Harald Weiss: Trommelgeflüster (ECM New Series 1249)


Harald Weiss

Harald Weiss percussion, voice
Recorded September 1982 at Tonstudio Bauer, Ludwigsburg
Engineer: Martin Wieland
Produced by Manfred Eicher

Looking at the title of Harald Weiss’s only album for ECM, which means “Drum Whisper,” leaves us with no mysteries regarding what we are about to hear. This simplicity of purpose is characteristic of a composer whose modest discography has sadly left him little represented outside of his native Germany. As percussionist, vocalist, writer, and actor, Weiss brings a love of the theater to his performance style and world, which here is overrun with a thousand bare feet along the dusty earth. Weiss is also well traveled, and from his widely cast net hauls a wealth of local influences onto the vessel of his craft. And so, while flashes of Ramayana re-creation and Peking opera paint Trommelgeflüster as a disjointed pastiche, in the context of this recording these references take on a life of their own. Each percussive cell circles itself into an Ouroboros of change in a larger chain of being. Between the steel drummed steps and melismatic chants of Part I and the darker territories of Part II, which begin as if an offshoot of “Lucifer’s Farewell” from Karlheinz Stockhausen’s Samstag aus Licht before spreading into a diffuse palette of outbursts and whistling dreams, Weiss renders something intensely organic toward the concluding twang, steady and distant like a jaw harp in the mouth of providence.

A wonder of an album that defies categorization in the most pleasant way, Trommelgeflüster has the makings of a ritual, even as it uses itself as a stepping-stone into non-ritual realities, where regularity is but the dream of a nomadic soothsayer. The music skirts the edges of consciousness, even as it plumbs the depths of wakefulness.

Weiss is the recipient of numerous awards, and was just coming into prominence when Manfred Eicher decided to put him into the studio. The result is an intriguing session, and an artist, not be overlooked.

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