Ricardo Arias: Música Global  

Música Global - Ricardo Arias

Preludios de Látex
(Latex Preludes)
1. – 11. 34:24

Caouchu: el árbol que llora
(Caouchu: the weeping tree)
12. – 31. 2:22

Pieces for multiple balloons
32. – 36. 27:34

Total time 65:12

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Listen to a 30 second soundfile of this release (~80kB).

Rui Eduardo Paes


Balloons are the future of music. Only a person in the severest grips of denial could listen to these solo balloon pieces and resist the revolution. After you hear this miraculous music, you will sell your instruments and/or record collection and begin a new life of ecstatic rubbing. About six years ago I read an article in Experimental Musical Instruments written by Ricardo Arias that gave an overview of his work with balloons. Intrigued by this idea that I hadn't previously encountered, I immediately inflated a balloon, moistened my fingers and discovered for myself what this South American prophet was so passionate about. To put the matter bluntly, balloons offer a wider range of timbres and more phrasal complexity than any other known instrument; a single, ordinary balloon is like an entire orchestra in itself. Having seen Arias perform solo and with the likes of Pascal Boudreault, Hans Tammen, Jack Wright, and Michel Doneda, I can attest to his authenticity as a real-time improvisor in tune with the aesthetic zeitgeist of experimental non-idiomatic improvisation, not just a maverick of instrumental concepts and sound.


This is not a minor point, as it distinguishes his work from Judy Dunaway's comparably brilliant explorations. Dunaway is the only other artist to extensively pursue balloon music thus far, and released the seminal 1998 CD "Balloon Music" on CRI. Where Dunaway's work has been distracted by esoteric investigations of pitch relationships, ditties (think Hans Reichel), electronics, compositional strategies, and other semi-obsolete concerns, Arias offers the raw, mind-blowing sound world of balloons in its naked state and most favorable context of free improvisation, especially on the first 11 pieces of this CD, the best public recorded representation of balloon music in history so far. He also includes 5 multi-tracked compositions that pose new questions about texture, density, and the boundaries of rhythmic perception for humans, without relying on any conventional structures. The middle segment of the disc is a series of 20 very brief tracks that function as a catalog of balloon techniques in the manner of Ami Yoshida's "Tiger Thrush", ideal for "shuffle" mode on a CD player.


This is a monumental exposition of balloon music by a virtuoso who's spent decades refining his art, and it even comes in a damn cool metal box just like other NurNichtNur releases (e.g. Hans Tammen's solo endangered guitar disc). This is not a CD to file away with others; it's something to create a whole new section of your shelf for, conspicuously displayed close enough to your stereo to be quickly grabbed and played with obsessive frequency. Balloon music is the future.
You can get with the program now or face the future onset of debilitating regret. You've been advised.

Michael Anton Parker at Downtown Music Gallery newsletter, July 2004


Ohne einen Sinn für Skurriles und Abseitiges ist man bei Dieter Schlensogs Kunst- & Musikproduktion für edle Ohren aufgeschmissen. Die Música Global (Berslton 1021202, in Metallbox) des in Kolumbien geborenen und nach einigen Jahren in Barcelona nun in New York aktiven Komponisten RICARDO ARIAS wäre so ein Lackmustest, um Humordefizite festzustellen. Es sind nämlich Solo- & Ensemblestücke für Luftballons! Zuerst traktiert Arias mit akribischem Spieltrieb sein Ballon Kit extempore bei den 11 ‚Preludios de Látex‘. Es folgen die 20 Miniaturen von ‚Caouchu: el árbol que llora‘, nur zwischen 5 und 33 Sekunden lang. Sie können mit Shufflemodus als kleine Quietscher und Perkussionstupfer gehört werden, sind aber dennoch imprägniert mit dem Gedenken an die indianischen Ureinwohner Kolumbiens, Perus und des brasilianischen Amazonasgebietes, die der imperialistischen Gier nach Kautschuk zum Opfer fielen.


Schließlich lässt Arias noch die 5 ‚Pieces for multiple balloons‘ folgen, achtfach geschichtete Multitrackingkonstrukte zwischen global und überflüssig (Musica Superficial) und einem poetisch-pneumatischen Zentrum (Poema Neumático). Was Arias seinen aufgeblasenen Gummiblasen mit den Fingern, mit Styroporstücken oder Holzstöckchen an bizarren, nicht selten grotesken Kunstfurzklängen entknarzt, abkitzelt, -klopft und entflatuliert ist hochmusikalisch und dabei ursimpel, eine Jahrmarktsvirtuosität, eine Zauberei aus Einbildungskraft, Spiellaune und dem Beinahenichts von Luft und Kinderbelustigung. Der Kontrast zu so mancher wohlstandsverwahrlosten, stradivarifiedelnden Mozarttrantütelei ist schlagend und beantwortet die Frage, was lachhafter ist, gleich mit.

Rigobert Dittmann, Bad Alchemy 46


A new kind of musical air
Solo and Ensemble Pieces for Inflatable RubberBalloons.

You may not be ready for this-or maybe you've been waiting for it a very long time: a i-netal box housing a CD of thirty-six musical pieces performed by rubbing, t pping, and manipulating balloons.  Yes, it's funny at times, and now and again sounds like gas being passed, but it goes far beyond the obvious effects.  For one thing, what you hear is incredibly dynamic: every time I'd adjust the volume, I'd have to Fun back to turn it down again because of the startling changes.  Sounds and niixes of what seem to be motorcycles, doors closing, babies cooing, wheezing of the dying, rhythms of highly tuned drums, pure notes, zippers, and bees and cellos having it out -these are just some of the sound approximations that will have you marvelling.


The last five works are recorded with an ensemble that repeats sounds and phrases over time.  Abrupt, then languishing in a pool of sound, they succeed as realized pieces, not just aural experiments.  Ricardo Arias has been playing balloons for over twelve years, and because of his intensity and dedication you are rewarded with a showcase of his talents and a deeper understanding of what he legitimizes as instruments.

Not to be believed, you'll play it for everyone, first for shock value, and then you and your friends will probably sit back and really listen to a truly new adventure in sound.

Gregory Preston – Musicworks # 92, Summer 2005


Colombian improvisor Ricardo Arias extracts sounds from unconventional instruments and amplified objects.  Since 1992 he has concentrated on his Balloon Kit project, which involves playing a bunch of rubber balloons using sponges, pieces of Styrofoam, and rubber bands.  In his hands, the sounds of these simple objects acquire almost orchestral status.  Balloons are bowed like cellos or made to sound like a full brass section playing in reverse, as Arias tinkers with the air pressure and explores the dimensions and qualities of his inflatables.  But there is a serious side to this playful experimentalism.  Arias dedicates the 31 short sections that make up Caouchu: The Weeping Tree as a memorial to “the many native Americans tortured and killed in the Colombian, Peruvian and Brazilian Amazon at the turn of the 20th century to satisfy the European and North American hunger for rubber."

Edwin Pouncey, The Wire, Issue 256, June 2005, p. 73


In Scottish writer James Kelman's A Disaffection, a depressed, frustrated teacher finds solace in learning how to make sounds by blowing into a set of discarded copper pipes, a seemingly ridiculous and pointless act, but one whose pathos illuminates not just his increasing isolation but his dogged dignity as well. It's a paradox that Ricardo Arias would no doubt understand. A Colombian composer, flautist and for the last 12 years, a specialist in making music with inflatable balloons, he is certainly aware that some might find his project somewhat absurd: the album title and pieces with names like "Latex Preludes" and "Poema Neumático" attest to this. As he works his way through a bewilderingly extensive catalogue of amazing sounds, however, all reservations disappear. The disc largely comprises solo pieces investigating the sonic properties of


different dimensions and thicknesses of balloon, varying air pressures and applications of other objects to create different kinds of abrasion. The final part of the disc is devoted to multitracked pieces whose rubbery provenance would surely go undetected by the uninformed listener. He also suggests an interesting political dimension to his enterprise. One suite of pieces, "Caouchu: The Weeping Tree", is a homage to native Amazonians who died as a result of the European exploitation of rubber. Like Kelman's hero, Arias comes across as idealistic, a bit mad, but with dignity firmly intact.

Keith Moliné, The Wire, Issue 252, February 2005