There are two dramatically different things that are going on in the music of Secular Rituals by the prolific and – equally – the prodigious experimentalist and musician Wayne Alpern. On the absolute and variegated surface this is a deep dive into the normative sound world of electronic instrumentalism. This, one may add, is far removed from the inventions of pioneers such as Karlheinz Stockhausen, John Cage, Wendy Carlos Herbie Hancock and others…
The other important aspect is that – and here lies the rub – Mr Alpern and his explorations leap off from the acoustic [concert] grand piano and probe the very heart of Robert Moog’s early brainchild and what it meant to have it included not only as an instrument in the making of music, but how it expresses human existence and angst. Musicians from Palestrina and JS Bach and Georg Friederich Händel used the instruments at their disposal to glorify God by setting scripture to music to accompany spiritual rituals. But what if, Mr Alpern seems to ask, if the same were done to meditate upon secular rituals?
The answer – or at least an answer might lie [or result] in music the like of which is contained in this repertoire. As Mr Alpern meditates and comes up with his “answers” to what results from “secular” rituals, we discern – and rightly so – music that is often dark and disturbing in the ephemeral dreaminess of “Utopia”, the melodic and harmonic haranguing of “Victims of Venom” [a quite masterful expression of hatred], or in the mystique of “Triangularity” and the profoundly meditative states of “Vishvakarma”.
As always, Mr Alpern dazzles with the sheer virtuoso performance even if he is using repetitive structures and gestures to make his musical point. It’s also worth noting that applying density to tone-textures and his colour palette, Mr Alpern separates himself from prominent minimalists such as Philip Glass and Steve Reich, aligning himself more towards the cubist density of Terry Riley than anyone else; although, throughout the creation and execution of this repertoire Wayne Alpern remains indomitably Wayne Alpern.
Track list – 1: Utopia; 2: Victims of Venom; 3: Millennium; 4: Schenker’s Dream; 5: Gomoa Fettah; 6: Brave Art; 7: Sista Re; 8: Bach CMP; 9: Afterglow; 10: Triangularity; 11: Vishvakarma
Personnel – Wayne Alpern: all instruments
Released – 2022
Label – Henri Elkan Music
Runtime – 1:00:33