Filed under: Jordan De La Sierra
A descendant of Erik Satie and a student of Terry Riley, Jordan De La Sierra adhered to the “pure sound with shape” school of piano tuning, his notes unconfined by Bach’s “well tempered” Western tuning. Instead, De La Sierra’s work incorporated the point of view of nature, what La Monte Young called “well tuned,” in which notes are left to reverberate to the full extent of their potential, at varying lengths, to be bent by their player’s improvisation and textural sonic explorations.
In 1977, Gymnosphere producer Stephen Hill convinced Unity Records—the San Franciscan label that’s been called the first New Age record company—to issue an unedited double album, nearly 120 minutes of music, with an accompanying 20-page booklet lavishly decorated by De La Sierra’s India-inspired drawings and musings on a pre-Star Wars concept called “the Force,” to him a “consciousness itself…without an object.” The sumptuous musical object had little hope of selling well, even in the wake of mainstream ambient recordings by Brian Eno and others. Gymnosphere arrived well before New Age was a genre within Tower Records. It was neither Classical, nor truly Avant-garde. In its day, Gymnosphere would be filed most often under World Beat.
After it floundered in the marketplace, Unity trimmed Gymnosphere down to a single LP, with no booklet, no musings, no context. Jordan De La Sierra, a massive physical presence at well over six feet tall, didn’t disappear exactly. But upon his reemergence in the 1980s, a profusion of post-Windham Hill wind-chime tinklers had come up behind him. Gymnosphere, scheduled for cassette and CD reissue a handful of times, was lost to certain organizational shake-ups. Unity itself had folded. De La Sierra went into landscaping, to “generate a profoundly tangible sense of space,” as his 1977 work might’ve had it. The Gymnosphere tapes—five hours and more of shapely, ethereal piano sonatas draped in Grace Cathedral reverb—sat silently on a shelf.
De La Sierra referred to part of this work as “Music For Gymnastics,” and he thought it best heard at night, “at the nexus in the diurnal-nocturnal cycle that the harmonics present.” But to us, Gymnosphere: Song of the Rose has proven a peerless accompaniment to the toils of the day, a calm and motivating force, forever barely there and yet encompassing. It says, in its myriad tone clusters and seductive repetitions: “We are here and we are now.”
Gymnosphere: Song of the Rose will be issued as a 2xCD and 2xLP on December 2nd 2014. You can pre-order it now.
>>> Deluxe double LP and CD recreates the original 1977 running length at nearly 120 minutes
>>> Both formats include a faithful reproduction of De La Sierra’s 20-page booklet of essays and drawings
>>> Erin Osmon’s liner notes detail the intersection of De La Sierra, Hill, and Unity Records
>>> LP inner sleeves replicate the promo edition and 1977 Unity edition
>>> Nifty tip-on jacket features eye-catching spot varnish
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