Katrina Krimsky; Time Over Time

Photo: Dana Davis. Artwork: Sofie Siegman

Katrina KrimskyTime Over Time
Katrina Krimsky [piano on all tracks] – Lisa Hansen [flute on tracks 2 & 8] – William Winant [marimba, vibraphone, percussion on tracks 2 & 8] – Allen Biggs [marimba, vibraphone, percussion on tracks 2 & 8] – Michael Lewis [tabla on tracks 2 & 8]
Charmed Quarks Music CD 3081
Duration: 58:00


1. Ambrosia [6:13]
2. Four Moons of Jupiter [9:16]
3. Golden Gate Park [5:27]
4. Waves [4:54]
5. A Rainbow in Curved Air [7:45]
6. Holidaze [3:48]
7. Time Over Time [5:50]
8. Elise's Dream [3:22]
9. Katrina Ballerinae [9:10]
10. Epilogue [1:53]

I first came across Katrina Krimsky browsing through Terry Riley’s official homepage (www.terryriley.com), and being a longtime dweller in the enchanted realms of Riley’s soaring timbres I instantly wanted to find out more about her.
This CD is a good starter. It’s a collection of tunes from three different Krimsky albums;
Katrina Krimsky (1975 on Transonic Records), Ambrosia (1986 on Spoon Records) and Four Moons of Jupiter (1992 on Fink & Star Production Ltd.) Being a heavy reader of popular literature about modern physics I can’t but smile when I see the name of the label!

Katrina Krimsky is a Swiss-American composer-musician of Russian descent, who maintains residencies in San Francisco and Zürich.

The immediate impression as I swing the CD through the laser light is that of fluency, elegance, rhythmic patterns tap-dancing through an illusory bardo-world of almost faded dreams… and I glance at the picture of Dalai Lama on the wall, determining the atmosphere in my room with that withheld Mona-Lisa smile, on the verge of breaking out into a hollering laughter across the world of samsara…

Terry Riley has his intense moments of deep penetration of the timbres of existence and the pulsations of the highest levels of the intervals of conscience, but ever so often he descends into a more familiar – but not less mysterious – realm of generous smiles and shining spheres of gold, blue and silver, in a communion with one and all on an elegant note of dance floor and spring time benevolence. I believe it’s here that Katrina Krimsky’s music fits in. I find these characteristics also in her pieces.
Evidently she throws her experiences of this life and the tendencies and affinities of former lives into these sounding extensions of herself, which all the light that simmers through her prismic qualities and fans out in flashing colors through our cerebral cortexes reveals.
Her music does simmer, shimmer, in a richness of overtones, as her beads of pianism roll out in meandering serpentines. Instant, short hints at different traditions open up sudden wormholes into other sections of musical history! It’s a fast journey though a hall of mirrors, but with sudden windows opening on passing-by, the wind lifting the curtains, bringing the scent of meadow flowers and the messages of salty seas. Magnificent!

Artwork by Sofie Siegmann

A direct reference to her friend Terry Riley is made by Katrina Krimsky on track 5 of the CD, in her rendition of A Rainbow in Curved Air; one of Riley’s most known works, published in 1969. In C may be the most influential work as such, in view of music history, compositional thinking and so forth, consequently producing an enormous flow of recordings by all kinds of ensembles, but A Rainbow in Curved Air won Riley the rock n’ roll crowds and an immense, wide popularity, well outside of the tighter crowd of the composers of contemporary art music. Riley played electric organ, electric harpsichord, rocksichord (?), dumbec and tambourine, but Krimsky has scaled it down into the purity of her piano, albeit with some electronic treatment and overlays. It’s described like this is the CD booklet:

Katrina utilizes piano improvisation of modal patterns over a 14-beat drone with electronic overlays to create a multi-level sound experience evocative of eastern musical influences. […] Katrina permutates, inverts, uses delay of Riley keyboard ornamentation and patterns to wave a polyphonic and polyrhythmic fabric.

Indeed you do recognize Riley in this fabric, but just as I think was intended, as a certain breeze through the music, as a certain scent of incense, as an atmosphere through which the chords rise and fall and roll, like the calm swell from a storm that has settled somewhere below the horizon. This homage to the Maestro is diligent and gentle as a soft touch of your lover’s fingertips across your forehead; so beautiful!

Track 1 –
Ambrosia - starts like a North Indian raga, with a sweep down the keyboard which mimicries the sitar player’s introductory strumming across the strings of his instrument before the raga picks up (or perhaps it’s a reference to the cimbalom, since the melodic beginning actually stems from Bela Bartok’s First Rhapsody and a traditional folk-dance utilized there). The fast elegance of the tune that unfolds emits rays of playful acceptance of the circumstances of our stroll through this life, it seems to me. The tune is a walk, head high, through the characteristics of samsara, eyes glancing without grasping at the turmoil that rages around the path, and I sense the joy of a little girl hopping down the line, but also the content reflections inside the mind of an old lady resting on her childhood swing in a garden where the winds of high summer whisper through the leafy crowns above, her body getting ever lighter, ever more transparent, until there is only spirit…

Four Moons of Jupiter introduces an ensemble of piano, flute, marimba, vibraphone, percussion and tabla. The title refers to the four moons that Galileo Galilei discovered around Jupiter in 1610: Io, Europa, Ganymede and Calisto – long before the Voyager space probe sent those amazing pictures of all the other moons…

The booklet:

The clockwork of the orbiting Four Moons of Jupiter keeps the pace of time while revolving around Jupiter, exemplified by an 11-beat pattern, [evoking] the gamelan spirit. The thematic variations of the periodic musical moons pulsate over the 11-beat pattern in various permutations of melody and rhythm, which repeatedly return and join together.

This is the longest work on the CD, with its 9 minutes 16 seconds.
It immediately reminds me of the collaboration between Terry Riley and Krishna Bhatt on a CD called
No Man’s Land, but it also evokes memories of Steve Reich and his more driving patterns and the adventures of Piano Circus. However, those are just involuntary associations, for this is Katrina Krimsky and her ensemble, hammering a beat that is intricate as well as repetitive and rock n’ rollish! This is a tune you’d most likely like to turn up and dance around to in the holy daze of the cow dust hour, because I can’t sit still, whoopee!
All these instruments combine in a sparkling display of timbres, harnessed and domesticated into a joint pull of forces towards some unavoidable trait of the times…

Golden Gate Park comes with a booklet scenario of relaxed, quietly content socializing outdoors. The tune has an almost Satie feel to it, but it also resembles some of Riley’s more modest, laid-back piano improvisations, bordering on the crudely popular, but not ever crossing the fine line. However, some ways into this piece a boogie-woogie injection kicks things off, at times recalling Nancarrow moments, and a humorous musical citation is inserted, before things quiet down into some smooth afternoon under the trees…

Waves – track 4 – sprinkle you from the outset with the salty fluid of the ocean, as wave upon wave roll in. The construction of musical waves makes me think of Debussy and other composers of the impressionistic era, but maybe this is just a self-evident remark about a piece which is described thus in the booklet:

Melodies, sounds and patterns appear over the constant cascades of augmented bass arpeggios revealing the hypnotic experience of the ocean.

I once came across a Canadian-Ukrainian composer and pianist called Lubomyr Melnyk, and even interviewed him for a magazine in the early 1990s, when he lived not far from my town in Sweden. He characterized his music as continuous, and he sat for hours at the piano, just letting go, sounding somewhat like Katrina Krimsky in Waves. He released a number of LPs, but I haven’t seen any CDs of his as yet. Krimsky’s piece is just five minutes long, which is a pity, for I think this kind of music grows on you more and more as the duration extends.
The musical waves of
Waves roll on in sunny reflections and glittering spurs of watery rays, in a motion typical of life itself, with its underlying, rhythmic breathing.

Holidaze is a short episode, joyfully and a little melancholically untangled out of the keyboard, in effect fetching some of the pianistic excitement of legends like Moritz Rosenthal, Ignaz Friedman and Emil von Sauer to the fore, though mostly in an atmospheric state, i.e. not in any kind of mimicry. This is a brilliant little tune, also in duration resembling the limited space of a 78-rpm with its 3:48!

Katrina Krimsky
(photo: Dana Davis)

Time Over Time has a key to its construction in its title, like the booklet explains:

[…] opens with improvised patterns in a major key interwoven over a slow 6+5 beat drone. This abruptly shifts to a fast pulsating bass pattern in 7-beat time with upward movement of brightly spirited patterns and rich bell-like sounds. Expressed on the grand piano, the subtle and intricate juxtapositions of meters, clashing rhythms and timbres create sensuous resonance.

Sure enough! This is very powerful music, sort o unrelenting, merciless, like an Israeli tank through the lanes of Gaza, or, with a nicer parable; like a great whale forcefully sailing through the ocean. Again it’s reminiscent of Lubomyr Melnyk, which is interesting to me, since I’ve never heard anyone sound quite like him before. Even in this case I’d prefer to hear this for a much, much longer time. Perhaps we could persuade Katrina Krimsky to release a full-length CD with an extension of Time Over Time, huh?

Elise’s Dream sports the same ensemble as in Four Moons of Jupiter, but it’s much shorter. It contains, says the booklet text, references to Beethoven’s Für Elise and Heitor Villa-Lobos’s Clay Doll. It’s a fast, short, fairytale-like tune, with it’s jerky, tin soldier rhythm across the table… Fun!

Katrina Ballerina – one of the longer works on the CD – is written by the jazz trumpeter Woody Shaw for Katrina Krimsky. Like the submitted text confirms, Krimsky’s rendition is a romantic interpretation. I’d add that it’s full of lust and luster, hopeful glances and springtime thoughts falling over each other in an exuberant, lyrical jazz fantasy as the Earth turns towards the light. Sparkling!

The last piece is less than two minutes long and appropriately entitled
Epilogue, ending this CD on a contemplative note, introspection always providing the clearest view through the many-layered illusions of life…