Off the Spine

Dwight Loop, e/i magazine, no. 1, March 31, 2003

Learning from a master, Jonty Harrison (University of Birmingham, UK), Barrett’s developed a distinctive voice on Isostasie. While at Birmingham, she was greatly influenced worked under the auspices of BEAST (Birmingham ElectroAcoustic Sound Theatre). Collaborating with those visual/theatrical artists further led to a doctoral degree in composition; now residing in Oslo and active in NICEM (Norwegian International Confederation for Electroacoustic Music), Barrett’s music on her hrst release for empreintes DIGITALes is a deep reflection of her intense interest in tape-splicing experiments. An integral element of tape composition, pre- and post-computer era, has been the use of mathematical equations in determining sound characteristics and, on Three Fictions (Northern Mix), Barrett utilizes loose algorithmic structures refracting sight, sound, and sensation. Section one is based on a statistical simulation of rain falling onto a two-dimensional surface; in the third section, locations of events are calculated by using a numerical system, in this instance, sound materials placed by hand, which have a lighter and more deliberate character. The result of this statistical realization? Randomness, in some ‘harmonious’ fashion, alluding to the idea the sounds were intentionally composed. Such a Cage-ean approach serves her well; however, an even better result is achieved when Barrett lets her senses take over, as in the remarkable Red Snow, composed after her relocation to Norway and a definitive representation of an awareness of the surrounding environment: swirling snowflakes at the mercy of wind, labyrinthine ice crystal patterns, stark moonlit landscapes. Imaginative, evocative music abounds as well on Viva la Selva!, inspired by the antithesis to Norway’s icy landscape: the forests and jungles of the world. Here, location recordings are transformed into abstract (mis)representations of the insect, bird, and animal kingdoms, electronic manipulations evoking the beauty of the natural world around us.

Imaginative, evocative music…

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