EA Bucket 28.

Grant Chu Covell

[November 2019.]

Pierre MARIÉTAN: Rose des vents (1981-87). Mana Records 001 (2 LPs or download) (http://manarecords.com).

It has been a long time since Mariétan has appeared in these pages, and so sharing this loving portrait of France is an overdue delight. This version of Rose des vents is just over 100 minutes of environmental sounds with fanfares. The predominant backdrop consists of field recordings captured in French towns and villages. The fanfares are assertive phrases often repeated, akin to the musical flourishes that prefix announcements in European train stations. In the original versions of this “musical action,” live musicians (such as a saxophone quartet) played over the tapes in the towns where the recordings were made. In this later version meant as electroacoustic music (that is, without the live, in-location performance), these fanfares are played by multi-tracked saxophones (Daniel Kientzy) or keyboard (Gérard Frémy). Not very much happens, except that life goes on with musical interruptions.

ULI FUSSENEGGER: San Teodoro 8 (2014). Ernesto Molinari (cbs clar), Mike Svoboda (trb), Martin Siewart (e-guit, electronics), Uli Fussenegger (cbs, electronics). Kairos 0015024KAI (1 CD) (http://www.kairos-music.com/).

Observant readers of these pages ought to recognize the address that provides Fussenegger’s title: San Teodoro 8 is where Giacinto Scelsi lived.  This Roman address presently houses the composer’s archive which has digitized and made available its extensive collection of tape recordings. Scelsi would improvise on an ondiola, an electronic keyboard capable of pitch bending, record audio sketches, and then instruct others to transcribe them into traditional notation. Fussenegger listened to 600 hours (!) of Scelsi’s tapes, extracting approximately 70 sections to create the initial 24 minutes of this piece. The collage of Scelsi’s wanderings yields to Fussenegger’s proscribed accompaniment and then gradually into unaccompanied improvising. Scelsi’s tapes combined in this way are enthralling and mysterious (I suspect volumes of unexplored Scelsi material could be brought to life). The instruments appear seamlessly around the halfway point of these 46 minutes, their overall progression complementary and satisfying.

Indonesian Electronic Music 1979-1992.” Otto SIDHARTA: Nature (1979); Ngendau (1979); Gamelan (1980); Gong (1980); Chimes (1981); P&G (1984); Lorong (1984); Saluang (1984); Sal (1986); Co2 (1987); Nglanglang (1988); Perc & Gliss (1989); Listrik (1990); Mitsuno Hibiki (1992). Sub Rosa SR452 (2 CDs) (http://www.subrosa.net/).

These are straightforward electronic music efforts, mostly superimposed and processed loops of field recordings. Sidharta (b. 1955) studied composition and electronic music in Amsterdam with Ton de Leeuw. This Indonesian composer has a feel for bold contrasts derived from modest sources. Arranged chronologically, these 14 pieces utilize a consistent toolbox. The earliest, Nature and Ngendau, contain recognizable environmental sounds: outdoors in Nature, and wildlife and people in Ngendau. However, the gradual repetition and change of speed or filtering transforms the familiar into an electronic collage. Titles may mislead. Gamelan eschews the expected percussive attack, and Sidharta manipulates the sustain and decay sounds of vibrating metal and avoids any gamelan scales. Similar treatment occurs in Gong, Chimes, Perc and Gliss (and the possibly related but ambiguously titled P&G) whose sounds vastly diverge from their titles’ expectations.

The works of the late ’80s could be purely electronic inventions, although they are most likely constructed from strongly edited sources. Sub Rosa provides scant context, and the opaque titles enhance the mystery. Saluang most likely refers to an Indonesian flute, here metamorphosed into a swarming mass with added clicks. The second half could be purely electronic, although I suspect we hear the first half’s source heavily processed. Listrik can mean electricity in Indonesian, thus it is easy to connect the reverberant humming and clicking with an operational Van de Graaff generator. Mitsuno Hibiki appears to be for violin and electronics (or tape).

Clemens von REUSNER: Anamorphosis (2018); HO (2008); Definierte Lastbedingung (2016); Dry Friction (2012); KRIT (2018); Sphären der Untätigkeit (2013); Topos Concrete (2014). NEOS 11803 (1 SACD) (http://www.neos-music.com/).

It is a welcome relief that von Reusner avoids layering and blunt repetition, preferring to sequence his constructions one after another with modest overlap. The notes suggest heightened deterministic intricacy, however; the continually unfolding variety distracts from form and structure. It is possible to hear a door creak in Anamorphosis, the manipulated metal in Dry Friction, objects dragged across a concrete floor in Topos Concrete, or the hum of electromagnetic waves in Definierte Lastbedingung. But von Reusner subjects his material to extensive and varied manipulation that obscures and transforms. Thick reverb and ring modulation appear prominently. It could be that tracks and titles are inadvertently mismatched, but on the whole it does not matter, as von Reusner elaborately transforms the material world into fantastic electronic moments.

Octavian NEMESCU: Gradeatia (1982); Natural (1973-83). Sub Rosa SRV467 (1 LP) (http://www.subrosa.net/).

When this LP was originally released 35 years ago, it was the first disc of Romanian electronic music. Gradeatia combines a synthesizer’s whirrs and bleeps with edited field recordings. A recurring salute frames gradually evolving material. The early analogue timbres ring tartly, and the reverberant echo suggests a haunted house. The title indicates Romania’s oldest monastery, referencing the religious institutions that were under siege during Communist rule. Designed similarly, Natural emphasizes field recordings and instrumental sections. A vocalist, strings, and distantly recorded piano combine over slowly changing electronic backgrounds. Nemescu appears to be illustrating an event. Within both pieces there must be coded references and allusions that escape us today.

Wolfgang MITTERER: Nine in One (2018). col legno WWE 1CD 20439 (1 CD) (http://www.col-legno.com/).

Beethoven is such an easy target, and Mitterer doesn’t actually do that much other than sort, sprinkle and spray graffiti. There are nine movements; the release is 55:59. Four are collages containing bits from just the first, second, third or fourth movement of Beethoven’s nine (named 9in1 Satz 1, etc.). Reflecting disinterest and annoyance, I haven’t taken the time to puzzle out how the Sixth’s five movements were distributed. Surrounding these four are three islands (Schicksal, Tristesse, and Intermezzo) and two additional constructions combining bits from Beethoven’s first and second symphonic movements only and just third and fourth movements (9in1 Satz 1+2 and 9in1 Satz 3+4). These latter five movements contain extra instruments and material (a singer, electric guitar, cymbal crashes and possibly other errant players). The originals can be found elsewhere in the col legno catalog, Gustav Kuhn and the Haydn Orchestra of Bolzano and Trento’s set of Beethoven’s nine, recorded 2005-06 (WWE 5CD 60006). The notes are self-congratulatory, cheeky and decidedly unhelpful. You either recognize Mitterer’s genius or you’re unsophisticated.

My ambivalent response surprises me. Identifying the bits isn’t all that hard. Mitterer’s manipulations are not clever and seem unplanned. There is scant source manipulation. The additional instrumental tidbits sound improvised; perhaps they are grabbed from other Mitterer inventions. Extensive superimposition is rare, and the lurching tempos, melodies and harmonies do not shock (which might suggest masterful arrangement, although I am doubtful). I do not detect a story; the inevitable chorus appearance (in the last movement of course) neither surprises nor delights. I do not crave the originals; I had not heard of the Haydn Orchestra of Bolzano and Trento before this. Perversely, I wonder if I would appreciate this more if the sources were unfamiliar. Would this appeal if Glazunov or Raff’s symphonies were subjected to the same jumbling? Or is the goal to make Beethoven mundane? The ending is slightly clever because the excerpts trail away just before one of music’s most famous recaps.


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