Having already released a first record with his world music/fusion/whatever group Between, Peter Michael Hamel dropped this stunning body of work. Musically it’s covering a lot of styles without falling apart into its diverse pieces. It is instead a cohesive tour-de-force across the psychedelic mapped mind of these days. Starting with a gamelan orchestra styled piece (“Storm Over Asia And Calm”) that blends into a prepared piano composition (“Balivia 1”) and transmutates back to the gamelan music again (“Balivia 2”). The connection between the two is common knowledge today, Cage’s idea of the prepared piano was heavily influenced by gamelan orchestra sounds he heard before and Hamel’s composition displays how organic both kinds of music blend into each other.
Next up is Hamel’s take on Minimal Music. “Fire Of Holy Eyes” recalls Terry Riley (a long-standing friend of Hamel’s) and soon after (“Song Of The Dolphins”) the music’s heading off into a more synthesizer styled cosmos… Hamel’s horn of plenty is overflowing! It’s breathtaking, beautiful and peerless. I imagine Hamel in his early twenties his head full of music from every corner of the world eager to get all the sounds OUT into this world again!
This self-titled first record also works like a sketch-book for a lot of recordings he released throughout the 70’s. It’s as if he recorded his own beginners-guide to the musical world of Peter Michael Hamel. Later on he would compose and release records much more focussed on one or two instruments or one or two musical ideas (like for example his works released on “Voice Of Silence”, “Bardo” or “Colours Of Time”) – but on “Hamel” every idea is already there in an embryonic state.
The record’s centrepiece “Aura” is another fine example for Hamel’s ability to blend Minimal Music together with the Kosmische Musik of his peers and after the course of nearly eighty minutes of music you’re left with your ears ringing from the last notes of “Cathedral On C”. I own quite a lot records considered as mind-blowing but there’s only few as mind-expanding as Hamel’s solo-debut.
But Hamel’s inspired crossover-take on music made him a pariah. His undogmatic and unorthodox approach towards non-western music and popular music was not much appreciated within the classically trained community he was coming from. The German Avantgarde and Neue Musik scene was too narrow-minded (maybe still is, I don’t know) back in the days to welcome Hamel for what he did. (He was embraced later when he followed Ligeti as a professor to teach composition at Hamburg’s Freie Akademie der Künste in 1997. Hamel himself always held a close connection to his freak-side and when he retired from university in summer 2012 he celebrated and performed together with Embryo.)
Peter Michael Hamel is a fine example of how to wander between (musical) worlds without having to decide on which side you’re on. His thoughtful take on various musical and cultural traditions also informs a book he published in the late seventies. It’s been translated into English and is called “Through Music To The Self” and despite the slightly esoteric title it is the opposite. It’s an interesting take on music in general an a lucid analysis of a lot of the various styles of music that had been around at that time including Indian Classical Music, Minimal Music, Free Jazz, Kosmische Music and much more.
Dive into Peter Michael Hamel’s music and thinking – there’s a lot to discover! (And from there proceed to Joachim Ernst Berendt’s “The World Is Sound: Nada Brahma. Music and The Landscape Of Consciousness” which is a bit hilarious at times but quite interesting, too!)
review by Holger Adam