ÉVA POLGÁR AND SÁNDOR VÁLY- GILGAMESH
The Epic of Gilgamesh is “the Bible of the creative man,” encompassing all human feelings, ideas, anguish, and pleasure that we experience every day in the beauty of life and in the fear of death. We are roamers on Earth as much as Gilgamesh was.
The Bible has many interpretations – a collective anthology of humanity. We can recognize our own selves at the various stages of our lives in its tales. The Bible also provides answers to crises of human existence. So too may be considered The Epic of Gilgamesh. Parts of The Old Testament reflect the heroic stories of this Mesopotamian epic. Noah resembles Umnapistim. Furthermore, Jacob with his high intelligence and Esau with his incomparable physical strength recall Gilgamesh and Enkidu.
The CD was born of the initiative of Rainer J. Hanshe, the director of Contra Mundum Press in New York City. Éva Polgár and I based our collaborative work on and closely followed the structure of Stuart Kendall’s English translation of Gilgamesh published by Contra Mundum Press.
I knew the epic for a long time. The magnificent emotional work fascinated me when I first read it. I recognized my life situations many times in the ones explored in the most ancient epic of the world, in the book of creation, realization, knowledge of love, friendship, and death. Thus, when Rainer J. Hanshe suggested his idea of a composition on the epic, I knew immediately that I would be interested. I needed nothing else than to unfold my emotional and intellectual storms of the past decades, and to give notes, rhythm, and melody to them.
Éva and I have been working together for years, and Gilgamesh is our third common musical project. Our compositional method for this material differs from the ones we applied in our earlier projects. Our previous works reflected the connection between visual arts and music. In Bruegel Variations (2009) and Mondrian Variations (2012) we proceeded from the visual composition to the music score. In this project, literature becomes music.
Like our previous projects, our approach to our most recent work has multiple layers. Éva is a pianist and I am a visual artist. I proceed from a painting toward music, while Éva does the opposite, moving from music toward a painting. In addition, our female/male binary is also of great significance in our collaborations. This musical adventure provided the opportunity for the detached natures of which Adam Kandmon philosophizes to reunify for a moment and to represent male and female in harmony yet again. The idea of polar opposites served us well in the composition process, since highly powerful counterparts – Shamhat and Enkidu or Isthar and Gilgamesh – face each other in The Epic of Gilgamesh. Every piece on the CD contains the two extremes where the female quality answers the male, one builds upon the other, or they complete each other.
When I create art inspired by the works of others, I respond to the underlying principles that structure their pieces and decide for myself what I hold to be true. Views, opinions of authors come across to me that I don’t necessarily share. Take Mondrian Variations for instance: in spite of admiring Mondrian’s output, I disagree with the painter’s ideology regarding art.
This is the case with Kendal’s English translation of Gilgamesh. He leaves out the last tablet, no.12, which is an essential part of the epic in order to better understand the work as a whole. Many scholars do not consider the last tablet as belonging strictly to The Epic of Gilgamesh. Instead, they treat the last chapter as an appendix attached to the book later in history. Despite the last chapter not being directly related to the plot, in terms of its purpose and ideology, the tablet is a fundamental element of the epic.
Although subtle, we inserted the twelfth part in our music. The message of tablet no.12 is as follows: only those perish after death who were dead even in life – resonating with Dante in the Divina Commedia. Those who were not brave in life are sent to the first layer of inferno. Awareness of death is paralyzing. On the other hand, those who deal with death have to dare to face it down.
Thus, the twelfth tablet encapsulates the main idea of Gilgamesh: besides offering fame and immortality, bravery shapes the hero’s fate. The Epic of Gilgamesh is the representation of the human’s heroic fight, desire for eternity, and mortal fear. Simultaneously, it is the release of mortal fear. This is the message of the final tablet.
This motive was especially meaningful to me, since this opened the solution for the musical material that concludes with the piece “Back in the City.” Somewhat distorted, somewhat shaking, with anxiety in his heart, nonetheless, the man starts walking the path that was assigned to him, starts to seize his opportunities, and grows wings.
Gilgamesh is the counterpart of Umnapistim. The immortal does not create, he has no reason to do so. Only the mortal creates, and the awareness of mortality is the mindset that created culture. Building this culture can happen only by gaining bravery and facing death. As alluded to earlier, this is one of the reasons I call The Epic of Gilgamesh the Bible of the creating man.
One more observation. According to my knowledge, two translations exist in which Shamhat, Isthar’s priestess is introduced as “saint maiden” instead of prostitute. This concept was another important influence in composing the music.
To me, The Epic of Gilgamesh is among those rare works where the stage of awareness pends between two alternatives. Gilgamesh’s awareness of death is dramatic, since it rose from his friend’s death. On the other hand, Enkidu’s awareness relates to love. Shamhat helped Enkidu to become conscious about his own soul. Thus, civilization, human consciousness came to realization through the exploration of sexuality.
For this reason, I find difficult to accept the ubiquitous tendency to attach something plebeian to moments of exceptional awakenings. Enkidu is portrayed to be the victim of female sexual seduction degrading his experience to the low level of an ordinary sexual act. (This reading is reminiscent of the unfortunate image of women in Christian mythology.) Enkidu is not a victim of seduction! He is a mystic traveler stepping from one dimension of time to another, where the beasts who lived in brotherhood with Enkidu cannot follow him anymore: with the help of Shamhat, Enkidu arrives from ancient barbarity to the civilized world. The hero steps into the second stage of being. Naturally, this reality can be as dramatic as the other. When we gain something we lose something.
In our music we discover the different dimensions as well. The crossing dimensions of time, the presentation of layers of existence. This may be a key to the relation of the first and second part of the CD that covers distance and dimension between times and entities, and finally reaches the stage, where we, the creators of this music are situated. In 2013. This was our only possible path, since we did not strive to illustrate the epic. Instead, we aimed to deliver it through our own voice. Thus, we started our musical journey of Gilgamesh here, in this time and space.
Once again, thank you to Rainer. It is doubtful that this work would have been created without him.
Sándor Vály – Helsinki, Copenhagen, Rome, October 25-26, 2013
Music and literature are two closely related divisions of art. Several composers were influenced by literary works over the centuries and transformed words into sounding representations of human thinking, beliefs, and emotions. Being a pianist, I cannot think about more compelling musical examples than Franz Liszt’s compositions inspired by two great masters of literature, Dante Alighieri and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. The Dante Sonata for piano (1849) and the Dante Symphony (1855-56) are based on the Divine Comedy, while the Sonata in B minor for piano (1853) and the Faust Symphony (final version 1880) are bringing Goethe’s characters alive – Faust, Gretchen, and Mephisto. None of Liszt’s music attempts to tell a story but rather to portray the characters and to commemorate these masterpieces, Divine Comedy and Faust, for posterity. Life and death, mortality and immortality, purity and sensuality, love and pain -human emotions, desires, and ideologies are explored by the greatest writers and poets. They also appear in the most ancient pieces of literature such as The Epic of Gilgamesh. The Epic of Gilgamesh and the spirit of its protagonists are timeless and valid. They compelled me to work with this material. As a performer I stand in the crossroad of old and new, past and future. I interpret music on a large scale from Bach to the most contemporary composers and I constantly face the challenge of how to deliver an 18th that it would find the listener’s heart and understanding in the present. I bring my experience of the timeless aspects of music to the composition process of this work based on an epic that still resonates.
Our CD, Gilgamesh is rooted in the epic, yet, it does not intended to mimic ancient instruments or music styles, nor does it strive to illustrate the storyline. Sándor elaborates the philosophical background of his approach to the work in his notes. Accordingly, I concentrate on the musical concepts of our collaboration. Gilgamesh is a fusion of a visual artist’s and a pianist’s musical journey in the field of composition, blending modern visions of the painter and traditional music values of the pianist. In a way this composition project gave me wings to develop new musical ideas stimulated by the epic and by Sándor’s more revolutianry attitude to the work.
Gilgamesh is our third collaboration since we started working together in 2008, and our first series of compositions that are inspired by literature. For Bruegel Variations (2008, piano score completed by Nikoletta Máté) and Mondrian Variations (2012) our composition method derived directly from selected paintings of Pieter Bruegel the Elder and Piet Mondrian. Thus, the structure of the paintings shaped the music. As part of our technique, I traced the melodies and harmonies on the piano that Sándor further developed, and under his hands the variations century piece or the music of the future so got their final shape. In Gilgamesh we composed the other way around. Sándor sent me musical excerpts – rhythmic concepts and melody lines – to the pieces that he generated through his computer and sampler, starting in chronological order of the tablets in the epic. Once I received this basic material, I started improvising on it by the piano, settling myself in the mood of the epic. I enjoyed the process of going deep in the different characters of Gilgamesh, Enkidu, Shamhat, Isthar, Humbaba, and Umnapistim. I wrote down the strongest musical ideas that emerged during my sessions, recorded them, and provided them to Sándor, who inserted the piano material into the whole and finalized each piece of the cycle.
Gilgamesh has the freedom of our mind, emotions, and artistic intuition. This contrasts with the compositional method in Mondrian Variations that required us to keep within a predetermined framework. This freedom not only led to entirely joint compositions of Sándor and myself where the piano is almost constantly present completing other instruments, but also to pieces where the listener meets either Sándor’s or my own translation of the topic. Accordingly, Isthar is an entirely piano composition pervaded by feminine impetus, while The Bull is a powerful masculine outcome of Isthar’s anger in Sándor’s interpretation.
Throughout the whole CD, Gilgamesh carries strong characteristics of minimalistic, repetitive development of musical arch. Those compositions where the rhythm dominates over melody, supported by strong drumbeats and oftentimes brasses, are more demanding and forceful, chasing the listener into trance (04. Shamhat, 05. The Fight of Gilgamesh and Enkidu) In contrary, pieces where long melodies of woodwind instruments, voice, or piano win over rhythm bear more meditative qualities (02. Enkidu, 11. Close to Immortaliy). At the end, it is the listener who will decide upon hearing the CD if this music offers a fulfilling personal experience.
I would like to express my thanks and appreciation to Rainer J. Hanshe for introducing us to this wonderful project, to Sándor Vály, whose collaboration opened up new perspecives in my musical views, and to all the people who supported us with their expertise during the composition process. Please enjoy and listen to Gilgamesh with open heart and mind.
Éva Polgár – Denton, Texas, November 30, 2013
Polgár is a young hungarian pianist, schooled in Steve Reich, Bartók and Debussy. Vály also Hungarian, is slightly older and conceptual artist of industrial leanings, know for his challenging, interdisciplinary artworks. Following their 2012 collaboration, an attempt to sonically realise the paintings of Piet Mondrian, comes this new long player, inspired by the 5000 year old epic poem of the Mesopotamian king Gilgamesh. Ambitious territory, you might think, but this bewildering and often remarkable recording falls short of its heavy subject matter. Using piano, percussion and samplers, the pair construct a number of baroque instrumental pieces taking the tenets of classical minimalism and blowing them up into something grand imposing, and imbued with a sense of ancient menace. The only explicit narrative comes in the brief spoken word “Prologue” but this is an expressive set, with a sense of drama that borders on the operatic. It also goes pretty far out: see the woodwind skronk and explosive blast percussion of “The Bull” or “Shamhat” which matches bashed drum to the sound of female orgasm, like Lil Loui’s “French Kiss” marching to war.
Sea Of Tranquility
This is the second collaboration between painter Sandor Valy and pianist Eva Polgar. Valy’s musical interests run to a combination of the hardcore (Skinny Puppy and Einsturzende NEubaten) and the minimalist (Steve Reich, John Cage), while Polgar is influenced by Bartok, Debussy, Reich and Louis Andriessen. In fact, it is the influence of Andriessen, more than anybody, who pervades this excellent disc. This record uses the strategic approach of the best minimalists: repeating motifs that modulate over time, the build-up of tension and its release, and careful and intricate writing. In fact, though I note a lot of similarity to pieces by Andriessen, notably the astonishing De Staat, and a bit less so De Tijd, I also find that this would not sound out of place on the later music of Philip Glass. So it wears its influences well.
After the spoken introduction of “The Prologue,” the disc really opens with “Gilgamesh- The City,” and it is here that we first see how the record will develop. This is a spritely, quick moving piece that repeats over and over its main thematic elements, but sees them mutate over time. “Enkidu” moves in another direction, using repeated vocal samples over a heavy industrial pounding, showing the influence of industrial bands such as Neubaten and Laibach. “Shamhat” is a piano piece, minor key and slow, as well as brief. “The Fight of Gilgamesh and Enkidu” begins slowly, with piano, over which later is layered massed vocals samples, building incredible tension. “Humbaba” works with a three-chord piano motif over which a second piano frantically plays a cascade of notes. Then sax samples enter as the pace increases and becomes angrier. “Isthar” is another solo piano piece, this one sounding angrier than earlier ones. “The Bull” begins with a blast of noise right out of energy jazz or industrial rock. It builds sound on sound and then quickly ends. And so it goes with this record, each song using new tactics as part of the larger strategy. It is a great record, brave and uncompromising, full of energy and highly musical.
Aux Portes Du MétaL
Bien étrange album que voilà. Ni Metal, ni vraiment trop Classique, ni même Electronique, ce nouvel album des Hongrois Éva Polgár & Sándor Vály a de quoi surprendre. Mais la surprise a souvent du bon, du très bon même. Impossible de ne pas rester un moment interdit à l’écoute de l’album. Les Hongrois vous embarquent, du prologue à la dernière piste, dans une épopée vieille de plus de quatre mille ans. Car c’est aux côtés de Gilgamesh, le non moins célèbre roi-tyran sumérien, que vous ferez le trajet. Et quel trajet ! Sublime.
A la manière d’une scène d’exposition au théâtre, le prologue vous annonce tel l’aède en son temps, l’épopée qui va suivre. C’est bien sur les traces des récits du IIIème millénaire av. J.-C. Gilgamesh et le Taureau Céleste ou encore Gilgamesh et Huwawa que vous allez embarquer… Les titres des pistes le confirment, on suit même l’épopée mésopotamienne à la lettre.
Mais faites silence, car l’histoire est en marche… Gilgamesh règne alors sur la ville d’Uruk, en roi tyrannique et tout-puissant, défiant de son aura implacable la majesté des dieux. Débute alors un piano contemporain et minimaliste, agrémenté petit à petit de percussions surréalistes. Le résultat est un surprenant mélange de musique expérimentale des années soixante-dix et de jazz improvisé. L’ambiance est parfaite, presque insolente. Mais cette insolence ne va pas durer : les dieux, dans leur jalousie maladive, décident de punir Gilgamesh en créant un être guerrier, Enkidu, chargé de détruire le tyran. Les violons entament la marche, introduisant le combattant, mélodie répétitive agrémentée d’un piano au phrasé jazzy. On sent une symétrie cachée avec la piste précédente. Symétrie qui se confirmera par la suite… Mais avant cela, les sons d’une orgie qu’on croirait venus directement de la capitale des vices et des péchés, j’ai nommé Babylone la Grande, résonnent dans la salle des banquets. Des femmes crient. Cris jouissifs et orgasmiques sur fond de batterie rythmant la cadence. Gilgamesh, dans un dernier sursaut de vantardise, ne compte pas se laisser si facilement impressionner par la vengeance annoncée des dieux.
Le combat avec Enkidu commence alors, piano ajusté dans les graves, la tension est forte, on entend presque les doigts d’Éva Polgár marteler la mélodie tortueuse. Mais Enkidu finit par se nouer d’amitié avec Gilgamesh, qui se lancent ensemble à la poursuite du géant Humbaba (sixième piste de l’album).
Bientôt, Isthar, fille du dieu Anu, éconduite par Gilgamesh, se présente dans un piano mélancolique, proche à certains moments de la beauté d’un Erik Satie. On imagine très bien la scène, tant elle nous paraît familière. La déesse, dans sa tour d’ivoire, préparant sa revanche dans un monologue vengeur…
On pourrait continuer l’épopée encore longtemps, Gilgamesh et Enkidu combattant le taureau ailé envoyé par Isthar. Enkidu mourant par la force des dieux en colère (très beau moment dans l’album). Gilgamesh cherchant en vain l’immortalité sur l’île Umnapistim, puis revenant finalement à son point de départ, la majestueuse ville d’Uruk, pour y finir ses jours…
L’œuvre d’Éva Polgár et Sándor Vály est splendide, une maîtrise totale de leurs instruments, un piano remarquable et des arrangements irréprochables. Ils abordent une histoire vieille de plus de quatre mille ans avec une originalité incroyable, leur version de Gilgamesh est juste magistrale. A tous ceux dont l’ouverture d’esprit est le fer de lance, je ne peux que vous le conseiller, certes un peu difficile d’approche à la première écoute, il saura vous séduire par la suite.
Get Your Rock Out
It’s a wonder that this idea hasn’t been thought of before; a concept album based on Gilgamesh, a 5,000 year old poem and one of the earliest surviving works of literature. Sure there has been at least one band called Gilgamesh, but as far as I’m aware never a concept album based on the epic work. So step up Eva Polgar & Sandor Valy, a Hungarian minimalist duo who have bravely attempted to put this mammoth story into musical form. This is the duo’s second album together following on as it does from 2012’s Mondrian Variations. Polgar is something of a virtuoso when it comes to the art of piano playing and her talent is evident throughout the 55 minute duration of the album. Valy’s talents lie in his versatility, involving as it does forays into many aspects of art such as painting, sculpture and photography as well as numerous musical ventures.
The duo cites a number of diverse influences including Steve Reich, Skinny Puppy and Laibach as well as classical composers such as Debussy, Bartok and Schubert. For my part, I occasionally detected faint elements of the jazzier side of Norwegian band Motorpsycho as well as shades of King Crimson at their most avant-garde, particularly on the frenetic and rather brief The Bull. After the brief spoken word opening track, simply called Prologue, it becomes clear that this piece of work is far from easy on the ear. Nothing wrong with that in theory, of course, but at times it appears that melody and subtlety are sacrificed in the quest for technical drama and the need to challenge the listener.
The album is mainly instrumental with voices used to add drama and atmosphere, examples being on the industrial sounding track Shamhat, and the mournful Death of Enkidu. So in the absence of lyrics it is left to the music to tell the story. Eva Polgar is an extremely talented pianist but using the lower keyboard notes to convey menace is hardly ground breaking and on The Fight of Gilgamesh and Enkidu her playing reminds me of an overly enthusiastic teacher desperately attempting to persuade her indifferent pupils to portray a fragile tree bending and swaying in a mighty wind.
Having said that there are some rather eloquent and reflective moments tucked into the album’s discordant complexity. These are however, few and far between until you get to the final two tracks. Close To Immortality and Back to the City, have an atmospheric and, in the latter’s case, ambient charm to them that comes as somewhat of a relief to the chaos that has gone before. These pieces seem a little out of place coming as they do at the end of the album, but their melodies are welcome and enjoyable nonetheless.
In summary, this minimalist, jazzy, industrial hybrid is a difficult listen despite its ambition. I found it very hard to warm to despite one or two genuinely delightful moments, particularly on the final two tracks, but while in the end the result ultimately fails to do this particular tale the justice I hoped it would. I commend the vision and the performance.
Review: David Lack
Before starting this review a couple of words about Gilgamesh. The poem of Gilgamesh is, perhaps, the oldest written story on Earth. It comes to us from Ancient Sumeria, and was originally written on 12 clay tablets in cuneiform script. It is about the adventures of the historical King of Uruk “Bilgamesh” (somewhere between 2750 and 2500 BCE) whose prime aim was to discover the secret of eternal life. To date, only a few fragments of it have survived and if I remember correctly this is the first attempt from a band to try and release an album based on the particular poem.
Sándor Vály (born 1968) is a painter born in Hungary and now living in Finland. His art is characterised by conceptual and philosophical dimension, and despite the fact he became known for his paintings, his work in the field of art expands to paintings, cinema, literature and poetry, performance art and of course music. His musical background originates from the 80s with his favorite genre being punk, experimental, and industrial. His greatest musical influences are, Skinny Puppy, Einstrürzende Neubauten, Laibach, Steve Reich, John Cage, F. Schubert, and J.S. Bach.
Hungarian pianist Éva Polgár (born 1983), a renowned performer of traditional and contemporary music, is currently pursuing a degree of Doctor of Musical Arts at the University of North Texas, where she also holds a Teaching Fellowship in the keyboard department. Éva has won top prizes in piano competitions across the world including the International Liszt Competition in Los Angeles in 2012. She has performed as a soloist, chamber musician, and recording artist in Europe and the Americas. Gilgamesh is the second album in which she is the co-composer. Her compositional style is mostly influenced by Claude Debussy, Béla Bartók, Steve Reich, and Louis Andriessen.
Now these are some impressive bios and in combination with the album’s concept, I was hoping to listen a top class work characterized by lots of technical and melodical experimenting. Unfortunately I was proven wrong. “Gilgamesh” is technically overwhelming, leaving me emotionally detached by its lacks of melody and imagination. After the spoken word prologue track, and 30 seconds into the second one, it became clear that this was not going to be an easy listen nor an album I’d want to listen too many times over. Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against technical albums in general, nor albums that become orchestral – after all, I used to be a huge “In The Nursery” fan a couple of years ago. However, I think there should always be a balance between technicality and melody when presenting an instrumental release, since the lack of vocals needs to be replaced somehow in order to keep the audience’s attention alive.
The album gave me the impression that Valy and Polgar paid more attention to the technical aspect than the melodic. It seems as if they worked very briefly on the instruments and sounds they would use for this album. Even Eva’s piano play became way too predictable, playing high keys over and over again, I really struggled to see the point behind her play – it was almost as if she was doing it for the sake of it!
“Shamhat” is an old school militaristic industrial track and “Death of Enkidu” has some amazing dramatic vocals accompanied by a great dark atmosphere. These are two truly amazing stand alone tracks, I wonder why more songs like these have not been composed. If so, the end result of this review would have been so much different.
(Ektro) La Ektro è sempre una fonte di sorpresa. Ed è forse per questa ragione che nonostante sia spesso molto lontana dal metal, e pure dal rock, cerco sempre di seguirne le pubblicazioni. Credo fermamente che l’ascoltatore metal evoluto sia sensibile ad una vasta gamma di sonorità, espressioni, idee, tanto che nel metal stesso nascono evoluzioni e deviazioni sempre più vaste, capaci di integrare influenze musicali anche opposte tra loro. Questo lavoro, “Gilgamesh”, è creato da due artisti: Sándor Vály, un pittore ungherese che si dedica all’arte con un approccio concettuale e filosofico, un artista che si apre anche verso musica, cinema, performance ed arti visuali in genere. Musicalmente proviene da un passato punk ed industriale, e tra i suoi interessi c’è anche la musica classica. Forse ruota tutto attorno la musica classica il fatto che sia coinvolto anche l’altro artista, ovvero la pianista ungherese Éva Polgár, famosa per le sue performance classiche e moderne, vincitrice di premi ed in piena attività. Assieme, i due artisti hanno deciso di creare un’opera che va oltre il semplice concetto di musica o suono; un’opera, un concept album dedicato all’Epopea di Gilgamesh, un ciclo di poemi datato circa 5000 anni fa, di origine Sumerica che narra le gesta di Gilgamesh, re sumero di Uruk. Stiamo parlando di una letteratura tra le più antiche e superstiti. E su questi racconti i due artisti creano musica espressiva, malinconica, complessa e minimalista contemporaneamente, dove concetti elettronici si alternano a riflessioni basate sul pianoforte, dove lo stesso pianoforte ricco di intensità ed emozionalità cede il passo ad un sassofono deviato, affiancato da un clarinetto sublime. Il pezzo “Humbaba” è un esempio perfetto dei confini espressivi che questi due artisti riescono a raggiungere. Confini espressivi che cambiano le regole: la dea Isthar, per esempio, molte volte citata nell’heavy metal, qui, nel pezzo a lei dedicato, è pianoforte immenso ed emozionalmente intenso, capace di mettere in contrasto l’amore e la guerra che la dea controlla secondo l’antica religione mesopotamica. “The Bull” raggiunge livelli estremi, dove percussioni e sassofono duellano con nervosismo e furia, mentre la conclusiva “Back To The City” riporta il contesto su una elettronica ambientale piena di atmosfera ed immagini. E’ assolutamente impossibile dare un voto a questa composizione: non me ne reputo capace, e tanto meno degno. Non è heavy metal e forse nemmeno una sua lontana derivazione. Ma “Gilgamesh” mette alla prova gusti musicali, cultura musicale, intelligenza personale. E merita assolutamente un ascolto, durate il quale ogni emozione viene rapita e trasportata verso luoghi e tempi lontani, magici, misteriosi.
The Grim Tower
Eva Polgar & Sandor Valy – Gilgamesh (2014) – These two extremely talented musicians have created an avant-garde musical tribute to the world’s oldest epic (as far as we know) that predates even the Bible, (and also contains stories and figures that were copied and reconfigured into that latter text) known to us as The Epic Of Gilgamesh. Using several different types of instruments and styles, they’ve attempted to portray some of the events and characters from this tale. Since this is a rather diverse and odd collection of music, let me walk you through this listening experience.
The album begins with a spoken word introduction, read directly from the text itself. And yeah, you really should sit down and read it. I still haven’t gotten a chance to read it myself yet, but I certainly would like to go through it to compare/contrast the stories that were later taken by both the Egyptians and the Jews and added into their holy books. The music really begins with “Gilgamesh – The City 10:22″ which also doubles as the longest song on the disc. It’s essentially piano with some shaking effects and a later added section of springy percussion. Other elements are added as the piece continues, including triumphant horns and atmospheric synths. Indeed a tribal sort of atmosphere is created, one that seems almost befitting of our hero. (Yes, Gilgamesh is the story of a great hero, who like Heracles of later fame; accomplished many great feats.) “Enkidu 4:54″ comes next with a piano start, but later becomes apparent as a sort of repeated synth piece, which echoes a sort of light flute and includes some other elements later in the piece. It’s very much in the same style of “Gilgamesh” as it builds up in the same way. “Shamhat 4:21″ begins with percussion and adds what sounds like the soft whisper of a woman in constant repetition. This album is definitely built of constant repetition. More percussion continues, as the repeated sounds of orgasmic hollers escape from the percussionary piece. It’s quite interesting. Then clanging cymbals come into place as more shouts in orgasm continue. Afterwards, piano serves as a great post-climax section. Piano opens “The Fight Of Gilgamesh and Enkidu 6:31″ and it sounds rather threatening, extremely deep and ominous. Creepy piano drives the entire piece, Choirs escape as the battle escalates. This piece seems to serve as a soundtrack to a film that plays in your head. You can almost see the characters dueling each other as this music illustrates their battle. “Humbaba 3:57″ comes next, rolling in the piano again – but just until some percussion and a few moments of flute come back into the mix. Things really get good when the sax comes in. “Ishtar 4:50″ is next, (Ishtar = Easter) and it comes in lightly with piano. Out of all the pieces, this is the most subtle and romantic of them all. It does however build suspense towards the end. “The Bull 1:49″ features frantic drumming as would be native to metal, but then it employs angry saxophones and light piano. Very interesting! “Death Of Enkidu 4:32″ features light piano, ominous synths and some vocalization. A tribal feeling takes over the piece (yet the piano still continues) as something truly mysterious envelops from what begins to sound like a ritual. Next we have “Umnapishtim 5:47″ (who was later changed to Utnapishtim when Ra wanted to flood the world and then Noah when YHWH wanted to flood the world again.) It’s a percussion piece with still a bit of piano, flute and some tribal shouts, as trumpets later come into play. Piano closes the piece. “Close To Immortality 5:32″ is another very subtle track which seems almost melancholic in its funerary piano playing, but it gets a bit ethereal later when synths are added. I’m reminded of a great moment in a role-playing game when I hear this track, as it feels like something really special has happened. Something eye opening and quite provoking. And almost, it sounds like the stars in twilight. This piece actually flows right into the electronic-laden “Back To The City 2:56″ which serves as our closer. Though I don’t think this was truly necessary, (the electronics here seem to dirty the piece a little with fuzz) I guess this is how the two musicians thought it would be best to end the tale.
The Epic Of Gilgamesh is told in many different forms and styles throughout Gilgamesh, but these pieces do seem to be relevant to the source material. Each piece seems to fit its namesake and that’s important with a concept album, be it a vocal or an instrumental concept. Trust me, I’m writing one myself! At any rate, if the source material and observation that I’ve given for the piece interests you, then please go pick up the album. It’s quite thrilling and I’m sure you’ll enjoy it.