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Updated: 2017-10-29T03:11:45.396-04:00


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

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

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.

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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

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: 1970-731 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: 1974-781 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: 1978-831 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 [...]

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

Eduardo Polonio - Obras Electroacústicas 1969-1998 5 x cd (Edición Antológica, 1998)



Over the three decades worth of material presented here, Spanish composer Eduardo Polonio gathers his varied explorations of tape and synthesis, to which he has been devoted since 1969 when he all but abandoned acoustic instruments. Previously, Polonio studied composition and counterpoint at Madrid's Royal Conservatory of Music. He soon immersed himself deeply in electronic composition, working closely with the Phonos Laboratory and the Alea Laboratory, becoming a member of the Alea Música Electrónica Libre. Although his associations with the Esplendor Geometrico camp and Horacio Vaggione might pepper one's expectations, these works are unmistakably of Polonio's singular style and approach. Easily misunderstood as haphazard, his synth and tape constructions operate under a rapidly shifting logic, only settling briefly into stasis before another series of twists and turns.

Each of the five discs are devoted to eras of Polonio's career. The two pieces dated to 1969 on the first disc, "Para Una Pequeña Margarita Ronca" and "Oficio", showcase his early forays into tape work, both built around frenetic, bobbing waveforms. Two longer Polonio works from the 1970s appear, built on alternately frantic and lush sequenced synth splat courtesy of a gang of early mass market keys, serving as a prominent reference point for the remainder of Polonio's output. Though he never stays the same course for long, the manic, shifting figures and dense swarms of tones remain integral components throughout his catalog. Impressive is the guitar piece "Valverde" (1981) for its ability to conjure cascading figures not unlike those on his synth pieces with just José-Manuel Berenguer's arpeggiated phrases and a delay system. Throughout these five discs, we find the constantly evolving vision of an unsung visionary.

Obras 1 - 3
Obras 4 - 5

Matsuo Ohno - The World of Electro-Acoustic Sound & Music (King, 2005)


Matsuo Ohno is another Japanese composer of unparalleled imagination, most commonly associated with his tape-based sound production for the animated version of Astro Boy, airing from 1963 until 1966. The three volumes collected here team those productions along with several other works across his career. He began as a freelance sound designer, inspired by surrealist film and NHK broadcasts of Stockhausen.


The first volume, Astro Boy / Yamatoji / Yuragi / and the Others, is dedicated largely to the television sound work for which he is most known. Armed with radio transmitters, reel-to-reel machines, echo, and eq, Ohno and his then assistant, the equally innovative Takehisa Kosugi, crafted a slew of warped bursts used for various cues and transitions throughout the cartoon series along with the various pieces of Astro Boy background music, each futuristic minature bizarre in its own way. Included as well are several musique concrète works from the 1980s and '90s. Most impressive of those is Yamatoji A, a deep tape piece built from Ohno's own recordings of bonsho and Tibetan recitations.


I Saw the Outer Limits / The War in Space pairs two of Matsuo Ohno's soundtrack productions from 1977-78, each reveling in the intergalactic splurt that is unmistakably Ohno. The titles throughout I Saw the Outer Limits are almost as entertaining as the cosmic warble Ohno produced. It is only appropriate that "A Brief Tour of the Solar System and Interplanetary Space" would give way to "A Slightly Longer Tour of the Galaxy and Interstellar Space", both pieces ranking among Ohno's deepest and spookiest sound worlds. The material for The War in Space appear to be both transition music and sound effects, among them Ohno-crafted explosions and laser fires, as well as some extended space war scenes. The filter use is a bit harsher, opening blasts often giving way to stasis-heavy washes. One can't help but wonder if the film might have been relocated to space after Ohno unveiled his sound work.


The closing disc, Memory in the Beginning, compiles a recent gathering of pieces, dating all from 2004. Ohno spent much of 2002 and 2003 in and out of medical centers, emerging in '04 with a drive to craft new material. Again, there is no mistaking Ohno--though the recordings hold a clarity missing from the earlier pieces, the woozy echoes and spiraling, otherworldly ripples are in full effect. New to these pieces are a penchant for rhythmic chattering and a somewhat baffling heavy use of flanging, which Ohno owns as only he can. The creativity found in these modern pieces is every bit as infectious as that of his early days as a sound designer.

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

Jo Kondo - Standing / Sight Rhythmics / Under the Umbrella (CP2, 1981)



These deceptively simple compositions demonstrate the blossoming of Japanese composer Jo Kondo's ideas over a short period in the early 1970s. Kondo initially described his style as Sen no Ongaku, translating that roughly as Linear Music. At its foundation is the use of a steadily unfolding melody, with little in the way of variation in rhythm, dynamics, and timbre, and a limited pallet of pitches, focusing not on the individual character of each note, but on how the notes interrelate.

Standing (1973) is a somewhat more sophisticated take on his linear approach, utilizing three disparate instrument groups--in this case, marimba, flute and piano--rather than his usual one or two. Arranged in an interlocking, hocket-like form, the three instruments sound in close succession, the flute and piano essentially shadowing each step of the marimba. After selecting the tones, Kondo arranged them in a random sequence, forming a shifting tonal center rather than an actual key. On occasion, a tone will repeat, disrupting the steady back and forth rocking onto which much of the melodic line unfolds. As the piece progresses, rapidly echoing tones emerge, which, because they are performed on instruments of varied timbre, have the effect more of a stutter than a cascade. Kondo composed the piece for Sound Space "Ark", an ensemble specializing largely in contemporary Japanese pieces; appearing here are three of its members, Aki Takahashi (piano). Hiroshi Koizumi (flute), and Yasunori Yamaguchi (marimba).

Aki Takahashi appears again on Sight Rhythmics (1975) for solo piano, distilling onto one instrument a piece originally intended for violin, steel drum, banjo, electric piano, and tuba. The piece features a more intuitively determined, pointillist approach to melody, which presents with much more subtlety on this piano rendition than in its ensemble form. In reducing the instrumentation, Kondo's melodic approach to the seemingly repetitive figures is revealing, giving way to near imperceptible variations that get lost in the ensemble version.

The closing Under the Umbrella (1976) marks a number of departures for Kondo, the most immediate being that this is his first piece for untuned instrumentation. The work calls for 25 cowbells, with the pitch and range determined by the five performers, and one low gong. Structurally, the piece differs in how conceptually different each movement is, some focusing on the rhythmic cells formed through the interlocking arrangements, others on the resultant melody in spite of the more ambiguous pitch of the instruments. With each movement, Kondo demonstrates a number of different effects that occur due to the specific timbral nature of the cowbells. Although the cowbells create a sound world much different than the previous pieces, the result is distinctly a Kondo creation.

Standing / Sight Rhythmics / Under the Umbrella
& in .flac

V/A - Elektroakustische Musik Aus Finnland (Edition RZ, 1989)



Fascinating collection here, following that less traveled road to tape music by way of Finland. Of the four composers featured here, I knew only two, Patrick Kosk and Harri Vuori; of those I have only previously heard Kosk. These five pieces are bound by time and location, having been produced in the early to mid 1980s at the Yleisradio electronic studio in Helsinki, Finland. Despite emerging at the dawn of the computer age, these works are undeniably borne of tape, conjuring for me much more welcome images of the previous decade.
1 Patrick Kosk - Transmissions In A... (1981)
2 Petri Hiidenkari - Kräftig Und Bewegt (1985)
3 Harri Vuori - Nagual (1986)
4 Tapio Nevanlinna - You Offer Me Out Of Water The Sun (1985)
5 Petri Hiidenkari - Kreuzwege (1987)
Opening is Kosk's side-long Transmissions in a..., a filter-heavy growl with only a hinting of metallic sourced clank, calling to mind the actions of the Schimpfluch-Gruppe a decade later. The two pieces by Petri Hiidenkari are quite different. The first, Kräftig Und Bewegt, seems at times to be something of an ode to the locomotive and displays Hiidenkari's knack for combining natural acoustics with his studio manipulation. His other work, Kreuzwege, closes the collection, bending and expanding sharp clicks in a manner that would make Raaijmakers proud. Though I knew of Harri Vuori mostly for his ensemble works, his piece here has me hoping is much more to uncover. Nagual is a fast-paced montage built from wave after wave of vivid sound chunks. Equally captivating is Tapio Nevanlinna's You Offer Me Out of Water the Sun, a kinetic piece constructed from slapdash shards of glass and creaky wood, kind of a proto-Bryan Ruryk.

The collection unwittingly fills in those gaps in chronology between Love Record's Arktinen Hysteria collections of 70s avant Finnish sounds and the current crop from Fonal, 267 Lattajjaa, and the like. My one hope is that there is more to be found.

Elektroakustische Musik Aus Finnland

Rolf Julius - (Halb) Schwarz (X-Tract/Edition RZ, 2001)



Sad news circulated this weekend about the passing of Rolf Julius. Julius' work was among the first to spark my interest in sound art and it continues to be a touching point when trying to make sense of the subsequent works I have encountered. After the Early Works disc, (Halb) Schwarz is probably my favorite. Like most of his other Small Music pieces, the material here carries with it the strong sense of being in suspended animation. The biggest difference is his tendency on this one to dip into those lower registers, so that the sounds aren't just twinkling over head but swarming throughout the room. I read a quote once by Julius: “For a long time I’ve been thinking about how to create spaces into which one can retreat, where one can find quiet, where one can see, hear, where one is able to concentrate, where one is isolated from the world around but still is able to participate in it…by means of art or music or both." There can be no doubt that he fulfilled that goal in these and his other works. Each piece feels like a small cove listeners can kneel down and poke their heads into, with sounds so fragile you fear one wrong move could send the entire space out of balance. In every strangely comforting piece, his presence is felt.

Links removed

Ilhan Mimaroglu - Face the Windmills, Turn Left (Finnadar, 1976)



The recordings on Face the Windmills, Turn Left date as some of Ilhan Mimaroglu's earliest works at the Columbia-Princeton Electronic Music Center. The Turkish-born composer came to Columbia-Princeton in the early 1960s, working largely under the mentorship of Vladimir Ussachevsky. While Mimaroglu and Ussachevsky share very little aesthetic common ground, there can be no mistaking a shared technical prowess. Mimaroglu's transformations here are fascinating, mangling both natural and electronic sources with a pace and logical all his own. The majority of these works are built from single sources, which Mimaroglu often renders nearly unrecognizable. "Bowery Bum" (inspired by the spiraling line drawings of Jean Dubuffet) and "Prelude No. 11" are both built from the carefully amplified sounds of rubber bands. However, where "Bowery Bum" wears its unmistakable tape sounds with pride, "Prelude No. 11" presents as the work of a virtuoso rubber bandist, if ever there was one. Oddly, the purely electronic pieces such as "Agony" and "Prelude No. 14" seem the most likely to conjure real world images, however bizarre and absurd those images might be.

Face the Windmills, Turn Left

Christian Zanési - Le Paradoxe de la Femme-Poisson (INA-GRM, 1998)



Christian Zanési is one of my favorites among the later generation of GRM affiliates. He's at his best when exploring the more ethereal side of tape music, particularly in his ability to travel and inhabit space along the stereo spectrum. Le Paradoxe de la Femme-Poisson is his soundtrack to a Michel Kelemenis dance piece of the same name, which he realized at the Groupe de Musique Expérimentale in Marseille, France. The piece takes heavy cues from Homer's sirens, with Marjolaine Reymond's dreamy "mermaid" voice often dominating the sonic background. However, much of Zanési's touch here seems highly influenced by human movement, his sounds very acrobatic in nature. In addition, there is a very strong, albeit surreal, sense of place to the piece. While Le Paradoxe... is not his best (For me, that honor belongs to Stop! L'Horizon), the work certainly plays to his strengths and proves that imagination is still a strong presence in tape music.

Le Paradoxe de la Femme-Poisson& in .flac 1 & 2

Pierre Schaeffer - L'Œuvre Musicale 4 x cd (INA-GRM, 1990)



The four discs collected here cover the bulk of Pierre Schaeffer's concrète works (and act as addendum to my previously posted three disc version). The set begins with his pre-tape days when he composed using multiple turntables mixing sound effects recordings direct to lathe. The earliest recordings here were created in 1948 while serving as radio engineer for Radiodiffusion Française and are built from sounds ranging from locomotives and whirligigs to pots, pans, piano, and percussion. Each of those collages eventually made their way onto the air. His "Suite Pour 14 Instruments" is an amalgam of orchestral sounds rendered far beyond their original context.

Where these early works clearly function as experiments for Schaeffer, once Pierre Henry joins in as his assistant, the music takes on both a playfulness and a refinement of detail that eventually became landmarks of the French approach to musique concrète. The processes became increasingly laborious, and those who once flocked to Schaeffer's studio to work in this new medium became disillusioned by the demand and patience that the work required. Schaeffer and Henry worked together for eight years amassing a daunting sound library, some of which never fully materialed. Included here is an Henry work from 1988, created in homage to Schaeffer using fragments of their Orpheus 51 and 53. Though Schaeffer retired from music in 1960, he returned to sound studies in the late 1970s, eventually revisiting some early works. Those too are collected here, and the bridge in time is event as Schaeffer breathes new life into his early techniques while also incorporating a more defined sound. Included as well are the results of Schaeffer's studies of psycho-acoustics, presented here as the two part Le Trièdre Fertile. The newly included fourth disc gathers interviews and assorted radio material as well.

mp3s, 320 kbps
Les Incunables (1948-1950) & Les Œuvres Communes (1950-1953 Et 1988)
Les Révisions (1948-1952) Et Œuvres Postérieures (1957-1979) & Documents (1948-1990)

Les Incunables (1948-1950)
Les Œuvres Communes (1950-1953 Et 1988
Les Révisions (1948-1952) Et Œuvres Postérieures (1957-1979)
Documents (1948-1990)

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

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.

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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

Ramon Sender - Desert Ambulance (Locust, 2006)



A better-late-than-never missive from the early days of the San Francisco Tape Music Center, conjured from near nothing at the hands of co-founder Ramon Sender. Though set to tape in the early 60's, these recordings only emerged some four years past. In its infancy, the SFTMC was something of a hodgepodge affair, with much of its equipment arriving via generous nods of an interested representative from nearby Ampex. The opening piece, "Kore" (1962), embodies that kitchen sink approach; Sender crafted it in the attic studio manipulating tape speed by hand, with scraped piano strings and the improvised sounds of several Conservatory chorus members. The spacey, jump-start squeak and squiggle leave little remnant of the source intact. On the flip side is one of Sender's most recognized works, "Desert Ambulance" (1964), an audio-visual collaboration with projections by Tony Martin (a still from which serves as the album's cover). The work was written for Pauline Oliveros on accordion, its score a tape piece broadcast over headphones that propels Oliveros' imaginative playing. The playful tape work that the audience hears is built from plundered music snippets and a variety of other sounds, all triggered by a Chamberlain Music Master.

Desert Ambulance
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Iannis Xenakis (Perf. by William Winant) - Psappha 7'' (Dolor Del Estamago, 1995)



Psappha is one of only a few solo percussion pieces (possibly only two?) devised by Iannis Xenakis. Although specific instruments are left up to the performer's discretion, Xenakis intended the piece for groups of wood, skin, and metal instruments. In lieu of standard notation, the score is divided amongst those intended timbres.

Score via

The piece relies largely on layered patterns that span the timbral range. The density of the patterns vary greatly and some sections call for great force from the performer. Much like Conlon Nancarrow's player piano pieces and maybe more aptly Stockhausen's Zylkus, the piece places significant demand on the performer. One particularly daunting section calls for 25 hits per second. There is a certain level of problem-solving required before the piece can even begin. San Francisco-based percussionist William Winant rises to the occasion in this 1995 recording. Winant has most admirably tackled pieces across the new music spectrum from the likes of Cage, Tenney, Reich, Stockhausen, and Feldman.


As if the technical demands weren't enough, there is also a groove and finesse to the piece. The following video is of another performance of Psappha courtesy of the excellent Steven Schick, whose torso fully embraces the piece's groove. Schick too has immersed himself deeply in Xenakis's percussion works.

(object) (embed)

Christina Kubisch - Sechs Spiegel (Edition RZ, 1995)



Sechs Spiegel (Six Levels) captures forty minutes of an audio/visual installation by the always imaginative Christina Kubisch in Saarbrücken, Germany. In the organ gallery of a Baroque church, Kubisch mounted six slates on the parapet before the organ's pipes. Each slate was coated in a luminescent pigment which shimmered in response to the fall of light in the gallery.


Paired with each slate is the sound of a drinking glass finessed into vibration. It is unclear whether a photosensitive connectivity between slab and sound existed, or if the resonances played out continuously with any synchronicity between it and the light play merely imagined. There does seem to be an ebb and flow to the sound document, giving way to both harmonious and dissonant passages. The installation ran from mid December, 1994, until the end of January, 1995.


Sechs Spiegel
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Joe Jones - Xylophone (?, 2004)



Another glorious mechanized symphony from the maestro Joe Jones, this time scored for xylophone alone and captured in a 1976 performance. Over its thirty-one minutes, the dizzying chimes wind up and down, sometimes hanging briefly on a note but rarely settling into much of a pattern beyond that up and down. Once accustomed to the automatons, I find myself listening more to the spaces in between, honing in especially on a bumping that may be accidental or might even be an unsteady drum. Its timing against the steady ringing of the xylophone cannot help but bear similarity to the Javanese kendhang, though I'm sure I am making a bit more out of what's there. The accompanying diagram sheds some great insight into how Jones constructed his instruments and why they played the way they did.



Bill Fontana - Ohrbrücke - Soundbridge Köln - San Francisco (Wergo, 1994)



If one idea prevails through much of Bill Fontana's recorded work, it's the notion of transporting sound, of taking what's heard in many places channeling them into one. His Soundbridge pieces work in a similar fashion to his Sound Maps, pooling together sounds from geographically distant locations. For Ohrbrücke, Fontana juxtaposes sound maps of Cologne and San Francisco, broadcasting them then via satellite to numerous radio stations across Europe and the US. The resulting sound mass was not entirely owed to happenstance. During the broadcast, the six Romanesque church bell towers in Cologne performed a piece of Fontana's design. For listeners in Cologne, this allowed a unique experience dependent on one's proximity to any one bell tower. Simultaneously, and beyond Fontana's control, the fog horns along the Golden Gate Bridge sound, introducing tones that interact and at times interfere with the sounding of the church bells. The bulk of the work's impact is first felt as these collisions occur--and as the overlapping of the two cities is most obvious--which in turn makes the less active moments equally engaging as the listener attempts to pry apart the cities' sounds.

Ohrbrücke - Soundbridge Köln - San Francisco

V/A - The Pioneers: Five Text-Sound Artists (Phono Suecia, 1992)



Try as I might to contextualize text-sound composition, I get caught in a domino chain of chicken-egg scenarios that begin with sound poetry and musique concrète and end around Futurism, Dada, and the Lettrists. Factor in my limited knowledge of any of the above and the result more like a dizzying walk around the peak of a mountain. Tape music genealogy aside, its key features are clear. Johannes Bergmark, in his excellent and illuminating chapter from Aural Literature Criticism (RK editions, New York 1981), identifies text-sound composition as featuring:
(1) The use of non-semantic oral language information.

(2) Time manipulation.

(3) Polyphony.

While those elements conjure a clear line to sound poetry, the execution and overall soundspace share more similarities with other tape music realms. Thumb through a backlog of Revue Ou or past Text-Sound Festival lineups and there is no doubt of rampant cross-pollination.

Text-sound in its preliminary rounds was a largely Swedish phenomenon. The Pioneers hones in on the five key practioners: Lars-Gunnar Bodin, Sten Hanson, Åke Hodell, Bengt Emil Johnson, Ilmar Laaban. Brought together their works display the full scope of text-sound; taken individually it is clear how many ways those main elements may manifest themselves. Hanson and Laaban's works here are focused most on language and its transformation into linguistic shrapnel. Their approaches are best distinguished by how they incorporate tape: for Hanson, tape unlocks the time line, phrases stretch, repeat ad infinitum, and crumble; Laaban turns tape into a pupil-dilated chorus. With Hodell, Johnson, and Bodin, voice and tape divide their interests. It's not uncommon with any of their works to briefly lose sight of any semblance of language, only to have it reemerge, having formed the backbone all along.

Pioneers disc 1 [rs]
Pioneers disc 2 [rs]
Pioneers 1&2 [mu]

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