Grant Chu Covell, La Folia, April 1, 2001

Presence II is a 2-CD anthology of 34 works from 32 composers from 11 countries. The diversity is overwhelming and it’s hard to single out individual works. They’re all arranged alphabetically.

Where to start? Bradley’s “volalle melodie vi to trot” / “fowl melody to trot” is very, very disturbing: under or over a text that seems to be foreign language instruction we hear parents of young children at their wits end. Fitzell’s Zipper Music II (an earlier version is on DISContact! II below) is a nifty exploration of the sounds a zipper can make. McIntosh’s Climb to Camp One is built from the sounds of climbing equipment being used inside an amplified piano but it doesn’t recall ostensibly similar works by Cowell or Cage. I’m partial to the 3 short works by Joachim (the oldest works in the set) which explore the filtering of computer generated sounds. Solursh’s We extracts some neat noises out of water, while Teller’s H a e i o u y æ ø å pt. 2 (ex.) gets mileage from laughter. Of course I like the seemingly random collage effects of Trudel’s Ce n’est pas ici and am wonderfully at a loss to explain what the crowd noise, fire, marching band and nature noises are all about. There are many works here, and this is an easy anthology to pop in the CD player and savour.

Stepping back to 1997, Presence is a 2CD anthology of 23 composers. Some of the many good pieces that jump out are Tape Measure in which Steve Bradley has played a Verdi LP with a sewing machine needle attached to a tape measure. No, you can’t hear the Verdi, but it’s with childlike fascination that you will hear some micro-level gurgling and rumbling. James Harley contributes a long work, Voyage, a grand arc of sound, intricate and spacious. Monique Jean’s If finds an essay in a simple spoken phrase, and in Squeaky Chair Christopher K Koenigsberg finds a symphony in, yes, a squeaky chair. Jean Routhier’s Face à claques is a deviant piece of assemblage, something to do with things overheard we shouldn’t be privy to.

Also still available is DISContact! II from 1995 that offers 51 short works on 2 CDs. The CEC makes somewhat limited quantities of their productions and this one was reissued in 1997. This is an enriching anthology filled with works created by members of the CEC. The brief works pack in variety and contrast, as well as varieties of technique and sound worlds. Spoken political pieces, song settings, inscrutable noise works, musique concrète and collage are well represented and thriving in the hands of these composers.

Looking forward, the CEC has put out the call for inclusion in Presence III, so watch this space!