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    David Behrman – My Dear Siegfried

    David Behrman - My Dear Siegfried

    David Behrman is perhaps best-known in music circles for talking Columbia Records into releasing a series of experimental electronic and avant-garde classical records on a subsidiary label called Odyssey back in the late 1960s. (When else could that have happened?) Called Music of Our Time, it has lured many a curious listener into some of that decade’s most adventurous sounds by the likes of John Cage, David Tudor, Morton Feldman, Richard Maxfield, Steve Reich and Pauline Oliveros. So, if you’re flipping through a crate and come across a copy, definitely throw it on your pile. In addition to curating, David took part in the legendary ONCE Festival in the early ’60s, and toured as a member of the Sonic Arts Union and the Merce Cunningham Dance Company over the next 10 years. He has spent subsequent decades as a music professor, as well as producing multi-media installations and concerts in which music software interacts with live performers.

    A fine example of the latter, My Dear Siegfried, recorded in 2003, is a collection of Robert Ashley-inspired pieces for spoken word and music, which is quite a departure from the composer’s usual all-instrumental / electronic pieces. It’s based upon a statement against the continuation of World War 1 penned by English war hero and anti-war poet Siegfried Sassoon in July 1917, and a series of letters and stories exchanged between The New York Times writer S.N. Behrman and Siegfried—who met during an interview for the Times and formed a long friendship–in 1939 on the eve of World War II. On the first track, “Statement Against the War,” a thick baritone imbued with a robotic, aluminum-coated effect is shadowed by dark electronic washes, as shards of untethered bass, shakuhachi, muted trombone and skittering electronics provide the listener with an unsettling, challenging listen.

    “My Father’s Grocery Store” offers up a similar approach accompanied by an unaffected version of the aforementioned instruments. “Watercress Well” starts out with more spoken word, then segues into an incredibly mellow pastoral scene mottled with David’s trademark smooth, bubbling, stuttering electronics. “Letter From S.N. Behrman, August 22, 1939” adds a female narrator mirrored by the original aluminum voice from track one in the background, followed by “Letter From Siegfried Sassoon, September 1, 1939,” which again adds track one’s voice with strange skittering and droning accompaniment. “Everyone Sang” concludes My Dear Siegfried with, as its title implies, group singing backed by instruments and electronics.

    Disc two is filled to the outer edge with the kind of minimal electronic music, produced from 1969 to 2002, that David Behrman is well-known for. “QSLR” presents a slice of woozy, hovering instrumental billows played on various instruments accompanied a computer’s response. “Viewfinder” presents a full 19 minutes of shrill drones that oscillate between high and low pitches that are realized by a video camera equipped with a motion sensor in a gallery space. “A New Team Takes Over” stitches together cut-up vintage Richard Nixon press conferences to build a hectic sound collage. “Touch Tones” presents more human / computer interaction via an array of oscillating electronic drones interrupted by a drill, sandpaper and a shaking bag rattling in a room. “Pools of Phase Locked Loops” ends the whole shebang in a most pleasing manner with layers of dark, minimal drones. In sum, the two discs of My Dear Siegfried offer up two separate, compelling approaches to electronic music—with and without vocals—for a complete collection that explores the new and old music-making methods of David Behrman.

    Label: XI Records Catalog Number: XI 129 Format: 2-CD Packaging: Jewel case Tracks: Disc 1: 6, Disc 2: 5 Total Time: Disc 1: 59:38, Disc 2: 56:20 Country: United States Released: 2005 More: Discogs, Forced Exposure, Last FM, Lovely, Perfect Sound Forever, WFMU

    Text ©2009 Arcane Candy

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