- Electroshock: Electroacoustic Volumes III-VI
Compiled by Artemy Artemiev, these volumes are part of an eclectic collection of electroacoustic pieces from many different lands. The discs that have arrived at my desk—Volumes III to VI only—left me bewildered because of the lack of information accompanying them. No booklet or liner notes accompany these volumes; hence, there is no information on the composers, the studios, or the compositions. Another less than professional aspect of the production is the fact that three out of these four volumes were "homemade" CD-ROMs instead of professionally mastered and reproduced as one would normally expect. [Editor's Note: Some of the review copies were sent to Computer Music Journal in CD-ROM form for practical reasons. The CDs are otherwise produced and available commercially.]
In Volume III, with releases from 1997 to 1999, the pieces by Richard Bone and John Palmer are very weak. Mr. Bone presents easy-listening electronic music, while Mr Palmer's music is based on recorded string sounds, and, as such, is not far from an acoustic piece or a piece for violin and tape. Martin Alejandro Fumarola's Shaguir from 1998 at least has an intriguing title (even if no explanation is given). The music is well recorded but does not show great dexterity in the manipulation of the sounds in either the timbral or musical domains. If the music is meant to reflect the Argentinean origin of the composer, well . . . it does not happen. Peter Stollery's Onset/Offset starts on a more promising note, with concrète-type sounds carefully treated and measured, integrating themselves within well-sculpted phrases. The remaining pieces are of the New Age type with the exception of Alejandro Iglesias Rossi's Angelus, which is a good piece if perhaps a bit long at 16 minutes. The subjacent religious ritual does not interfere with the enjoyment of this piece, particularly the high voices at the start which are mysterious, preparing the listener for the dramatic slashes of sound that follow, full of foreboding and eeriness.
Volume IV is dedicated to works realized with the ANS Synthesizer. According to the scanty notes, Russian scientist Evgeny Murzin apparently spent 20 years (1937–1957) developing this apparatus for music creation, recording, and performance. This album is of true historical value, taking compositions from archival tapes of the ANS Synthesizer between 1964 and 1971. Some important names are included on the CD. In Sofia Gubaidulina's Vivente Non Vivente [Alive-not Alive], waves seem to be ebbing in and out, an upper pedal is created with pre-recorded percussion (or is it sampled with the ANS?). Ms. Gubaidulina's treatment of the harmonics and timbres of her sounds is excellent, including intelligent filtering. Edward Artemiev is the composer of Mosaic and 12 looks at the world of sound. Mr. Artemiev uses the ANS to produce rapid arpeggiatto sequences—commonplace, but with good spatial distribution in the stereo field. Tape feedback is used frequently, perhaps being a built-in characteristic of the [End Page 100] synthesizer. In his second piece, the composer makes good use of slowly evolving envelopes, at times interacting against pointed, shorter sounds. The music is nice and enticing.
Edison Denisov is represented by Birds' Singing, a bit of a documentary but with very appealing bird songs, bringing the solo lines up to the cacophony of the jungle, with touches of human voices. The Alfred Schnittke item is a bit disappointing. Steam is just . . . steam. It makes you feel you are inside a huge boiler tank. Nevertheless, some delicate and very careful work was done with multiple layering, filtering, and modulation.
The next two tracks are by Alexander Nemtin. Tears is weak and inconsistent, but it is certainly a notch higher than his J. S. Bach Chorale Prelude C-Dur. In this one, Mr. Nemtin has produced what sounds merely like an electric organ rendering of Bach...