- The Marilyn Series
Amnon Wolman (b. 1955) is a composer and sound artist who is currently a professor of composition at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York (CUNY) and Brooklyn College, and directs the Center for Computer Music at the latter institution. Regarding Mr. Wolman's more general compositional concerns, his CUNY Graduate Center Web site biography states that his work is "grounded in an essential interest in experimentation and a belief that music as an art form expresses many dissimilar ideas of beauty. His interest in technology and in issues of time guided him, in recent years, towards electroacoustic pieces that are based on their own original audio materials and towards gallery sound installations that place an evolving sound with complementary visuals, in a small space where the listener decides on the length of the interaction. In his performance pieces he emphasizes the interaction between live performers, the technology, and the composer as collaboration with equal partners."
The recording under consideration features three works from Mr. Wolman's Marilyn Series: Reflections on Pedestals (1989), The Many Faces of Marilyn, V.2 (1991), and Marilyns93/inCage (1993). This series, composed between 1986 and 1996 for computer-processed tape and live performers, contains two other works, M and PU-Marilyns96/LP, as well as an earlier version of The Many Faces of Marilyn. Commenting on the series in his liner notes, the composer writes: "The Marilyn Series of pieces did not start as such. Originally, sometime in the early eighties, I thought it would be a great idea to use excerpts from Marilyn Monroe's voice and manipulate those as part of a piece. . . . I had some sounds in mind: the sounds Marilyn makes in the song "I Wanna be Loved by You" from the movie Some Like it Hot. To a gay man, the movie [was] . . . loaded with energy symbolizing the gay world. . . . Composing within a clear context has always been of interest to me, but this was the first time I actively put it to work. Knowing that when I say the words 'Marilyn Monroe' whole worlds of associations and expectations are presented to the audience in which the piece of music will now operate."
Reflections on Pedestals, the second work of this series, was composed for orchestra and computer-generated sound in 1989 at the MacDowell Colony in New Hampshire, although it was not premiered until 2001 by the Northwestern University Symphony Orchestra with conductor Victor Yampolsky. These performers are featured on this recording and perform commendably well, interacting and integrating with the electroacoustic sound with great sensitivity. Commenting on this work, the composer writes, "I looked at the score for M [the first work in the Marilyn Series] and decided to create a new piece, using some of the previous orchestral ideas and a similar tape part. . . . New elements were incorporated into these older ones, an important one is an angry gesture full of modulated screaming clusters of brass sounds. Another is an attempt to deconstruct not only Marilyn's voice but also Debussy's Fête from the Nocturnes, which I love." The commingling and juxtaposition of these elements—manipulated excerpts of Monroe's voice, Debussy-derived material, and more abstract motivic gestures such as the aforementioned brass clusters—create many striking moments throughout the work. The piece begins and ends with a focus on Monroe's voice, with the orchestra gradually rising to prominence during roughly the first half of the work and maintaining that position for much of its remaining duration. The electroacoustic portion of Reflections on Pedestals largely focuses
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on a few related samples of Monroe's voice such that the disappearance and reemergence of these sounds creates a thread of continuity heard throughout that parallels the coming and going of Debussy-related moments in an interesting manner. One of the work's highlights occurs near the end of minute 17 when...