Review by: Ian Dando
Of these four memorials to those two million tortured and killed in Pol Pot’s horrendous Khmer Rouge genocide, Jack Body’s eight-movement suite of transcriptions, O Cambodia, is the most uncompromising. It delves the deepest into Cambodian folk music, meaning many may flinch at the unfamiliarity of the sounds. Folklore is the deepest musical core of a country’s spirituality and Body’s piece is a linchpin.
In memoriam, by Cambodian Chinary Ung (now a US citizen), has a deep motive development of a bass line peppered with vocalisations in chant, whistling and speaking. As form and materials are one, the result is deep tragedy encased in clear and cogent structural unity. It doesn’t surprise me the prestigious international Grawemeyer Award – the composers’ Nobel equivalent – sits among Ung’s numerous prizes.
In The First Strike, Him Sophy’s confrontation with cruelty is even more direct. It is inspired by his experience at 13 of sowing in the rice field when a Khmer Rouge security guard savagely beat a man with a heavy stick.
Gillian Whitehead’s conciliatory the river flows on traces the life of Sokha Mey, from her Khmer Rouge days to her current settlement in Wellington. Whitehead avoids hyped happiness and depicts Sokha’s inner peace and retention of Cambodian identity in a touching final flute solo with simple and direct truth.
Great work, NZTrio. Wayne Laird of the Atoll label? You’ve got guts, man.
Ian Dando – The Listener, 15 April 2013