Daniel Schmidt & The Berkeley Gamelan - In My Arms, Many Flowers LP
Daniel Schmidt has been a Bay Area new music institution for generations, but the release of In My Arms, Many Flowers marks the first time any of his recordings have been available to the public, save for an obscure 1986 cassette. Schmidt studied traditional Javanese music and electronic composition at Cal Arts in the early 1970s before moving to Northern California, where, with the encouragement of the composer Lou Harrison, he built a gamelan by hand from aluminum and wood. Berkeley Gamelan is the name bestowed by Schmidt onto both his one-of-a-kind instruments and the ensemble he formed to play them.
Schmidt is one of the primary architects for a distinctly American gamelan style, influenced as much by Javanese traditions as it is by American minimal process music. Lines can be just as easily drawn to Java as they can to Steve Reich or Schmidt's longtime collaborator Paul Dresher. The most obvious difference between the music here and the work of Philip Corner and other contemporary pioneers of Western gamelan is Schmidt's confident foregrounding of repetition. Ambient but not otherworldly, the music here is strongly evocative of the San Francisco Bay Area's endless tides of ocean and fog – patterns of ringing tones evolve and dissolve over shimmering sustained notes and droning strings, ever-so-subtly distorted.
Released on composer Sean McCann's Recital imprint, this limited second edition of a sold-out 2016 release comes in a gorgeous package, with a booklet of notes, scores and archival photographs. Daniel Schmidt's music is a delight – gracefully ethereal and very Californian. For connoisseurs of postwar composition, fans of ambient electronic music and students of California counterculture, this is not to be missed.