Friday, October 29, 2010

James Tenney - Selected Works 1961-1969 (Frog Peak, 2001)

Tenney is different things for different people. Some know his writings, others his piano work, others his percussion pieces. He was also one of the early proponents of computer music. The first couple tracks here are tape pieces, one of them a mangling of Elvis' "Blue Suede Shoes". Often he uses computer algorithms to determine different parameters of the sound. He used those same stochastic processes to dictate a player piano scroll, also heard here. The last track is one of my favorite bits of electronic music, using Shepard tones to simulate a continuously rising note. During my college radio days, I used to play this during talk sets and it made every pause in speech extremely difficult to overcome. The magic is in how, despite the processes sometimes coming off as technical and formal, Tenney pulls each piece off in ways that are engaging and even funny. He is without question a master of all his crafts.

Selected Works
& in .flac

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Andreas Oldörp - Lotos (Nur/Nicht/Nur, 2008)

Andreas Oldörp is a German sound artist active since the mid 1980's who is fascinated, as many other sound artists are, by the interactions of sound and space. For his Lotos installation--created as part of the Klang Zeit Festival of 2008--Oldörp fitted the chapel of the Dominican Church in Münster with several glass cyllinders, into which he feeds gas burners. The ignition creates a singing flame, producing a variety of overtones as the vibrations and exhaust sound within the pipes.

This recording documents Oldörp and four other sound artists and improvisors as they interact with the Lotos installation. Notes are not made as to how the contributors crafted their sound, but a glance at each artist's past work helps decipher what is heard. Oldörp begins the disc with intermittent complimentary timbres that could easily be additional singing-flame pipes. Rolf Julius contributes fragile tinkling and gentle sonorities that most likely are from electronic sources. Instrument builder Stephan Froleyks conjures frenzied tones at first before ascending to an unidentified whistle that flitters amidst the dense hum of the installation. The disc closes with the duo of Poul Naes and violinist and Zeitkratzer member Burkhard Schlothauer as they unify quite transparently with the Lotos. Though crafted from several different dates over the installation's run, the disc is sequenced continuously.

& in .flac

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Gunner Møller Pedersen - Et Lydår, A Sound Year (Danachord, 1982; Dacapo, 2001)

Gunner Møller Pedersen belongs to the second generation of Danish makers of tape music, leaning more on the spacier Else Marie Pade end of the spectrum than the sputtering Jørgen Plaetner-styled one. Though delightfully excessive in its own right, Et Lydår displays much more respect for day-to-day responsibilities than some of his other works. Et Lydår is essentially an aural calender. Pedersen created a thirty minute piece representing each month of the year, amounting to six (!!!) discs of music. It's easy to consider this completely out of hand, until you realize you've lived an entire year in just six hours. That kind of savings doesn't come cheap. Originally conceived for quadraphonic sound, here it is condensed into a measly stereo. I'm far underqualified to speak to the month-to-month changes in Denmark, but he could have easily veered into the overly literal yet did not. "February" does conjure an icy expanse, while "June" is surprisingly pastoral. On the whole, each piece maintains an impressive balance of imagery and abstraction. He's clearly well-humored enough not to overdo things by accident.

Et Lydår
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3