Monday, April 26, 2010

Jonty Harrison - Évidence Matérielle (Empreintes DIGITALes, 2000)

The second collection of works by Birmingham based composer Jonty Harrison finds him at odds with his instincts. In the liners, he confesses himself to be under the spell of a dichotomy first brought to light by Barry Truax, torn between honoring Schaefer and turning the other cheek. To some extent, the conflict is understandable: he has such a keen ear for climbing into sounds that the result is engaging whether he intertwines them in a narrative or sends them spiraling off into an abstract region completely devoid of context. The majority of the works here take the second route with the oldest, "Klang" (1982), perhaps the most successful. The piece is constructed from a catalog of recordings Harrison made of a pair of peculiarly resonant casserole dishes. He feels obligated to note that this is not a piece about casseroles, but rather the sounds of casseroles. As the piece progresses, I find myself consumed with seeking out the remnants of the casserole soundings, in effect reverse engineering the piece. To my ears, Harrison is at his best when he's playing with how far a sound can go while leaving slivers of its reality intact.

Évidence Matérielle

Monday, April 19, 2010

V/A - Histoires Invisibles (GMVL, 1991)

Coming a good fifteen years after the group's inception, Histoires Invisibles offers six snapshots of activity from the Groupe Musiques Vivantes de Lyon. Marc Favre and Bernard Fort founded the GMVL in 1975 and in the decade that followed staged hundreds of events showcasing the ongoing developments of electro-acoustic music in France. While there is a certain reverence for France's tape music history at play here, each composer succeeds in doing so in a very forward-thinking fashion. Minjard and Garcia seem most in touch with France's acousmatic roots, while Fort and Mutschler navigate furthest into unidentifiable realms. Prior to finding this collection, I had not connected the associations of several of these composers. In listening to them in succession, there's a clear sense of a community of musicians each coming from a similar place and finding their way to a location more their own.
1 Jean-François Minjard - Peur Dans L'Escalier
2 Marc Favre - Le Beau Corps D'Éther
3 Marc Lauras - Quel Carnage!
4 Bernard Fort - Le Jardin De La Reine
5 Xavier Garcia - 6 Regards Sul L
6 Xavier Garcia - 6 Regards Sul L
7 Xavier Garcia - 6 Regards Sul L
8 Xavier Garcia - 6 Regards Sul L
9 Xavier Garcia - 6 Regards Sul L
10 Xavier Garcia - 6 Regards Sul L
11 Pascal-Florian Mutschler - Haute Tension

Histoires Invisibles