Even though his first name reminds me of ketchup, Karlheinz Stockhausen (1928-2007) remains a large fixture in the Food / Music section of my brain for another reason: as the man responsible for assembling one of my favorite pieces of electronic music ever, Hymnen (especially the ecstatically screaming drones in the Fourth Region), from 1965. Just four years after that epic work, Heinz had another musical revelation during a car ride on tour in New England: he jotted down on an envelope one simple musical formula that would be repeated over a long time. This piece, Mantra, marked a return to completely notated works to reign in his touring group, various members of which questioned who really was the creator–composer or performers–of the so-called intuitive music they had been partially improvising over the past several years. Spread out like ketchup over a 67-minute wide sandwich and harking back to the composer’s early serialism-inspired years, Mantra’s construction encourages two dueling pianists to produce a wide pallet of aural treats: from meditative to explosive, electronically treated with a ring modulator-like digital effect. This strange sound is occasionally accented with woodblock chops and crotale pings with a few spaceship gurgles thrown into the mix. The sonic variety comes as quite a surprise, considering the score’s simple economy. The passionate playing of pianists Xenia Pestova and Pascal Meyer and its electronic transformation by Jan Panis make this first-ever all-digital 2009 recording of Mantra really shine.
Text ©2011 Arcane Candy