- Thomas Licata, Robert Erickson, Jerry Tabor, Mark Edwards Wilson, Elizabeth Hoffman, Otto Laske, Thanassis Rikakis, Thomas DeLio: Electro Acoustic Music VII
Neuma recently released Electro Acoustic Music VII, adding to its extraordinary series of recordings of electronic music. This compact disc features analog and computer-generated works for tape alone by eight composers: Thomas Licata, Robert Erickson, Jerry Tabor, Mark Wilson, Elizabeth Hoffman, Otto Laske, Thanassis Rikakis, and Thomas DeLio. Most of these pieces were created within the last six years, though two date from the early 1980s and one from 1966. One of the strengths of Neuma's Electro Acoustic Music series is the variety of aesthetic approaches found in each [End Page 102] installment, continually emphasizing the diversity and liveliness present in the electroacoustic medium today. Neuma's most recent release is not an exception to this trend, containing works that represent a wide array of techniques and styles.
Producer Thomas Licata's another . . . turning (2005), the first work on the disc, is a truly exciting piece that presents a multilayered, internally mobile sound event that is continually transformed and recontextualized. Commenting on this process, Mr. Licata writes: "[s]et against shifting sonic backdrops, these modifications obscure and distort the distinction between whether new and separate sound events are formed and whether they have been simply refashioned, thereby rendering their intrinsic qualities unclear and rather fluid as they progress throughout the piece." The result might be described as a nonlinear developing variation where one is continually presented with new perspectives on core material, and, as a result of the processes employed in its composition, one is forced to continually revise one's conception of what the essential nature of that material is.
This basic premise is also evident in another work on the disc: Jerry Tabor's lemon; birch (2002). About lemon; birch, the composer notes: "a high amount of connectivity, interaction, substitution, and extraction in apparently disparate sonic components. The composition explores the relationships between well-defined, redefined images and their often ragged reflections." Initially, the listener finds timbrally related, highly pitched sounds presented in two primary ways: as discrete sustained frequencies, and micro-components of mobile granulated events. As the piece unfolds, the sonic palate widens to include noisier sounds and even a sampled piano that seems to emerge organically from the electronic sounds. The work ends with a merging of most of the aforementioned characteristics; sustained sounds are rendered somewhat noisy so that the timbre itself hints at the internal mobility of previous, more complex events.
Robert Erickson, an innovative and influential composer whose music is surely familiar to many readers of Computer Music Journal, composed Roddy (1966) using sounds "produced by striking, rubbing, and bowing various objects with rods." In this early analog example of musique concrète, Mr. Erickson creates continually varied timbres and textures through the opposition of two types of sounds: continuous, higher frequency sounds with minimal attack, and lower frequency, more rhythmically articulated material. These oppositions are reconciled in the final moments of the work where they are superimposed and each type of sound subtly adopts some gestural aspects (rhythm, envelope, and so forth) of the other.
Mark Wilson's Windows (1982– 1983), a somewhat later example of analog composition, was originally conceived for four-channel tape and synchronized images. Commenting on the relationship between the visual and sonic aspects of the composition, the composer writes:
As the title suggests, the original version uses images of stained glass windows. The visual scenario presents a journey from the abstract . . . . to more recognizable and representational forms. The music takes an analogous path: throughout the course of the work the pitch structures become increasingly more specific, more recognizable, and more stable, eventually fixing about very complex textures of static, harmonic blocks of sound.
Indeed, the larger sweeping gestures that...