Snowflakes Are Dancing: Electronic Performances of Debussy's Tone Paintingsby Tomita
Breathtaking would be the prime word for Tomita's electronic renderings of the impressionistic tone poems of Claude Debussy. Working primarily on the unwieldy Moog synthesizer between 1973 and 1975, Tomita painted shades of sounds that would have rivaled a gallery of Matisse canvases. On "Reverie," Tomita's string phrasing is as ephemeral as a morning mist, and his synth-vocalise as seductive as a siren. "The Engulfed Cathedral" conjures up a storm with little tornadoes of flutes and mysterious caverns with echoing gongs and stately organs. "Gollywogg's Cakewalk" sports sounds that hoot, spring, whistle, and bounce with all the antics of a carload of clowns, while a brook babbles through a sparkling fairyland on "The Girl with the Flaxen Hair." Remastered and reissued in 24-bit sound, this opus is as awe-inspiring as it was on first listen in the '70s. Indeed, Tomita's mind-bending array of timbres is rivaled only by his exquisite musical phrasing. Would Debussy have approved? It certainly seems so.
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When I first heard a cut from this what was then an album, I was listening to Allisson Steele on the old WNEW nighttime broadcast. She played Snowflakes are Dancing and it caught my attention. After buying the album I had to learn all about ClaudeDebussy, the composer who Tomita based this work on. This is a true and honest interpretation of Debussy's work with just a little silliness here and there. This venture is all about atmospheric dreams and images of nameless things of beauty (the girl with the Flaxen Hair and Engulfed Cathedral) bring about fantastic images to the receptive mind. Claire De Lune, after Schubert's Ave Maria, has to be the most hauntigly beautiful melody ever composed. Tomita does justice to all of these and brings a touch of what futuristic technology can do with melodies over one hundred years old. Debussy and the Impressionistic painters of his time were all about vibrant color and strong imagery but with a subtle finish. This doesn't always work as in many of Tomita's subsequent albums, but this one is a gem. Listen to this with the one you love or alone at night and let the juices flow. You will see Gardens in the Rain, Snowflakes Dancing in the air, A Cathedral engulfed by snow, a beautiful young woman and much more. You won't be sorry.
Disco, techno, electronica....classical? No way! Yes, indeed. With RCA High Performance, Claude Debussy has never sounded so 21st century. Nevertheless, this recording is not for everyone. Reverie sounds eerily creepy and reminds this listener of the theme from the Star Trek TV series. The title track also picks up other unintended sounds that evoke an "other worldly" effect, perhaps one that is quite different from what Debussy had intended. The end result is a mishmash of atmospheric mood music. Highly hallucinogenic and perhaps even mood-enhancing, but this is recommended only for the brave of heart willing to crossover into bold new domains of uncharted territories where classical meets with new age. Recommended, with reservations.