Jordan de la Sierra
Gymnosphere: Song of the Rose
Finally, a proper reissue of Jordan de la Sierra’s dreamlike, drifty, and stark recording Gymnosphere: Song of the Rose, a stellar example of ambient kosmiche that first fell from the heavens in 1977. Restored here to its full original length, the recording consists of four roughly 25-minute piano improvisations that bring the temperamental absolutism of seventies minimalism and the more generous pastel visions of New Age music into sympathetic resonance.
Included among the sacred designs and poems in the extensive and original liner notes, de la Sierra makes sure to include his tuning specs, which, along with the album’s subtitle—“Music for the Well-Tuned Piano”—tips its turban to La Monte Young, Terry Riley, and the church of just intonation. At the same time, the album’s beautifully mystic moods, simple melodies, and gently pulsing rhythms—especially on the sublime “Sphere of Sublime Dances”—gesture away from art towards something at once more universal, more concrete, and—in an Eno sense—more naïve. The long pedals and overtones in “Music for Devotional Past”, for example, seem to dissolve musical development into a nourishing bath of ambrosia half suspended in mist.
According to the credits, de la Sierra’s improvisations were first recorded in Berkeley by Stephen Hill, who was already defining the emerging genre of space music with his Hearts of Space radio show on KPFA. The reverberation of the music, however, was recorded separately in San Francisco’s vast Grace Cathedral, where the original recordings were presumably played back and recaptured. The quality of the resulting reverb is extraordinary, suggesting ice moons and little fluffy clouds; more profoundly, the layered vibrations suggest a rich but very pure atmosphere that gently deforms time. Though most of de la Sierra’s mystic poems are predictably obscure, he nonetheless hits this strange metaphysical ambience on the head: “Music’s secret Quality: Space; Space spreading Spines of Form.”