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


  1. If this post was in response to my request, please let me express my sincere thanks [and pleasant surprise at such a rapid response]. If you've just posted it by sheer coincidence, let me also express my sincere thanks.

    Often difficult for an untrained ear such as mine to distinguish the works of one electroacoustic composer from those of any/many others, but Jonty Harrison's sound strikes me as particularly singular...

    Great to see activity resumed on such a tremendous blog...

    Best wishes,


  2. This was indeed per your request. I'm happy to oblige. I'm a fan of Harrison's for the reasons you cite. He just has a sound and touch all his own. Among the Empreintes DIGITALes crew, he and Denis Smalley are probably my favorites.

  3. Your mention of Smalley prompted me to re-listen to the one piece I have by him - 'Wind Chimes' - interesting to listen to it alongside Harrison's 'Klang' for their similarities and the differences in approach of the respective composers.

    For me Harrison's piece shades it, but 'Wind Chimes' is beautiful nonetheless. Many thanks again.

  4. WOW!!!! Thanks so much!!!!! Andrew Deutsch

  5. the reigning champ of classic electronic music of every stripe. been buggin out since i discovered this stellar palace of wisdom. recently embarked upon me own bloggish endeavor & have thusly linked twicezonked from ze zidebar thingy. kindly feel free to do likewise should u find any of my recent energy expenditure worthy. heart

  6. Harrison is super brilliant, thx for this! I always look forward to your posts.

  7. Looks really interesting. I'll be checking this out soon! Thanks.

  8. Just discovered Jonty Harrison thanks to your posts. Superb records. And excellent blog BTW. Looking forward to new posts.