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Reviewed by:
  • DR.OX
  • Patricia L. Dirks
Natasha Barrett/Tanja Orning: DR.OX Compact disc, 2008, c74-013; Cycling '74, 730 Clementina Street, San Francisco, California 94103, USA; telephone (+1) 415-974-1818; fax (+1) 415-974-1812; electronic mail; Web

DR.OX has something for every listener's musical tastes on this self-titled compact disc by duo Natasha Barrett (computer) and Tanya Orning (cello). Ms. Orning and Ms. Barrett established DR.OX in 2005 as indicated by the liner notes, as "an electroacoustic improvisation duo fusing the immediacy of real-time performance with the sonic and structural intensity of the compositional process." Together they use real-time sampling of acoustic cello sounds combined with live computer processing based on a "hierarchy of compositional building blocks" to create real-time electroacoustic performance art. This compact disc was recorded at Norwegian Network for Technology, Acoustics andMusic (NoTAM) inDecember 2006. DR.OX effectively captures the seamless nature of this duo's compositions and is supported by the Fund for Performing Artists and NoTAM.

Toothrin (3:27) is the opening track of this first compact disc of DR.OX. In this composition, Ms. Orning uses her cello as a performer, improviser, composer, and interpreter. Ms. Barrett records short loops of acoustic string sounds and uses them to create driving rhythms. The sounds are then stretched like an elastic to create a range of very low tones to short pizzicato bursts of electronic sounds. Myelin (2:26) again features processed string sounds and recordings which are later manipulated and played back. While this is occurring the cello continues to complement the "live" electronic sounds with high-pitched glissandi. Polycomb (2:31) uses quick and shorter blips of sound to produce a unique composition featuring the talents of both women and their achievement of creating high quality sounds.

Anchor synthesis (8:10) is the first lengthy composition to appear on this album. Rhythmic repetition from the cello is juxtaposed with processed electronic sounds creating an electroacoustic work of suspense and wonder. A siren-like pattern of high and low pitches comes to a climax then abruptly stops only to begin again, momentarily breaking into a short melodic pizzicato phrase.

Ms. Orning is no stranger to the world of electronic music, evident from her solo album Cellotronics (2005), where she used a synthesizer and a computer as her accompanists. In the duo DR.OX, Ms. Orning can be heard playing exaggerated vibrato on only one note in Zinc Finger (3:18). This produces a composition interspersed with electronic sounds that move quickly from one spatial focus to the next.

In Motif of Myo1p (6:01), a repeating, disjointed motif reoccurs throughout the piece at various intervals. The synthesized sounds here resemble jungle life such as croaking frogs, buzzing, and fluttering sounds, which take the listener on a sonic adventure. After the adventure is completed the listener then enters into a realm of calm and relaxation with the track GFP-fusion (5:15). This work uses high-pitch droplets of murmuring water sounds over long sustaining drones. Both sonic elements gradually evolve over time rhythmically and sonically, producing a very tranquil atmosphere.

The longest composition on this disc is Axial Budding (10:29). Here, the listener is emerged into a whirlwind of active cello playing and electronic sounds, descending slides and evolving transformations over the course of the composition. Beta Receptor (3:21) breaks into an explosion of sounds that could resemble that of a car or motor trying to start without success, creating an accelerating activity of sound for the listener. Axial Landmark (3:26) is also an explorative composition that plays with the idea of stretching sounds. Ms. Barrett transforms Ms. Orning's cello sounds like an elastic band, growing and changing in quality and pitch. This process continues until the music begins slipping into a deep and foreboding soundworld.

The last three compositions on this recording I found to be the most interesting. Meiotic Recombination (3:31) uses vocal-like sounds, which ebb and flow in and out of the foreground. This creates a pulse-like effect that onemay find very soothing. This shorter composition...


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