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    Christian Zanesi – Stop! L’horizon; Profil-Desir; Courir

    July 31st, 2008

    Christian Zanesi - Stop! L'horizon; Profil-Desir; Courir

    Christian Zanési (1952) is a younger composer who has been active with the GRM since 1977 after studying with Pierre Schaeffer and Guy Reibel. He is “a pure studio composer, a ‘sound sculptor.’ His music, which is inscribed and elaborated in the stereophonic environment, aims at establishing via loudspeakers a physical connection with the listener: that vibrant, organic being.” “Stop L’horizon” (1983) is a classic-sounding late-night storm of swirling buzzes, loud knocking, a lawn mower starting, and chirping; with plenty of sped-up voices, deep wind-tunnel echoes, “slot car” whizzing, echo-knocks, shimmering drones and airplane dive-bombs. “I have the very distinct feeling that music is only a ‘grand noise’ and that its interior is sculpted in a thousand details. It opens like a living organism to let my hearing wander around in it.”

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    Iannis Xenakis – La Legende d’Eer

    July 31st, 2008

    Iannis Xenakis - La Legende d'Eer

    Composed in 1977-78 (but not released until 1995) for an architecture, light and sound spectacle to celebrate the opening of The Pompou Center in Paris, the 45-minute La Legende d’Eer (Diatope) is an all-time masterpiece of massive, timeless sound. Starting out with barely audible, incredibly high-pitched tones which gradually increase in volume for six or so minutes, a barren landscape of electricity eventually unfolds as buzzing electronic insects and dust devils crudely unfurl and tear across the stereo field. Eight tracks of this chaos slowly coalesce into an unbelievably dense maelstrom. Giant concrete balls roll around in vast ceramic bowls, immense piles of metal stuff gets raked, oceans of big beverage bottles rattle back and forth, numerous flying saucers ascend loudly over many layers of electronic mayhem. A few more swarms of insects whine back into view as the landscape begins to wind down with some seriously crude low-end crumble. “The close of the work, with its return to the high, whistling invocations of the opening, signifies not so much an apotheosis as the completion of a task, of an ordeal which, if the fates so decree, may be repeated an infinite number of times. But if repeated then once again completed, in all senses this is the music of a survivor.”—Richard Toop

    Label: Montaigne Catalog Number: MO 782058 Format: CD Packaging: Jewel case Tracks: 1 Total Time: 46:00 Country: France Released: 1995 Related Artists: Francois Bayle, Luc Ferrari, Bernard Parmegiani, Pierre Schaeffer More: Discogs, Electronic Music Foundation, Last FM, MySpace, Official, Wikipedia

    Iannis Xenakis – Electronic Music

    July 31st, 2008

    Iannis Xenakis - Electronic Music

    A really important and necessary historical reissue, the Electronic Music CD contains all of the material from the old Nonesuch Electro-Acoustic Music LP, which has been out of print since the early 1970s, plus two bonus tracks—all spanning from the mid ’50s up to the early ’90s. Drenched in flowing yet sometimes jarring late-night atmosphere and murky dark-spirit ambience, I would gladly run into a fire to rescue this object. It’s one of my Top 25 desert isle albums, for sure. In “Diamorphoses” (1957) Xenakis used the sounds of jet planes, crashing railroad cars, Earthquake shocks, a tiny Greek bell, etc. to form very dense, dark clouds and giant, downwardly-circling webs of sound. Composed as an prelude to Edgard Varese’s “Poéme Èlectronique” at the Philips Pavillion, “Concret-P.H.” (1958) is comprised exclusively of the highly magnified sound of burning charcoal. The various tracks were heavily spliced and mixed-up to form quite a delicate and strange tapestry of tinkling, crackling sonics.

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    Edgard Varese – The Varese Album

    July 31st, 2008

    Edgard Varese - The Music of Edgard Varese

    Edgard Varèse (1883-1965) was the founder of the musical avant-garde of the 20th century. He was the first to conceive and realize works of “organized sounds” expanding, floating, flying, colliding and mixing in space. This set of twin Frisbees is chock-full with slabs of shrill, severe, austere and stunning instrumental work—including the classic abstract space percussion piece “Ionisation,” which still sounds as fresh and dynamic as it must have in 1931. Better yet is the seminal electro-acoustic work “Poéme Èlectronique” composed for the Philips Radio Corporation’s pavillion at the 1958 World’s Fair in Brussels. “An example of organized sound, ‘Poéme Èlectronique’ was created in close collaboration with the architect Le Corbusier for the exposition. Le Corbusier designed the pavillion in the shape of a three-peaked circus tent externally and (to use his own analogy) in the shape of a cow’s stomach internally. This provided a series of hyperbolic and parabolic curves from which Varèse could project his 480 seconds-long composition. Along these curves, placed with infinite care, were no fewer than 400 loudspeakers through which the ‘Poéme’ swept in continuous arcs of sound. The sound itself was accompanied by a series of projected images—some of them photographs; others montages, paintings and printed or written script. No synchronization between sight and sound was attempted by the two artists; part of the effect achieved was a discordance between aural and visual impressions and part the result of their not infrequent accidental concordance. The audience, some 15 or 16 thousand people daily for six months, evinced reactions almost as kaleidoscopic as the sounds and images they encountered—terror, anger, stunned awe, amusement, wild enthusiasm.

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    Vladimir Ussachevsky – Electronic and Acoustic Works 1957-1972

    July 31st, 2008

    Vladimir Ussachevsky - Electronic and Acoustic Works 1957-1972

    This is a reissue of an old CRI CD that was released back in 1999. It contains electronic tape music, tape music with chorus and chorus alone. The first six tracks, which span 1957-1971, contain short interludes of reverbed, clanging, beeping, shocking, echoing and garbled sound realms of atypical twilight. “Of Wood And Brass” is an especially raucous yet carefully composed pile-up of inhuman sounds. Very nice, indeed. “Three Scenes From The Creation” (1960) is for chorus, mezzo-soprano and electronic tape. It’s really odd to hear straight-ahead classical choral singing accompanied and interrupted by such startling noises—a very unique phenomenon, to say the least. “Missa Brevis” is a work for soprano and chorus alone.

    Label: New World Records Catalog Number: 80654-2 Format: CD Packaging: Jewel case Tracks: 13 Total Time: Unknown Country: United States Released: 2007 Related Artists: Otto Luening More: Discogs, Forced Exposure, Wikipedia

    Vladimir Ussachevsky – Film Music

    July 31st, 2008

    Vladimir Ussachevsky -  Film Music

    Vladimir Ussachevsky was among the earliest tape music composers, who combined the musique concrète style of France with Germany’s pure electronic approach, and took almost immediate advantage of the magnetic tape recorder when it first appeared at the beginning of the 1950s. He also co-founded The Columbia-Princeton Electronic Music Center in 1959. “Suite From No Exit” (1962) is a 14-minute soundtrack for a film of Jean-Paul Sartre’s play No Exit directed by Orson Welles, comprised of six short interludes of appropriate moodiness. Hazy, midnight curtains; violent, echoing clangs and hissing mists coalesce into each other with ease.

    “Line Of Apogee” (1967) is a much lengthier 43-minute soundtrack for an avant-garde film of the same name by Lloyd Williams. It combines environmental, vocal and instrumental sounds into a vast array of billowing curtains. Electronic hissing, menacing winds, distant clanging, somber piano, sirens morphing into operatic singing that is transformed further into insanely cut-up shards and shimmers, classical vocals, electronic echo-knocks, synth beeps, rain, children’s music box, stormy clouds, a lone seal call, a woman’s crazy laughing, mangled webs of electronic sounds, urgent beeping—all soaked with supreme, dark ambience. “The path to light lies through darkness,” intones a somber male voice just before a loud, hissing sound takes over, with wind. Another dim cloud floats into view as a second voice, this time female, intones: “Darkness is difficult, pathfinders are few. You have ended your quest that you may begin anew. You have found yourself that you may be reborn beyond yourself. Come into the light. I am with you. I am waiting.” Some strange tones then sound as the aforementioned male voice reappears one last time: “The answer: only the truth disguised in a dream.”

    Label: New World Records Catalog Number: 80389-2 Format: CD Packaging: Jewel case Tracks: 13 Total Time: 57:16 Country: United States Released: 1990 Related Artists: Otto Luening More: Discogs, Forced Exposure, Wikipedia

    James Tenney – Selected Works 1961-1969

    July 30th, 2008

    James Tenney - Selected Works 1961-1969

    James Tenney was one of the more important yet obscure composers of the second half of the 20th Century. He studied most notably under Carl Ruggles and Edgard Varèse at places like The Juillard School of Music, Bennington College (B.A. 1958) and the University of Illinois (M.A. 1961) It was at U.I. where he attended what were probably the first courses in electronic music anywhere, instructed by Lejaren Hiller. Right after that, Tenney, along with Max Matthews at Bell Telephone Laboratories, was the first composer to significantly employ the computer as a composition aid and sound generator. He was also co-founder and conductor of the Tone Roads Chamber Ensemble in NYC from 1963 to 1970 and performed in the ensembles of Harry Partch, John Cage, Steve Reich and Philip Glass. Tenney is also the author of numerous books and articles on acoustics, perception and form in music. He taught at The Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn, California Institute of the Arts, University of California and York University in Toronto.

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    Karlheinz Stockhausen – Kontakte

    July 29th, 2008

    Karlheinz Stockhausen - Kontakte

    Really alien-spirited, “Kontakte” (1960) is a highly abstract sounding storm of purely screwed, echoing electronic soundscapes—especially suited for long evenings of deep headphone soak. Enhanced by the piano bonk of computer music pioneer James Tenney and the classically trained percussion pound of William Winant, this 1978 recording is one hell of a ride through dark, flying saucer hangar haze. “From the philosophical angle, ‘Kontakte’ illustrates par excellence the powerful continuum which may be created between the durational structure of [sound] events and the timbre of the events themselves. In discussing impulse generation a little earlier, a basic relationship was established between the timing of components in a cyclic pattern and the resultant quality of the sound produced. At sub-audio speeds, the components become events in their own right, the ‘atomic’ structure thus being revealed as a rhythmic force.

    “At about 17 minutes into the piece, a passage occurs in which the interdependence of these two aspects is dramatically demonstrated: both piano and percussion fall silent, heralding the appearance, like an aeroplane falling out of the sky, of a rasping, twisting stream of sound. This strident intruder spirals down until its pitch characteristic becomes transformed into an ever-slowing succession of sharp clicks—the very components of the original sound. Initially, these clicks are very dry, similar to the sound obtained from a woodblock when struck with a hard object. By the gradual addition of reverberation, these clicks then become smoothed and extended, with a growing sense of pitch centred on E below middle C. This pitch is then echoed by the piano and the xylophone—the resultant merging of timbres providing perhaps the most poignant point of contact in the whole work. This process of gradual transformation is not yet finished, however, for as the pulses blur into one another, a fresh stream of sound is heard emerging from the background, echoing the higher resonances of the former like a ringing cluster of finely-filtered noise components. Such a thorough mastery of creative sound synthesis as displayed by ‘Kontakte’ has rarely been approached by other composers.”—Peter Manning

    Label: Ecstatic Peace! Catalog Number: E#87 Format: CD Packaging: Jewel case Tracks: 4 Total Time: Unknown Country: United States Released: 1997 Related Artists: Iannis Xenakis More: Discogs, Forced Exposure, Official, Wikipedia

    Raymond Scott – Soothing Sounds For Baby

    July 29th, 2008

    Raymond Scott - Soothing Sounds For Baby

    Back in the 1930s and ’40s, Raymond Scott was a big band composer, arranger and conductor; composer of “cartoon” jazz (whose tunes like “Powerhouse” and “Dinner Music For a Pack Of Hungry Cannibals” supplied the backdrop for many a Warner Brothers cartoon); chamber jazz musician and commercial jingle writer. By the ’50s, he began experimenting with electronics on the side, and invented instruments like the Clavivox, which was a kind of keyboard Theremin, and the massive Electronium, an “instantaneous composition-performance machine.” In 1963, three volumes of his electronic compositions, made with the Ondioline and perhaps a proto-Electronium, called Soothing Sounds For Baby appeared on Epic Records. With its “maddeningly” repetitive rhythms, simple child-like melodies and generous amounts of distant echo and reverb, these tracks unintentionally invented electronic minimalism and ambient music years before Brian Eno or Kraftwerk.

    Some highlights on this very necessary reissue series of three CDs include “Lullaby” with the incessant “ca tink-tink, ca-tink-tink” drinking glass / music box rhythm layered with keyboard melodies plus improv washes floated over the top; the tick-tocking “Tic Toc,” which sounds exactly like an electronic version of it’s title; and “The Toy Typewriter,” which is a very tranced-out 17 minute track full of constant EQ tone-shifting, skittering, electronic minimalism. The achingly pleasant haze of “Little Miss Echo” drifts about very nicely, sounding a lot like mid ’70s ambience—at the beginning of the ’60s. That this music was a direct ancestor to Brian Eno, Kraftwerk, Aphex Twin, Stereolab, etc. doesn’t even start to tell the story. The Raymond Scott legend and the Soothing Sounds For Baby albums are another very unlikely and strange chapter in the fascinating history of electronic music. The booklets feature detailed liner notes and historical archive photos. These albums were also recently reissued on limited-edition vinyl in a 3-LP set with original cover art. “I couldn’t believe they would play this spooky stuff for babies.”—Chris Athens, SONY digital transfer engineer.

    Label: Basta Catalog Number: Volume 1 (1-6 Months) 30-9064-2, Volume 2 (6-12 Months) 30-9065-2, Volume 3 (12-18 Months) 30-9066-2 Format: CD Packaging: Jewel case Tracks: Volume 1: 5, Volume 2: 3, Volume 3: 3 Total Time: Volume 1: 38:29, Volume 2: 31:44, Volume 3: 31:43 Country: Holland Released: 1997 Related Artists: Louis and Bebe Barron, Attilio Mineo More Discogs, Official, Wikipedia

    Pierre Schaeffer – L’Oeuvre Musicale

    July 29th, 2008

    Pierre Schaeffer - L'Oeuvre Musicale

    Any article on electronic music would be woefully incomplete if Pierre Schaeffer were omitted. He invented a new form of music in 1948 called musique concrete, which involved mixing together sound effects records via multiple turntables through a disc lathe–just before the tape recorder appeared–into abrupt collages of real-world noises. This 4-CD set is a comprehensive overview of his work from 1948 through the ’50s. Volume 1 “Les Incunables” contains the very beginning experiments from 1948-1950. The charming, crudely-recorded, archival crackle of “Cinq Etudes De Bruits” (1948) is comprised of trains, industrial knocking, whistles, repetitious sound “loops”, cut-up sounds, somber echoes, twirling lids and cans, diced vocal samples—years before these features would appear elsewhere. “Diapason Concertino” (1948) is a foray into piano music with strange, quiet rumbles and static. “Variations Sur Une Flut Mexicaine” (1949) is a brief work for Mexican flute; strange, twittering, dripping sounds; echo-knocks, plus frantic and mysterious tapping. “Suite Pour 14 Instruments” (1949) is a lenghty 25-minute piece full of damaged instrumental music with a small bit of concrète garble bandied about later on. “L’Oiseau RAI” (1950) closes the disc with odd-sounding bird calls and subtle, quiet tapping.

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