Gerard Hoffnung CDs
Drew KRAUSE (b.
Powder (2003) [7:25]
Lounge Hell (2001) [6:47]
Airline (1995) [6:32]
Solar Music (2003)
Lancaster (flute) [Tweety], Whitney LaGrange (violin) [Panic],
Taimur Sullivan (alto saxophone)
[Airline] & computer-generated sounds
rec. 2005, Legacy Sound, New Rochelle, New York.
INNOVA 676 [57:22]
Krause is an experimental composer who has studied the piano,
maths, computer programming and composition. The music on this
disc was written for computer-generated sounds, with solo instrumental
voices added to some of the tracks. We are told that the music
dates from between 1994 and 2003 but the CD booklet offers
very little other information about the individual pieces.
The composer’s biography does however tell us that “I have
been composing music by writing computer programs that model
mathematical and musical processes and data.”
CD opens with the title track, Powder, and crackling
sounds, similar to the sound created by electrical sparks passing
along a wire. This is soon added to by a rhythmic bass riff
which is shrouded in interference. The momentum builds and
new sounds emerge: metallic sounds, sounds which resemble electronically
treated instruments and bells. The introduction gives way to
a return of the bass riff, this time with different filters
applied further altering the sound [3:29]. First time around,
I found this track quite hard work, but after a few hearings,
I began moving gently along with the groove and finding the
music beyond the sounds within it. The end of the track, with
repeated notes on similar pitches, reminded me of an Aphex
tracks on this disc combine a live instrument with computer
sounds. Tweety for flute, performed here by Margaret
Lancaster, has the flute following the rhythmic lines of the
computer, to the accompaniment of various generated sounds.
The sense of rhythmic unison is reminiscent perhaps of Frank
Zappa. Brief interludes allow the music to become more diverse,
with the voices separating and the flute taking on a more soloistic
role before the rhythmic unison returns. Lancaster’s playing
is accurate and convincing, and gives the piece direction.
It settles into a groove [7.00] over a drum beat. This was
my favourite section, with a strong sense of pulse, ending
with an impressively seamless link from the flute to the computer
[8.40] where it is impossible to tell where the flute ends
and the computer takes over the same line. The following section
has a strong jazz feel; in general this section has the sense
of ‘serious’ pop music for the flute. The performance is highly
appealing, and it is exciting to hear the flute used in this
context, as it strays so far from the stereotypical flute repertoire.
Panic places angular violin
lines over accompanying organ and harpsichord-like electronic
sounds. Once again, there is a strong sense of pulse and rhythmic
energy. By now used to Krause’s sound world, this no longer
feels particularly unusual. The electronics take on the role
of a highly accurate accompanist, and the machine-like quality
blends well with the expressive playing of the live performer.
There is a sense of perfection that comes from the knowledge
that the computer sounds are occurring exactly as the composer
intended, so the live performer has to adhere to the same accuracy
of tempo and rhythm. Whitney LaGrange plays with understanding
and flair. Her tone is full of life and vibrancy and communicates
well to the listener. This is an excellent performance.
the backing sounds are altered to suit the timbral qualities
of the saxophone. This is full of character and suits the saxophone
well. The performance by Taimur Sullivan is musically phrased
and warm. The shortest track on the disc, this makes an interesting
addition to the repertoire. It’s something I’d be happy to
listen to time and again and get more from it each time.
a further computer-only track, exploring a world of artificial
sounds. Beginning gently and it builds a slow crescendo.
This, once again had a strong sense of pulse and direction.
The sounds are fascinating and constantly evolving.
fourteen and a half minutes long, the final track, Solar
Music, is the longest on the disc. Beginning with an array
of rapidly changing sci-fi type sounds, this is an exciting
work which differs in style from the others on the CD. Bubbling
semiquavers underlie an almost vocal quality: like distant
monks singing in outer space. Building to a climax this gives
way to percussive gongs [3:07] reminiscent of Balinese gamelan.
This is exotic-sounding music which is fascinating to hear
and a real listening experience. The variety of effects is
highly interesting and, like Krause’s other works, a constantly
evolving spectrum of sound.
listening this is not, although it is certainly satisfying.
At the risk of being controversial, compare the concept of
computer music with that of organ playing; the organ is itself
a machine, controlled by a human player, where the variation
in sound has the primary impact on its listening audience.
In essence, the computer has the same function. The range of
sounds available to the computer player is enormous – any combination
of programming functions or algorithms can produce sounds which
can be as diverse as a sine wave or a model of a flute. When
judging music of this kind, the prime consideration really
should be regarding the ’technique’: the choice of content
and the musical structuring of the material, as well as the
emotional response it creates. The music here is constantly
evolving, never static and always offering something new. It
appears well structured and held my attention. I was, at times,
moved to dance, although only after a couple of hearings. This
is an interesting CD and one that certainly has appeal for
the open-minded. The performances are all excellent and Krause’s
compositional style is consistent and mature. It is the kind
of music that one would either love or hate; either way, it
is definitely worth a try.
Gerard Hoffnung CDs
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