Tuesday, December 22, 2009
Theo Burt - Colour Projections (Entr'acte)
What a unique, wonderful release! How to describe? Well, it's not a music disc per se though sound is decidedly involved along with visual elements. It's playable only on your computer, not in a CD player. You see a small screen with, initially, a gray background (later blues and a blood red), upon which simple but very elegant and attractive geometric shapes appear, these shapes slowly threading their way through the space, often with lines intersecting as seen in the figure above. The movement of these shapes and the intersection of their line segments trigger a variety of sine waves or sharper toothed kinds of electronic sounds, usually in clear and direct response to what's occurring on screen. For instance, as the two line above meet near the border of the square, they form a tiny triangle that expands as they continue to travel. Just when the small, blue interior triangular shape appears, we hear a very high sine pitch that lowers as the triangle grows. This is the general rule here: sounds appear or change as lines meet and the shapes that inflate or contract cause similar raising or lowering of pitch.
It's not quite that simple though as a glance at this capture illustrates:
In this episode, you have circles of differing size (and consequent sound qualities) ping-ponging (slowly) back and forth at varying rates; I tend to view it three-dimensionally as moons orbiting a planet at different diameters and speeds. So there's a certain regularity in play, but any repetition of cycles is at too long a period to recall, so the effect is oddly random. It's also somewhat surprising, since there are all sorts of possible congruences and you're never quite sure what sound will emerge after a given "collision". Burt plays with your expectations, the kind of pattern associations you automatically make, subverting them often enough to prevent one from thinking you have it all understood. There are several other, much more complex patterns that grace the screen during this work's 32 minutes, including a particularly beautiful set of two rectangles floating and rotating in the space at different speeds and inclinations, barely kissing each other once and emitting only the tiniest of sounds. The anticipation as they near each other is excruciating.
It's tough to really give a decent idea of what goes on here in words and, doubtless, there are many who will be bored silly, but I find it strange and beautiful and can experience it again and again. Burt's work will be shown at Diapason on Saturdays this coming March. In the meantime, treat yourself to this.
Michael Schumacher - Weave (Entr'acte)
[Entr'acte "covers" don't give you much, hence the pic of Schumacher above... :-)]\
A selection of works largely electronic in nature but with contributions from Jane Rigler (flute) and Michael Moser (cello). The disc also includes two video collaborations between Schumacher and Nisi Jacobs, which, unfortunately, were unplayable on my PC. (I may be doing something wrong but Windows Media Player gave me an "unplayable" message)
I often use the term "loopy" to describe a kind of synth approach that generally rubs me the wrong way and, to an extent, that's the case here. Some of it, like the track "Malaise" reminded me strongly of Patrick Gleeson's work circa Hancock's "Sextant"; I vacillated between thinking of that as a good or bad thing, but overall, nah, I'd rather hear the original. When he reins things in a bit, as on the lovely "Part Music", the results are enchanting while still retaining enough glitchiness to provide a welcome itch. Finally, on "Erosion", Schumacher manages to up the loopy energy to an insane enough degree (and add synthesized percussion) that the stew begins to bubble 'n' boil. Pretty rockin', actually, good stuff. Worth it for these 18 minutes alone, the intensity and giddiness strongly maintained over its length.
Lee Gamble - Join Extensions (Entr'acte)
A new name to me, Gamble does computerized music out of the concrete tradition. Most of the music here is dense, tightly packed, even claustrophobic in character. For my taste, I get too much the sensation of a sequence of sound effects--often very elaborate ones, but still--and little that exerts force on me as a slab of music. There's also a slight sheen of the overly synthesized as well; for all the apparent rough edges, I sense little real grit. I've been listening a bit to the recent Edition RZ disc of Kosk and Riedl so I might be unavoidably but unfairly comparing Gamble's work to theirs but, whatever issues I have with the music of those older figures, there's almost always a structural integrity I can discern that I find tough to pick up with Gamble. I may well be missing something but I'm hearing too much flash, not enough sinew.