Paul Horn
(Copyright © 1999 Piero Scaruffi | Legal restrictions - Termini d'uso )
House of Horn (Dot, 1957)
Plenty Of Horn (1958 - ABC, 1978) *
Impressions (World Pacific , 1959)
Something Blue (HiFi, 1960) ***
The Sound Of (HiFi, 1961) *
Paul Horn (Everest FS308, 196#) *
Improvisations (1962) *** with Paul Horn and Bud Shank
Jazz Suite On The Mass Texts (RCA, 1965) *
Cycle (RCA, 1965) *
Here's That Rainy Day (RCA, 1965)
Monday Monday (RCA, 1966) *
Inside The Magic Of Findhorn (1967 - Golden Flute, 1983) *
Inside I (1968) aka Inside The Taj Mahal (Columbia, 1968) **
July 9-10 (Pacific North 701, 196#) *
In India (World Pacific, 1968) (Blue Note, 1975) **
In Kashmir (World Pacific, 1968) *
reissued in In India and Kashmir (Blue Note, 1975)
Inside II (Columbia, 1972) *
reissued in Inside I/ Inside II (Kuckuck, 1982) ***
500 Miles High (WestWind, 1980)
& Concert Ensemble (Ovation, 1970) *
Visions (Epic, 1974) *
Special Edition (Mushroom, 1974) (Black Sun, 1989) *
& Nexus (Columbia, 1975) ***
Altura Do Sol (Columbia, 1976) **
reissued as The Altitude Of The Sun (Black Sun, 1989) ***
Sessions (Calliope, 1976) *
Inside The Great Pyramid (Vancouver Island, 1976) (Kuckuck, 1982) ***
Dream Machine (Mushroom, 1978) *
China (Kuckuck, 1982) **
Heart To Heart (Golden Flute, 1983) * with David Friesen
Inside The Powers Of Nature (Golden Flute, 1983) (Kuckuck, 1983) *
Golden Flute/ Inside The Cathedral (Golden Flute, 1983) (Kuckuck, 1983) **
Jupiter 8 (Golden Flute, 1983) *
Inside Russia (Golden Flute, 1984) **
In Concert (Golden Flute, 1984) (Inside, 1984) * with David Friesen
Traveler (Global Pacific, 1987) (Kuckuck, 1990) ***
Sketches (Golden Flute, 1987) (Lost Lake Arts, 1987) compilation ***
Peace Album (Kuckuck, 1988) *
Nomad (Kuckuck, 1990) anthology ****
Inside The Taj Mahal II (Kuckuck, 1990) *
Music (Kuckuck, 1993) *
Africa (Kuckuck, 1994) *
Brazilian Images (Black Sun, 1991) *
Inside Canyon De Chelly (Canyon, 1997) ** with Carlos Nakai
Inside Monument Valley (Canyon, 1999) *
Tibet: Journey to the Roof of the World (Transparent, 2000) *
Imprompture (Starburst, 2001) *
Journey of the Celts (Chacra, 2001) *
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White reed player Paul Horn (1930), who cut his teeth with Chico Hamilton Quintet (1956-58) in Los Angeles, went through three stages of velopment. At first, on House of Horn (september 1957), he was a sophisticated improviser alternating on flute, clarinet and alto saxophone in different configurations of chamber jazz. Later he formed a quintet with vibraphone and piano that mimicked Miles Davis' quintet, playing an original hybrid of cool jazz, hard bop and third stream on Something Blue (march 1960). His quintet recorded one of the first jazz masses, Jazz Suite on the Mass Texts (november 1964) composed by Lalo Schifrin in eight movements for orchestra, choir and jazz quintet. After accompanying Ravi Shankar (1965) and after a sojourn in India (1966), Horn changed personality and style. Instead of the cool-jazz altoist, In India (may 1967), a set of classical ragas performed with students of Shankar on vina, sitar, tabla and tambura, and In Kashmir (1967), another collaboration with Indian musicians, revealed a flute mannerist imbued with Eastern spirituality and bent on replicating Indian drones. That mood peaked with his most influential invention, the solo improvisations/meditations "inside" spectacular buildings, in which the acoustics of the place becomes part of the music. The first one was Inside The Taj Mahal (april 1968), and the best one was probably Inside The Great Pyramid (may 1976). His vocabulary of fragile mummy-like whispers that exuded millenary silence and zen ecstasy was instrumental in creating the ultimate new-age ambience. Horn also delved into the tribal, shamanic, oneiric music of Nexus (1975) with the Nexus percussion ensemble, collaborated with a Chinese multi-instrumentalist for China (1982), returned to the solo flute concept for Inside The Cathedral (1983), and explored both the chamber and the electronic realms on Traveler (1987).

Horn's flute interacts with classical Indian instruments (violin, tabla, tambura and veena) on In India (1968), notably in Raga Desh and in the duet Alap with tambura. The ensemble also performs Ravi Shankar's Raga Bihag, Raga Shivaranjani and especially his Raga Vibhas (but this one does not feature Horn). There is also a vocal piece, Allaudin Kahn's Manj-Khamaj. Overall, the album is far from breathtaking, but at the time Indian music was still largely unknown in the West and this recording opened new horizons to East-West collaboration (for more interesting appropriations of Indian music check out Sandy Bull in folk music and Paul Butterfield in blues music).

The main difference between this album and its twin In Kashmir (1968) is that the latter features the sitar in a prominent role. The main contribution of Horn's flute to Raga Ahir Bhairao is to make sound like a medieval song. The flute meditation in the trio with tabla and vocals of Tabla Solo In Teental is almost a minimalist loop. Both albums are too fragmented to stand out among practitioners of Indian classical music, but this one features the one piece that might: the 19-minute Raga Kerwani. It is telling that Horn does not play on it.

Inside The Taj Mahal (1968), instead, abandons any pretense to play Indian classical music and focuses on Horn's stream of consciousness as affected by Indian philosophy. The vocal invocation that opens Prologue is followed by a slow unfolding of elegant reverbed flute tones. After the purely vocal howl of Mantra I , the flute intones the delicate and lyrical Mumtaz Mahal. When vocals and flute interact, as in Unity, the pauses detract a bit from the sacred atmosphere. The second hypnotic howl, Vibrations, and the subsonic tiptoeing flute improvisation of Akasha top the emotional scale again, while Shah Jahan takes a detour into a more lively and almost ecstatic mood. The voice and flute Mantra II and the flute solo Mantra III perfect the form and achieve the peak of sacrality. Despite the ostensible Indian theme, Horn's approach could as well fit a Christian mass.

The sacred solos tested inside the Taj Mahal were given a broad metaphysical life on Inside The Great Pyramid (1977). The work is structured in four sections (Initiation, Meditation , Enlightenment and Fulfillment), and the 1991 CD reissue adds two more (Resurrection and Eternity). These six sections are divided in "psalms" that are either vocal solos or flute solos, each one relatively brief (between one minute and five). The proceedings are still dominated by austere meditations such as Psalm 1 of the first section, Psalm 7 of the first section, Psalm 3 of second section and Psalm 6 of second section; but Horn is also propelled to embark in flights of the imagination like Psalm 2 of the first section, the almost Bach-ian Psalm 1 of second section and the bucolic Psalm 1 of third section. The vocal invocations have evolved into more mournful elegies (Psalm 3 of the first section). Occasionally brilliant, Horn's meditations are too fragmented to compose a significant portrait of the artist.

China (1982), a collaboration with David Mingyue Liang, but only two pieces were actually recorded in China (at the Temple of Heaven in Beijing): Temple Of Heaven and Reflected Moon (and they are both mediocre imitations of Chinese music). The impressionistic Autumn Stream In A Desolate Gorge (with zither), the cinematic Journey Down South, the calm and subdued Riding On The Wind and the lively Autumn In North Sea fare a bit better, but any number of world-music specialists have done more interesting things with Chinese music. The 1987 reissue added three new pieces: Moon Dance, inspired by Chinese folk songs, the eight-minute Under The Pines, the ideal soundtrack for Zen meditation, and In A Sunny Meadow, another traditional-sounding melody. Horn fails to capture the epos of Chinese history or the magic of Chinese landscapes.

Inside The Cathedral (1983) seems to have both a private and a "political" program, in the sense that all pieces are titled "song" and dedicated to either a global theme ("peace", "love", "understanding") or to a person. The problem remains that Horn's flute meditations are mostly brief and not particularly melodic. Therefore they don't last long enough to capture a mood, and they are not "catchy" enough to strike a chord. Best are Moscow Blues, Song For Understanding and especially the desolate Song For Trane that hark back to African-American music in his own idiosyncratic manner.

Traveler (1987) tried something completely different with an ensemble featuring multi-instrumentalist Christopher Hedge, electronic keyboardist Ralph Dyck and other Western and Indian musician. The setting brings out the best of Horn's skills as an improviser. The pieces explore all the dimensions of Horn's music: cinematic (Traveler), dance-folkish (A Journey) and transcendental (Soul Travel), although the latter is the one that is downplayed. A children's choir intones the catchiest song of his career, Earth Song.


The full article was originally written for an Italian-language book. If English is your first language and you could translate the Italian text, please contact me.
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Il flautista Paul Horn (1930), attivo dai tardi anni '50 nel mondo del cool jazz di Los Angeles, fu uno dei primi musicisti jazz a cadere vittima dell'incantesimo dei raga indiani, popolarizzati in America dal sitarista Ravi Shankar. Dopo averlo accompagnato nel 1962 e di nuovo nel 1965, un anno dopo la pubblicazione del disco di Tony Scott, Horn andò a visitare l'India, e lì rimase abbastanza suggestionato da registrare due dischi di musica sacra, In India e In Kashmir, suonati con musicisti indiani.

I raga gli ispirarono in seguito una musica trascendentale votata alla più radicale ascesi armonica ed eseguita per lo più in assoluta solitudine.

Per circa vent'anni Horn avrebbe continuato a produrre suggestivi album solisti registrati in luoghi come la Cattedrale di Kazamieras (Golden FLute, riedito come Inside The Cathedral) o il tempio Taj Mahal (Inside The Taj Mahal) senza che la critica ufficiale gli degnasse la minima attenzione. Grazie a quelle ardue esplorazioni di ambienti chiusi, che ben si prestano a recuperare lo spirito panico dei mantra (vedi le lentissime variazioni di Mumtaz Mahal, Unity e Shah Jahan), Horn venne invece eletto a precursore della new age.

Inside II (1972) includes the 20-minute five-movement suite The Mahabhutas.

Trasudano spiritualismo ed esotismo anche i due dischi registrati con l'ensemble di percussionisti Nexus (1975): brani come Nexus e Somba sono avvolti in atmosfere tribali, magiche, oniriche, con richiami alle tribù della jungla e ai loro cerimoniali atavici, mentre le volute ineffabili di Crystals sprofondano in rumori di fantasmi, in silenzi depressi e irreali, e le stanche digressioni cool-jazz di Dharma lambiscono territori di atonalità iper-cerebrali. Danze incalzanti e stasi solenni riportano invece alle predilette religiosità indiane.

Altura Do Sol (Columbia, 1976) documenta una collaborazione con Egberto Gismonti.

Le monumentali Initiation, Meditation, Enlightment, Fulfillment registrate nella Piramide di Cheope (sul doppio Inside The Great Pyramid, che sul CD sono aumentate con altre due sezioni), rappresentano il punto di massima rarefazione e misticismo raggiunto dalla sua arte, ormai lontanissima dal jazz e da qualunque altro genere occidentale, con il suono del flauto scarnificato e mummificato a volte fino a diventare versi gutturali, respiri asmatici, sibili impercettibili, alternati a lente e solitarie cantilene mantriche nella vastità dell'opprimente ambiente.

Riscoperto dalla new age, divenne un tipico rappresentante dello stile "ambientale". Le sue solitarie meditazioni, ispirate dalla musica minimalista e dalla trance buddista, risuonano di silenzi millenari, di ombre ed echi senza tempo, di cantilene funebri e di aneliti cosmici. Sono fatte di frasi lente, plastiche, vellutate, misteriose, che si dipanano nell'imponenza dell'ambiente. Il flauto è voce, richiamo, ora tenue ora titanica, ora profetica ora armoniosa, ora catacombale ora celestiale.

Le opere pubblicate in era new age rendono più melodiose e meno austere le sue musiche (il salmo Riding On The Wind da China, le dediche di Inside Russia come Song For Edward e Song For Marina), sposando spesso il timbro "dorato" del suo flauto a strumenti dal timbro altrettanto suggestivo come l'arpa, il sintetizzatore, il sitar, la chitarra (la serie di bozzetti intitolati ai Voyager su Jupiter 8), aggiungendo talvolta un accompagnamento ritmico da jazz-rock salottiero (Transitions, sempre su Jupiter 8), immergendosi nei climi del "quarto mondo" di Hassell (Ancient Kings da Heart To Heart) e finendo per lambire anche i toni gaiamente francescani dell'hare krishna (Earth Sings da Inside The Magic Of Findhorn).

La sintesi delle due fasi di Horn culmina in Traveller, forse l'opera più importante del periodo, nella quale Horn orchestra atmosfere drammatiche con ensemble da camera (la title-track), incalza con melodie cicliche a ritmo indiano (A Journey) , compie viaggi interplanetari (Astral Travel) ed esplora civiltà esotiche (Metropolis), sfruttando un ampio spettro di suggestioni sonore. Le tecniche minimaliste, indiane, improvvisazionali ed elettroniche confluiscono nel Soul Travel, che sublima un po' questi vent'anni di ricerca.

I dischi successivi non hanno aggiunto molto all'opera di un veterano che aveva già intuito il potere evocativo del flauto quando il rock era appena nato.

Tibet: Journey to the Roof of the World (Transparent, 2000) is a documentary soundtrack. (Translation by/ Tradotto da xxx)

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