Thursday, December 1, 2011

Zoltán Jeney - Arupa / Fantasia Su Una Nota (Hungaroton, 1987)

Zoltán Jeney is one of the many innovative composers affiliated with Budapest's New Music Studio, a highly versatile camp whose activities run the gamut from percussion pieces and chamber ensembles to various electro-acoustic excursions. Jeney's works are fascinating both for his ear for unusual instrument combinations and for his unorthodox methods of composing. Often he leaves the manner in which the composition unfolds somewhat open-ended, allowing the performers to progress as they see fit. The two side-long pieces that comprise this album exemplify Jeney's range of ideas and methods.

Jeney wrote Arupa (1981) for six to eight ship-bells, a single drum, and a sustained pitch, which here is provided by an electric organ. The drum establishes a steady tempo, which it maintains for the duration of the piece. On the ninth beat, the bells and organ enter. Jeney has devised several rhythmic formulas with varying meters for seven of the the bells, with the eighth bell serving to inform the others of the change in meter. At the start, they play in unison, but after the eighth measure, the players successively advance to the next rhythmic formula, which they will play anywhere from four to eight times. Though the process is somewhat similar to Terry Riley's In C, the use of the bells sounded in constant, rich tone leaves a much different impression. When the rhythmic bells reach the final cell, the instructive bell gives a signal and the piece ends.

Fantasia Su Una Nota (1984) is a study in contrasting ensembles. Jeney wrote the piece for two groups: the first, a group of 5 to 24 players all wielding instruments "whose sound can be influenced after is has begun to sound (e.g. strings, woodwind, brasses, etc.)"; five members constitute the second group, each playing plucked instruments or tuned percussion. Again, a continuous electronic tone resonates throughout. The first group plays only C#, working its way through twenty-four units each a minute in duration. At the beginning of each minute, a bell also tuned to C# sounds. The second group is allowed quite a bit more freedom, working through a series of twenty-seven chords, from which the five players choose one elemental note. They may improvise freely and there is no pressure for them to play on beat. Even with this looseness, the piece unfolds slowly as the second group's contribution floats against the C# soundings of the first.

Arupa / Fantasia Su Una Nota
& in .flac: 1 & 2

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

V/A - Dimensio (Jase, 1987)

Collected here is but a tiny cross section of the electro-acoustic goings on that circulated in Finland during the late 1970s and into the 1980s. The four composers represented here all have ties to the Finnish art collective, the Dimensio Group, a multi-media outing upwards of 70 members strong with an interest in the intersections of art and technology.
Side A:
Otto Romanowski (b. 1952): Ein Blick (1985)
Herman Rechberger (b. 1947): Frühlingsrauschen (1984)

Side B:
Jukka Ruohomäki (b. 1947): NRUT 1 (1978)
Otto Romanowski: Deuxiéme image du son (1985)
Jarmo Sermilä (b. 1939): Hommage à Jules Verne (1982)
Approaches vary quite a bit here, with half the composers working solely in the electro-acoustic realm and the other half only dabbling and incorporating elements into their predominantly instrumental works. Otto Romanowski and Jukka Ruohomäki are both among the former. Romanowski is perhaps the most documented of the four, with a good deal of his computer compositions available and in circulation. His two pieces here illustration his versatility. "Ein Blick" is the more frenetic of the two, built from the manic stumbling of dense sound blocks. "Deuxiéme image du son" is almost graceful by contrast, meticulously amassing swells of organ-like tones. Jukka Ruohomäki is a student of Erkki Kurenniemi, an innovator of tape music in Finland. Ruohomäki's "NRUT 1" is a workout in interlocking loops of laughter, often giving way to incidental rhythmic chunks.

For both Herman Rechberger and Jarmo Sermilä, the works presented here are representative of only a small portion of their output. "Frühlingsrauschen" is one of only five pieces Rechberger created solo for tape, though he wrote several more incorporating tape and instruments. "Frühlingsrauschen" is many layered, seemingly of both electronic and unidentifiable instrumental sources, very much evocative of its Sinding-penned namesake. Jarmo Sermilä is perhaps the most prolific and diversely occupied of those presented here, with a catalog of solo, orchestra and chamber works, choral pieces, and structured improvisations, as well as a number of electronic pieces. His "Hommage à Jules Verne" submerges throat singing and trumpet into a gradually collapsing wave of electronic sound.

As with the Elektroakustische Musik Aus Finnland, it's astonishing how little overlap Dimensio holds with the other available collections of out there Finnish works. Certainly, there is even more to be found.

& in .flac

Friday, October 21, 2011

Michael Pisaro & Greg Stuart on Broken Music, 10/23

This Sunday, composer/guitarist Michael Pisaro and percussionist Greg Stuart will be performing on my radio show Broken Music. They will be playing the Beckett pieces (8a – 8e) from Pisaro's Harmony Series and discussing a bit in between. The show airs Sunday, October 23, from 2 - 3pm EST on and at 89.3 FM for those in the Chapel Hill, NC area.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Twice Zonked on FB

Not sure whether I did this to make me feel obligated to post more or to make you feel less obligated to check this page, but I made a Twice Zonked page on the facebooks. So far it seems that my posts magically will appear there. Do with it what you will.

V/A - IMEB Opus 30, vol 2, 1984-1999 3xCD (Le Chant du Monde, 2003)

Picking up where the first volume left off, IMEB Opus 30, vol. 2 covers the next sixteen years of IMEB history. Important to note that this volume comes on the opposite end of that paradigm shift from tape and analog over to computers and digital. Make no mistake, the framework of computer music is being built in the decade prior, but here those mechanisms are in full force. The processes heard here are dizzyingly complex, produced for once in real time rather than over an arduous wait, and yet there remains distinct ties to the aesthetics of the Group's early years.
Disc 4: 1984-88
1 Lothar Voigtländer - Hommage à un poète (1984)
2 Dieter Kaufmann - Le ciel et la terre (1985)
3 Yves Daoust - Il était une fois… (conte sans paroles) (1986)
4 Françoise Barrière - L’or (1987)
5 Takayuki Rai - Sparkle (1988)
Very difficult to pick a highlight from the first batch, with each piece setting out for far different aims than the next. Dieter Kaufmann's piece is perhaps the oddest, an ode to childhood constructed from recordings he and his 10 year old son Ulrich made during their travels, a far cry from the Ferrari travelogue. Takayuki Rai delivers a gripping piece as well, this one for computer processed bass clarinet and tape. The pieces by Yves Daoust and IMEB co-founder Françoise Barrière both carry a strong narrative arc, Daoust's residing in a world of fantasy, while Barrière draws on a clear sense of human hardship.
Disc 5: 1989-93
1 Robert Normandeau - Jeu (1989)
2 Rainer Boesch - Pierres (1990)
3 José Manuel Berenguer - Ob-lectum (1991)
4 Gerald Bennett - Rainstick (1992)
5 Eduard Artemiev - I would like to return (1993)
Curiously, there is much to compare among the works in this second disc. The three middle pieces by Boesch, Berenguer, and Bennett are each meditations on a central object--stones, a voice (and in its words, Claude Shannon), and a South American rainstick. Each of the works draws on human action and transforms in a way that keeps the tactile or vocal elements intact, never allowing computer processes to obscure that physical presence. The bookending pieces by Normandeau and Artemiev are both free-associations. Normandeau's "Jeu" almost serves as a thesaurus entry on the notion of "play", recited off the top of his head.
Disc 6: 1994-99
1 Patrick Kosk - Plastique sans titre (1994)
2 Charles Dodge - Fades, Dissolves, Fizzles (1995)
3 Francisco Kröpfl - Winds (1996)
4 Nicola Sani - Non tutte le isole hanno intorno il mare (1997)
5 Horacio Vaggione - Agon (1998)
6 Åke Parmerud - Les flûtes en feu (1999)
Most interesting to me about these final six works is how each shows a distinct slowing of pace from the previous selections and a focused attention on how one organizes sound. It's almost as if the excitement over how much can be done with computers has worn off, moving on to the challenge of how it can be done well. Kosk and Dodge aim in their works here to bring a personal order to their disparate materials. Individual instrumental elements are bound in a mesh of manipulation as Kröpfl (voice), Sani (clarinets), Vaggione (percussion), and Parmerud (flute) offer varying stances on how deeply one's building blocks should be concealed.

Disc 1
Disc 2
Disc 3

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

V/A - IMEB Opus 30, vol 1, 1970-1983 3xCD (Le Chant du Monde, 2003)

Founded in 1970 by Françoise Barrière and Christian Clozier, the Institut international de musique électroacoustique de Bourges (née Groupe de musique électroacoustique de Bourges) has played host to a diverse array of electronic composers, publishing their works largely via the Le Chant du Monde label's Chrysopée Electronique series, organizing concert events, and promoting the ongoing sound research that makes electronic music possible. For the most part, the many electronic music studio camps are difficult to truly characterize, with IMEB no exception. Given the many nations represented among its roster and their varied activities, the closest I can come to an IMEB worldview would be to welcome with open arms all practices electronic. The two volumes of IMEB Opus 30, celebrating the Institut's first thirty years, certainly serves as proof to that claim. The series offers one representative track for each year of activity, showcasing the diversity of the group and the depth of its creativity.
Disc 1: 1970-73
1 Christian Clozier - La discordatura (1970)
2 Luís María Serra - Abismos (1971)
3 Alain Savouret - Tango (1972)
4 Wlodzimierz Kotonski - Les ailes (1973)
These entries covering the first four years of IMEB are of a largely electro-acoustic nature, with each composer all but obliterating the instrumental sources. Founder Clozier's "La discordatura" dismantles an already frenzied flock of violins. Entries by Argentinian Luís María Serra and Polish composer Wlodzimierz Kotonski tackle piano work with starkly contrasting form, Serra determined to leave the instrument's integrity largely intact and Kotonski rendering it a mere trigger. Alain Savouret's "Tango" nestles somewhere between their two approaches, waiting only briefly before whisking the Farfisa stabs into far dreamier realms.
Disc 2: 1974-78
1 Pierre Boeswillwald - Toccatanne no 2: qui est là? (1974)
2 Sten Hanson - Le nom des 7 nuits (1975)
3 José Vicente Asuar - Affaires des oiseaux (1976)
4 Zoltán Pongrácz - Variations boucles (1977)
5 Jack Body - Musik anak anak (1978)
The approach quickly broadens over the next five years. Pierre Boeswillwald's "Toccatanne no 2" delves into the intersection of natural and artificial, making short work from a percussive array. The piece is notable for its use of a profound GMEB creation, the massive console and speaker configuration known after several renamings as the Cybernéphone. "Le Nom des 7 Nuits" is Sten Hanson in top form, offering a murky but engaging text-sound romp. The three works that follow each exhibit a striking level of imagination. Chilean José Vicente Asuar works primarily with bird sounds, variespeeding some 50 different bird songs into a entirely new entity. The always impressive Zoltán Pongrácz offers a study in loops, first operating in the synthesized realm, gradually introducing repetitive segments of folk instruments and various industrial sounds. Biggest treat here might be New Zealander Jack Body, who turns to childhood as a starting point, first crafting a monkey chant from singing children, then using the sounds of delicate toys to build an evershifting dreamlike soundscape.
Disc 3: 1978-83
1 Barry Truax - Ascendance (1979)
2 Lars-Gunnar Bodin - Épilogue, rhapsodie de la seconde récolte (1980)
3 Micheline Coulombe Saint-Marcoux - Constellation I (1981)
4 Georg Katzer - La flûte fait le jeu (1982)
5 Fernand Vandenbogaerde - Cyclanes (1983)
With the exception of the Georg Kratzer piece, the remaining selections reside primarily in the electronic realm. Kratzer's piece is an impressive one, with the flute creating all the textures being used and its envelope dictating levels in the modulating equipment. Barry Truax's opening work is a glacial, slow motion multi-oscillator pile up. The next piece is unmistakably the work of Bodin, frequently building with a frenzied pace. Another crowd pleaser, Canadian Micheline Coulombe Saint-Marcoux carefully ascends into the filter spirals of her piece though some more twisted sweeps emerge toward its close. The collection closes with Vendenbogaerde's "Cyclanes", piecing together simple signal fragments via complex arrays of processing.

While the pieces presented over this fourteen year span may not form a Unified Theory of IMEB-ness, they do present an overview of the studio's fascinating history, highlighting in particular the approaches of a diverse gathering of composers spanning the globe.

Disc 1
Disc 2
Disc 3

Note: Original upload had horribly jumbled tags, carrying over into some confusion within the post. New links have been provided and the post adjusted accordingly.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Paul Lytton, David Toop, Max Eastley, Paul Burwell, Annabel Nicolson, Evan Parker, Hugh Davies, Paul Lovens - Circadian Rhythm (Incus, 1980)

I will be the first to admit that I approached this album with equal amounts of fear and excitement. Each and every one of the names I knew were people who have shaped my notion of what music could be. It was when I counted all the names involved that I truly began to worry. I should have known better, but in imagining these eight together, a creeping dread emerged of how disappointed I would be were I not completely bowled over. And so this record sat on my shelf for well over a week. Two items on the back cover finally persuaded me to take the plunge. The first was the list of each player's role in the performance:
Paul Burwell: percussion; Hugh Davies: live electronics; Max Eastley: self-designed automatic instruments and other small home-made instruments; Paul Lovens: percussion & singing saw; Paul Lytton: percussion & live electronics; Annabel Nicolson: charcoal, sparks, branches, twigs, fire, pine needles, draughts, smoke; Evan Parker: saxophones, etc.; David Toop: flute, alto flute, bass recorder, piccolo, home-made & found instruments.
The second was Evan Parker's note: "The music on this record has been selected from tapes of a thirteen hour concert given at the London Musicians' Collective from July 29 - 30 1978, as part of David Toop's Music/Context Festival. Our original intention had been to play for a whole day." Knowing then that the group had the restraint to conclude the performance nearly halfway to its intended duration, that many of the instruments were of such a delicate nature, my curiosity surged enough to finally warrant a listen.

The performance captured moves slowly and carefully, more an ongoing sound environment than the caterwauling group blow out that one might expect from an ensemble this size. The confluence of acoustic and electronic instruments, as well as traditional and home-made, is seamless and captivating, with each timbre and texture carving out its own space in the recording all the while blurring a clear notion of who did what. Many of the players aim for the higher registers, delivering long, unfurling tones, some steady and others warbling, that hang in the room before sinking into the next. Meanwhile, an underbed of clanging, percussive activity scatters below, a punctuating hit emerging here and there but never escalating to a full rumble. The sum is immersive without ever being overbearing. The performance is not presented chronologically; the only indication when each section occurred over the 13 hours is an out of sequence numbering of each excerpt, the first constituting the album's second side.

I do not regret prolonging my first listen, as my informed expectations helped to create a mental image of the record's happenings. Perhaps owing to the planned length of the performance, there is a patience and commitment to the ideas that translates well in the recording, with an implicit satisfactory nod each time the group moves on. In fact, in the brief account of the performance in Toop's Ocean of Sound, he attributes the premature conclusion of the date to "running into a wall of exhaustion and an overwhelming feeling that there was nothing more to add. In hindsight, I think there were too many distractions and too many players."

Circadian Rhythm
& in .flac 1 & 2

Additional reading:
David Toop's London Musicians' Collective archive
Clive Bell's compiled musings on the London Musicians' Collective