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Joseph LIVINGSTONE (b. 1962)
The Futility Room: Uncreate [7:53]; The Aloner School [8:21]; Upon the Ground [4:27]; 1321 [3:40]; The Moon Gardener [3:48]; The Futility Room [0:51]; In The Decline [3:20]; The Damage Letters [6:21]; [2:04]; The Romance Languages [3:30]; Verloren [9:03].
Joseph Livingstone (live drums) [1, 8]
rec. Summer 2006, The Futility Room, Liverpool, England. DDD
CENTAUR CRC 2842 [51:36]

Experience Classicsonline

Joseph Livingstone has an individual musical voice. His myspace page describes his work as classical/electroacoustic/jazz, with influences as diverse as Mahler and Stockhausen; all of these genres are evident in his music. It is hard to sum up his sound; it is alive and full of imagination, and creates an emotional response. There is much based in the classical music tradition; his music features melodic lines and "instrumental" lines. This is particularly evident with the synthesised string solos in Upon The Ground and the use of choir and organ materials in 1321. I would however have preferred the melodic samples to have been taken from live instruments rather than electronically generated - especially in Upon the Ground, which is essentially an instrumental track. His writing is harmonically secure and he uses the classical idiom with ease. This is essentially tonal music which has a strong sense of tradition. His treatment of this material is the fundamental modernism in his work. Classical ideas are mutated into something entirely new, with violent pitch bends (for example, in 1321), interruptions and the introduction of a vast array of electronically generated sounds, from rattling chains to bells and cheering crowds.

One striking aspect of this music is Livingstone’s understanding of rhythm, perhaps unsurprisingly for someone who works as a jazz drummer. There is a real energy in his work, particularly created by the use of ostinati which overlay melodic material. This is notably strong in The Aloner School, which features clapping over chorale-style melodies and pizzicato string effects. You can also hear it in The Damage Letters, which uses a similar device in a slightly different way. The rhythmic momentum is cleverly maintained, and the end of the ostinato comes as something as a shock. The sound-world changes instantly, with the tempo slowing to create a dramatic mood-change. The Damage Letters is one of two tracks to feature a live drum solo, performed by Joseph Livingstone. The other solo is heard in the opening track, where it is heard against a variety of electronically produced sounds. The juxtaposition of live and electronic sounds works well, and the effect is dramatic.

Perhaps the most interesting track is Verloren, the final offering on the disc. A combination of brass, keyboard and string sounds are fused with electronic elements in a glitch-style collage lasting almost ten minutes.

This is a very interesting collection of tracks, and one which is well put together and carefully considered. The work is imaginative and could provide an interesting way into electronic music for the uninitiated classical music fan.

Carla Rees



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