Review

Hal London, Array Online, no 17:2, 1 juin 1997

There is so much musical output contained on these two discs that it took me several listenings to come to grips with it all. In the liner notes, Dolden describes his current artistic intentions as involving the “speeding up of an excess of musical ideas so that the composition and its materials exhaust themselves in the shortest time possible”. Most of the works here reflect this principle in different ways. Another perceptual factor in listening to these pieces is the manner in which Dolden intersperses pieces for tape alone with works featuring solo performers backed with material from the solo tape compositions. This approach has the twofold effect of emphasizing hitherto unstressed aspects of the tape pieces and also of blurring to some extent the distinctions between the individual works. These considerations aside, Dolden constantly varies his approach, not hewing to a quick-cut, sound-mass approach to the exclusion of linear development.

Dolden first composes simultaneous lines of music on manuscript paper, then digitally records each line as performed by an acoustic instrument. The parts are then digitally mixed with little or no signal processing. His exclusive use of acoustic instruments is justified by his opinion that electronic synthesis techniques are unable to produce a large palette of convincingly different timbres. A huge palette of acoustic sounds are used tor these pieces, including nearly every orchestral instrument, voices, ethnic and folk instruments, and percussion. And although he does not use signal processing, he occasionally achieves DSP-like effects through ingenious mixing of his sound sources. The mixing often involves overlays of 40 or more tracks, and the massed effects and climaxes achieved are impressive. His use of digital editing is equally responsible for the results, as the pace and mood of the pieces are largely controlled this way.

The title cut and the last work in this collection, both for tape alone, could not be more contrasting. L’ivresse de la vitesse (1992-93), encapsulating as it does the composer’s more recent methods, is an exhilarating outburst of contrasting ideas and styles at a rapid-fire pace. Veils (1984-85) is a halfhour, 3 movement composition which explores a sonic world of subtly shifting timbres, comprising drones on acoustic but ambiguous-sounding origin. After the adjustment is made to the leisurely pace of this piece, it is thoroughly satisfying.

With the exception of these two pieces, I gravitated toward the pieces that featured solo instruments because of the focus they provide. This may be because Dolden does not emphasize spatial placement in these wtirks. Often, the sound struck me as completely up-front and two dimensional. No doubt this is partly because he eschews most signal processing,but the overall sound of the acoustic instruments tends to be a little washed-out. Experimenting with different microphones and preamplification should help — quality of engineering is important when this approach is taken, especially when there is extensive mixing and overlaying. The solo instruments help to impart more of a spatial quality. Revenge of the Repressed. Resonance #2 teatures a performance by cellist Peggy Lee which ranges from fleet passagework to elegiac phrases and extended techniques.

The harpsichord part in Physics of Seduction. Invocation #2 takes on a thunderous and threatening aspect in the hands of Vivienne Spiteri, thanks to Dolden’s multitracking and close-miking techniques. Two pieces feature saxophonist/clarinetist Francois Houle. One of these, In a Bed Where the Moon Was Sweating. Resonance #1, strikes a perfect balance between the virtuostic solo clarinet part (often multitracked with amazing etfect) and the tape part with its echoes (or “resonances”) of preceding events.

Physics of Seduction. Invocation #1 features the composer on electric guitar in a technically adept performance which also makes use of the processed timbres which are the domain of the instrument. Dolden shows a flair for these changes of tone. His performance on guitar here gives further evidence of his mastery of the sonic resources at his disposal.

Hal London is a freelance, part-time composer who divides his time equally between acoustic and electroacoustic music. Dolden’s approach in this respect is of special interest to him.

His performance […] gives further evidence of his mastery of the sonic resources at his disposal.