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    Arne Nordheim – Electric

    Arne Nordheim - Electric

    A really beautiful and austere double-foldout digi-pak–emblazoned with large, crudely xeroxed dots on an orange background with tastefully small typesetting–contains some of the best electro-acoustic works from the late ’60s and early ’70s, originally released on vinyl in 1974. Physically and sonically, this almost seems like a companion volume to the Edgardo Canton and Vittorio Gelmetti CDs on Nepless. Collect all three!

    “‘Solitaire’ (1968) is the name of the most austere diamond setting in which all of the stone’s sides are open and refract light. However, ‘Solitaire’ may also be transcribed as ‘alone,’ and this beautiful and glittering timbre landscape may also stir feelings of something both alien and alienated. A ‘virtual’ space in which we experience the human voice as it pierces this rushing soundscape, with the effect being one of nakedness and loneliness in an all-encompassing whole. The piece’s shimmering and crystalline sound is largely developed from recordings of poetry readings.” A solemn drone with icy reverberations fades in quietly—gradually amplifying to a loud climax—then floats back out slowly to way deep space-pulses. Cash register-like crashing glass, mangled tape-cuts and twittering ice splices thunder into view, very much like a sped-up “Concret P-H.” The piece continues with heavy thunder, ambient tones, reverbed voices, machine gun echoes and shrill, bell-like sounds. A period of silence follows, then comes a reprise of the original opening gush, along with some sparse tinks, echo-spliced ice and an “organ” fade out.

    “Pace” (1970) opens up with some François Bayle-like whipping, crashing and unfurling electronics that mellow into an empty yet erratic pulse zone. The piece drones on with distant ice sheets, piping electronics and space melodies, ending in an abrupt stop. A really quiet and distant ambient sound slowly builds up to a fluttering climax. “The use of human voice and texts laden with meaning are important on a more symbolic level in this work. The text is taken from The Declaration of Human Rights and is read by three different voices: a man, a woman and a child. The words are not recognizable in themselves but become part of the raw material used in the final result. The sound is characterized by the movement of bell spectra and exotic metallic percussion timbres, chiming and calling as a kind of Morse code from person to person, communicating behind the words.”

    “‘Warszawa’ (1970) may be considered as a musical diary from Warsaw. Inspiration is drawn from various collected sounds that were accumulated during a work process that the composer himself has called ‘notations on tape.’ This is complimented by sound material discovered in the radio station archives and the recording of a Polish children’s song. More than the mere documentation of studio work and musical development, the piece also acquires—as do most diaries—a feeling of the times and surroundings in which they were written.” Massive, descending slabs of sound with corroded voices and static open the piece and rudely invade your life, followed by silence and a quiet drone that gradually rises. The distant opening theme repeats, this time overshadowed by static noise and string-like sustain. The string section appears again, along with rollercoaster-like echoes; twinkling, crackling sounds; recognizable strings and a simple horn blast. A moment of silence follows, then a far-off cloud with children singing. The piece ends with popping echoes and a “synth” fade with cold ice stabs.

    “‘Colorazione’ (1968) moves the composer’s work with electronic means outside the studio to become part of a live musical performance. Ensemble, percussion and Hammond organ create electronic timbre changes that edge toward the metallic. It is not only timbre that changes, as time itself is put to the test in this work. Following a delay of 15 seconds, a recording of the ensemble’s sounds is played back to the ensemble in an altered state. This interchange is recaptured and processed further. The accumulated past is sounded the entire time, influencing each musical moment. This may be experienced as the composer’s attempt to capture and stop time, in an effort to move within timbre itself. Attempts to break with a normal perception of time through such ‘musical time machines’ are an important part of Nordheim’s sense of musical form.” This is a 19-minute epic full of echoing “melodies” with electronic twittering, sub-bass rumbles, flying saucers, distant voices, “organ”-like sounds, static, silence, synth-stab echoes, crashes, shimmers, typewriters, electronic explosions, honks, crowd noises, morse code-like beeping, choir vocals, a motorcycle starting up, electronic washes, water, distant piano music, children’s voices, coughs, electronic burps, babies crying, orchestral music, mellow tornadoes, machine gun fire, chattering electronics, accordion snippets, etc.

    “Polypoly” (1970) was composed for the Scandinavian Pavilion at the 1970 Osaka World’s Fair and consists of “six tape loops, each of different length and containing both electronic and concrète musical material. The uneven lengths of tape ensure that the sounds occur in continually new constellations each time one of the tapes ends and begins again, and it would take 102 years for the piece to return to its original starting point. The play between these various sounds in all possible juxtapositions prompts smiles as well as sorrow, light as well as dark. This version is thus but a small segment of the complex sound universe that filled the Pavillion for more than six months. Constantly present and continually changing, this is a work that exceeds the listener’s possibility to experience the whole, and—in its ponderous way—expresses the notion of the work of art as something greater and more complex than humankind’s ‘here and now.’” This piece fades in and out of shy meditations and is periodically ruptured by rude explosions that try hard to ruin your day. Along the way, we encounter really nice cymbal washes; very quiet, high-pitched tones; tinkling, bell-like sounds; percussion and cymbal reverberations; tingling shimmers; xylophone-like notes; and plenty of distant synth-wash clouds.

    Label: Rune Grammofon Catalog Number: RCD 2002 Format: CD Packaging: Digi-Pak Tracks: 5 Total Time: 73:25 Country: Norway Released: 1998 Related Artists: Edgardo Canton, Vittorio Gelmetti More Official, Spider Bytes, Wikipedia

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