Sonic Circuits XI: The Art of the Virtual Rhythmicon
… a colourful and entertaining selection of pieces… — Paris Transatlantic, France
The Rhythmicon was a musical keyboard instrument built in 1931 by Leon Theremin at the request of composer / theorist Henry Cowell. Each key of the Rhythmicon played a repeated tone, proportional in pitch and rhythm to the overtone series (the second key played twice as high and twice as fast as the first key. The third key played three times higher and repeated three times faster then the first key, etc.).
The Virtual Rhythmicon was commissioned in 2003 by American Public Media for its Peabody-award-winning web and radio series American Mavericks. The online version — http://musicmavericks.publicradio.org/rhythmicon/ — extends the functionality of Cowell’s design and uses digital technology rather than rotating optical discs.
For this Innova Recordings disc the Sonic Circuits festival commissioned several composers to make works in which the instrument features prominently. These works are complemented by two others chosen for the Festival’s final year of presentations.
CD (INNOVA 120)
Not in catalogue
This item is not available through our website. We have catalogued it for information purposes only. You might find more details about this item on the Innova Recordings website.
- 5Matthew Burtner: Spectral for 0, 4:42fixed medium
- 6Matthew Burtner: Spectral for 60, 4:27fixed medium
- 8Mark A Eden: Cremation Science, 5:33
- 9Robert Normandeau: Chorus (2002), 14:00fixed medium
- 9Ouverture [Overture] + Judaïsme [Judaism] + Christianisme [Christianity] + Islam + Confrontation [War] + Douleur [Pain] + Paix [Peace], 14:00
- Label: Innova Recordings
- INNOVA 120
- UCC 726708612023
- Total duration: 65:08
On the web
In the press
“The Rhythmicon was a keyboard instrument built in 1931 by Leon Theremin at the request of composer / theorist Henry Cowell. Each key played a repeated tone, proportional in pitch and rhythm to the overtone series (the second key played twice as high and twice as fast as the first key etc.). The Virtual Rhythmicon was commissioned in 2003 by American Public Media. The online version extends the functionality of Cowell’s design and uses digital technology rather than rotating optical discs.” It was Nick “Doctor Nerve” Didkovsky who in fact handled the programming, but he’s not one of the artists featured here: Janek Schaefer, Annie Gosfield, Innova head honcho Philip Blackburn, Jeff Feddersen, Matthew Burtner, Viv Corringham, Mark Eden and Robert Normandeau.
Schaefer reroutes the Rhythmicon through FX pedals to generate a dreamy Ambient haze (despite its title All Bombing is Terrorism), and Gosfield contributes the distinctly metallic A Sideways Glance from an Electric Eye, while Blackburn’s Henry and Mimi at the Y reworks Cowell’s 1925 The Banshee into an eerie spectral etude, exposing the inner workings of the Rhythmicon as thoroughly as Cowell did with his old piano. There’s little information provided on how sound artist and eco-technology pioneer Feddersen created This Time I Want Them All, but his website (http://www.fddrsn.net/) is worth a visit; meanwhile Matthew Burtner provides copious notes explaining the mathematical ratios he uses in his two pristine “machine lullabies” Spectral for 0 and Spectral for 60. Viv Corringham’s Eggcup, Teapot, Rhythmicon uses everyday objects (including, presumably, eggcups and teapots) as vocal resonators, Mark Eden’s Cremation Science is a snappy Pop Art collage complete with science lecture and samples of, amongst other things, West Side Story, and proceedings end with a serious plea for religious tolerance in the form of Normandeau’s Chorus, dedicated to the victims of September 11th 2001. It’s a colourful and entertaining selection of pieces in keeping with the eclecticism associated with Innova’s earlier Sonic Circuits compilations.