“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.