Review

James Jackson Toth, Grooves, May 1, 2003

Electroacoustic composer Michel Chion follows up his excellent double CD of recordings based on the texts of novelist Gustave Flaubert with a single piece that manages to sidestep musique concrète clichés. Dix-sept minutes begins with the sound of muted toy lasers and engine-revving sounds before detouring into a jumble of found audio and traditional instruments. Everything is sharply spliced and edited, making for sounds that don’t so much clash as they do coalesce. Faint murmuring, turnstile sounds, and the yip of a mechanical dog vie for attention until traditional instruments—cymbals, flutes, harps, clarinet, deep bells, piano, and faint operatic vocals— become audible. The sounds like a person approaching an instrument, beginning a piece of music, and then abruptly deciding not to play after all—imagine Anton Webern on an extremely indecisive day. Eventually, heavily processed field recordings of children, dogs, and water emerge, curtailing the intermittency, and forming oddly emotive textures.

If you combined the entire recorded works of Bernhard Gunter with Sukora’s excellent TowerCD and compressed it all into one 15-minute helping, this is what it would sound like. The shorter playing time is ideal for academic music newbies, but just as highly recommended to deep listeners everywhere.

… sharply spliced and edited…

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