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Reviewed by:
  • Music from SEAMUS, Volume 17
  • Ross Feller
Various: Music from SEAMUS, Volume 17. Compact disc, EAM-2008, 2008; available from SEAMUS, 2550 Beverly Boulevard, Los Angeles, California 90057, USA; Web

The Society for Electro-Acoustic Music in the United States (SEAMUS) is a non-profit organization of composers, performers, and teachers of electroacoustic music founded in 1984. Music from SEAMUS, Volume 17, continues the tradition of placing the most popular compositions from the annual SEAMUS national conference onto a CD distributed free to all its members. Scott Wyatt, Professor of Composition at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a past president of SEAMUS (1989–1996), directs the project, and also does the fine remastering. Almost all of the compositions on this disc are scored for live instruments (from one to four) with electroacoustic accompaniment. The combination of acoustic and electroacoustic sounds runs the gamut from blended to confrontational assemblages, representing well the current diversity of styles and approaches.

Daniel Weymouth's Unexpected Things for violin, piano, and electroacoustic accompaniment employs a variety of unpredictable and aggressive materials to good effect. The instrumental and electroacoustic parts are equally engaging, idiomatic, and virtuosic. The piece begins with the violin and piano attacking a unison pitch using a variety of articulations and rhythms. A violent piano cluster enters, processed to forcefully reshape the piano's resonant decay. This ushers in a short section devoted to a sequence of asymmetrical repetitive patterns reminiscent of those found in Franco Donatoni's work. Chromatic pitch collections are briefly interrupted with cleverly constructed unison alliances. The first two minutes of this twelve-minute piece serve as a kind of introduction in which the basic compositional ideas are brought into play. The remainder of the piece develops the ideas from the introduction within a lengthy, sectionalized formal structure that is positively kaleidoscopic. At times the textural density builds to include multiple, simultaneously unfolding layers of material. Around the two-thirds mark we hear the climax of the piece, a dense, labyrinth of squealing and wailing above a slowly rising glissando. Following this is a 2.25-minute decay that features the minor third in the first harmonically stable section of the piece. The integration of the electroacoustic part is mostly seamless in Unexpected Things. Worth noting is the use of amplitude envelopes that seem to open or close too quickly, especially when used in reverse. This effect palpably and effectively foregrounds the artificial nature of the electroacoustic part.

According to the liner notes, David Taddie's Tracer for piano with electroacoustic accompaniment "makes extensive use of digitally processed samples as well as purely synthesized sounds to provide expanded resonance of the harmonic fields implied by the piano's lines and to expand the piano's apparent acoustical sound space. At times, the roles are reversed as the piano supplies harmonic and/or gestural intensification of the electronics." Mr. Taddie successfully integrates his acoustic and electroacoustic materials with a high degree of rhythmic and timbral precision. The piano part employs an intriguing atonal pitch collection, fluidly performed and subtly [End Page 78] inflected by pianistMark George. The electroacoustic part utilizes a variety of sound sources and techniques, from MIDI-sounding percussion and string patches to comb-filtered grain sounds that groove. Tracer is commendable for its eclecticism and expertly crafted sonic palette. The one disappointing thing about this piece is that it fades out prematurely just as its materials seem to suggest continuation.

Kyong Mee Choi, the composer of It only needs to be seen for acoustic guitar with electroacoustic accompaniment wants her audience to experience "the moment through the stream of sound that does not need any explanation but only needs to be heard." The title for her piece comes from the international bestselling author and Zen priest Steve Hagen: "Truth does not need any explanation. It only needs to be seen." You may be allergic to preachy, absolute, or simplistic notions about truth, but don't let that spoil your experience of Ms. Choi's exquisite piece. After a reverb-laden, atmospheric beginning, pointing to the use of convolution, the acoustic guitar enters with a melodic series of inverted U-shaped...


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pp. 78-80
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