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Orpheus 400
Hans W KOCH (b. 1952)
orpheus@home (2007) [1:46]
Kazuya ISHIGAMI (b. 1972)
For Kerberos (2007) [3:05]
Harald MUENZ (b. 1965)
Still Life with Orphean Shepherd (2007) [6:00]
Jens BRAND (b. 1968)
evros (2007) [3:24]
HAARMANN (b. 1970)
Herbert Stencil als Orpheus verkleidet in der Unterwelt (für V) (2007) [5:51]
Thomas KESSLER (b. 1937)
Countdown for Orpheus [6:40]
Wolfgang LIEBHART (b. 1958)
Oh O… (2007) [0:37]
Johannes KREIDLER (b. 1980)
Kontinuum mit Melodie (2007) [3:09]
Frank NIEHUSMANN (b. 1960)
Wer? (Monster.Mythen.Mutationen) (2007) [6:40]
(b. 1960)
Prisma – du fond d’un naufage (2007) [2:10]
Johannes S. SISTERMANNS (b. 1955)
Orpheus sings the net (2007) [3:22]
Andreas WAGNER (b. 1962)
Libethra 8.07 (2007) [4:00]
Thomas GERWIN (b. 1955)
Orpheus 400 >e-scape No. 4 (2007) [6:40]
Joachim HEINTZ (b. 1961)
Stimmen (2007) [2:50]
NooK: Dirk SPECHT (b. 1968)/Gerriet K. SHARMA (b. 1974)
Orphée 49/Edit 1 (Hommage à J.C.) (2007) [1: 56]
Heinz-Josef FLORIAN (b. 1955)
Eurydikes Schrei (2007)[3:19]
Clemens von REUSNER (b. 1957)
Gedehnte Zeit (2007) [4:56]
Franz Martin OLBRISCH (b. 1952)
Orphée 2007 [0:04]
Dugal McKINNON (b. 1972)
Strane e sconisciute vie (2007) [3:54]
(b. 1962)
L’eco d’Orfeo (2007) [6:07]
Stefan Fricke (curator)
CYBELE 960.209 [76:17]
Experience Classicsonline

This is a fascinating collection of twenty electro-acoustic works, celebrating the 400th anniversary of the first performance of the opera Orfeo, described in the sleeve-notes as “the first high point of musical theatre”. The CD was put together as the ninth collection of works by DEGEM (Deutsche Gesellshaft für elektroakustische Musik), and all but one of them were composed specially for the project. Durations range from 4 to 400 seconds.
Electronic music can be many things, and has the ability to conjure up emotions, images and soundworlds that provoke reactions.  At the essence of electronic music is the notion that anything and everything is possible; the traditional restrictions of what an instrument or performer can do are removed, and the variety of available sounds and resources are seemingly endless.  It is sometimes surprising, then, that electronic composers don’t always make use of the variety of resources available to them, with certain sounds recurring again and again in the music of different composers. 
The pieces presented here form a unified set. They are successful, both individually and as a group, and it is interesting to hear the variety in approach in the responses of twenty different composers to the Orpheus story. There is much to commend in all of these works, beginning with Hans W Koch’s opening track, orfeus@home, which uses orchestral recordings and crackles to give the sense of someone listening to old gramophone records at home. There is a strange sense of voyeurism here, as if we are intruding on someone’s privacy, which adds to the tension of the work.
By contrast, Jens Brand’s evros begins with a series of electronically generated sounds, which seems to descend into the sound of a washing machine on spin cycle. A curious track, it is nevertheless interesting - although I would recommend not having the volume turned up too high!
The tracks I enjoyed most seem to have come from the ‘describing the journey into hell’ camp, including Frank Niehusmann’s Wer? (Monster.Mythen.Mutationen), which is a disturbingly brilliant, dark work, which conjures up images of fear, cavernous spaces and evil forces. Haarmann’s offering on this disc, Herbert Stencil als Orpheus verkleidet in der Unterwelt is similarly dark, but in a different way, using vocal samples to create a rich tapestry of sound.  The music becomes a meditation on these sounds, which draws the listener in to this thoroughly engaging work. Another excellent track is Countdown for Orpheus, in which Thomas Kessler sets electronically manipulated instrumental and vocal sounds over a constant pulsating bass line. Thomas Gerwin’s Orpheus 400>e-scape No.4 contains a wide variety of sounds, which conjure up an array of images and gradually evolving atmospheres.
Starkly and refreshingly different is NooK’s short offering, which uses pre-recorded voices from old French films to create a canvas of sound. There is something about the voice at the beginning (which says ‘je repète’), which brings to mind short-wave radio transmissions, as used in Michael Oliva’s His Anxiety.
Also worthy of mention is Johannes Kreidler’s Kontinuum mit Melodie, which serves to demonstrate some of the many processing techniques available to electronic composers.  The work takes a continuous choral work and different processes are applied to short sections in the form of a collage, creating short patches of juxtaposed sound which alter the original line. The choral work is heard uninterrupted in this way throughout the duration of the piece. Heinz-Josef Florian’s work also uses a different kind of sound-world, with heavily synthesised sounds combined in an imaginative way.
There is too much on this disc to be able to mention everything, but it is certainly a listening adventure.  The disc is well put together, with a carefully considered programme of high-quality works. It provides an Aladdin’s cave of musical ideas, thoughts and experimentations, which are varied, successful and at times inspiring.
Carla Rees


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