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Drew KRAUSE (b. 1960)
Powder (2003) [7:25]
Tweety (2003) [13:08]
Lounge Hell (2001) [6:47]
Panic (1994) [8:57]
Airline (1995) [6:32]
Solar Music (2003) [14:33]
Margaret 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]



Drew 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.”
 
The 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 Twin track.
 
Three 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.
 
In Airline, 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.
 
Lounge Hell is 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.
 
At 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.
 
Easy 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.
 
Carla Rees
 



 


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