appropriate. Sometimes my mind hears language in sounds, so I invent words. "Etranon" and "Otranon" indeed mean entrance and closing. "Pa Tanak" sounds a bit like Indonesian, and the piece is influenced by Solo court gamelan. "Jibral" sounds Arabic and the music is influenced slightly (perhaps I was thinking of the poet Khalil Gibran, but I use these unconscious accidents.) "Fasanina" sounds more Persian or Latin as a word, and maybe has an echo with "Fascination" but for me it is the most spiritual piece on the album, and creates a focus. "Tulchru" has a sound-echo with "Two Crows" and it is a piece about war. I imagined our ancient culture's ritual, deep in a large cave, moving into a dance with two warriors circling slowly around each other, transforming into two vultures ("crows") circling overhead, awaiting death on the battlefield so that they could eat the corpse. It is my strange way of making a pacifist statement. "Lan Tiku" again has an Asian flavor, perhaps the sound of a bamboo meditation wheel as it empties its water and hits the rock it is perched upon, like a Rinzai Zen monk swatting a student on the shoulder. I also imagine a call and response between a flute (bird) on the stage, and a flute up on an outcrop on the wall behind/above the stage, as they call to each other like two yearning lovers.

SL: Vocals on The Temple - why did you choose of Sukhawai Ali Khan and did he improvised while singing?

RR: I met Sukhawat Ali Khan through my friend Haroun Serang. He lived only an hour away, and he was very happy to contribute his voice. He loved the spiritual component of the album, and he was a pleasure to work with. Sukhawat is son of the great Ustad Salamat Ali Khan, a Pakistani devotional singer of great importance. Sukhawat has been carrying on the tradition of his father but also feels very open to Western culture. He came to my studio and improvised these performances around the concepts of each piece. He sang in a "verbalese" form of Urdu, basically making up words from standard sounds like jazz singers do, or for that matter like I used languages to invent titles.

SL: And of course - where the photos on the cover were made?

RR: The photos come from my friend Brad Cole, who I feel to be one of the greatest living photographers. He also contributed artwork to many of my other CDs, including Stalker, Humidity, Outpost, Electric Ladder and Eleven Questions. The photo comes from his series called "Remnants" which has a haunted feeling as if we are watching the archeological remains of our own culture, through a window from the future. He took the photo on the central California coast. It fits nicely with my idea of revisiting a fictional ancient past, through the emotions of the present.

I hope this answers your questions! All the best - Robert