|Schlingen Blängen is an invaluable addition to the slender but precious discography of Charlemagne Palestine, one of the legendary figures of the amazingly fertile New York and West Coast experimental music/art scene of the sixties and seventies. He is considered to be a seminal figure of early minimalism—as important as his better-documented contemporaries. His performances on the giant bells at St. Thomas Church and his evening-length Bösendorfer shows are still spoken of with awe by those who were present. Palestine left the music scene in the mid-seventies to focus on his visual art; he eventually moved to Europe where he still resides.
Schlingen Blängen—a 70-minute long perambulation through the organ’s sonic landscape—was recorded in 1988 (ten years after its initial performance) in a small Dutch church near the North Sea. It is difficult to describe because so little happens in it, yet at the same time an immensity of activity is going on and there is so much of it that it boggles the mind. We experience sounds set into motion by the initial choosing of a chord and its timbres (the setting of the registers or stops); the melodic changes that occur are subtle and few. In short, it is a relentless and uncompromising exploration of the physicality of sound as well as its spiritual dimensions. Palestine’s music left its mark on a number of slightly younger composer-performers, among them Rhys Chatham and Glenn Branca. Absolutely essential for a comprehensive understanding of the roots of minimalism and its offshoots.