Samples & Downloads
Christopher CAMPBELL (b.1977)
Sound the All-Clear
Sleepless Nights [3:35]
Sunface Streams Moonface [3:40]
Interlude 1 [1:50]
North Wind [4:46]
Interlude 2 [1:10]
Ritual Waking, Ritual Sleepwalking [10:39]
Capping Verse [1:33]
Performers: Christopher Campbell, Michelle Kinney, Jacqueline Ultan,
Shannon Wettstein, Todd Hammes, Susie Ibarra, Philip Blackburn,
Phyllis Zumach, Serena Mira Asta, Susanne E Smith, Greg Joly, Mary
Ellen Erlandson, Juliann Johnson, Cheryl Hodges-Savola, Benta LeMunyon,
Phyllis Lindberg, Lora Barstad, Eric Barstad, Flute Force, Meredith
Samuelson, Sara Mergens, Laurie R Johnson, Penny Bartz, Don Hogquist,
Mark Hirschboek, Carl Samuelson, Brian Towne, Bert Bast, Jameson
Jon Baxter, Larry Wilson, Ralph Johnson.
rec. No information given. DDD
INNOVA 750 [56:16]
In post-modern parlance Christopher Campbell is a 'sound
artist' rather than a composer by any traditional definition.
That said, the Innova website does refer to him as a "composer/film-maker",
and he did indeed study composition with, among others, David
Del Tredici. From the first seconds of Sleepless Nights,
which begins with a scratchy LP sample of part of a folk-song
sung by an amateur choir culminating in the inevitable stuck
stylus, it is clear that Bach, Beethoven and Wagner have no
relevance here. Moreover, the CD case lists only 'personnel',
not performers or instruments, who "sing, fidget and groove
to realize Campbell's cunningly-contrapuntal, architecturally-planned
As the blurb further puts it, in contemporary if not altogether
useful terms, Campbell's work "hits the Reboot button
on classical music." The twelve tracks, which form a through-composed
suite of sorts, constitute "a luscious organic ritual that
transcends studio, concert hall, epoch and continent; American
Gagaku for the space age."
Campbell's soundscapes are built up, though never densely,
from "blended essences of voice, piano, music boxes, sheng,
prepared koto, strings, electric guitar, PVC flutes, balloon
bassoons, Aeolian harp, toys, lithophones and other choice sound
sources". Cue much swishing, rattling, twanging, rumbling
and pinging, as well as a deliberate - and successful - attempt
to evoke traditional Japanese gagaku music. The total effect
is quite relaxing, sometimes even mesmerising, the music unfolding
at an andante pace, gentle, often wistful. It’s largely euphonious,
never cacophonous, and there’s little sign of digital interference.
There are plenty of real people playing traditional instruments
Doubtless there will be critics, especially in the U.S., who
say that Campbell 'breaks all the rules' as he
'tears down barriers' in these sonic collages.
Such a view is naive, though - Campbell's rules are his
own, and for every 'barrier' he pulls down, he
erects more as he positions himself musically as a post-modernist.
This is neither crossover, nor pop, nor 'classical',
but something that borrows from all those realms. Fifty years
ago it might have pleased no one. Today it will still find many
happy to reject it as musical charlatanry or hippyish pretentiousness.
It is like something a modern-day Harry Partch or John Cage
might have amused themselves with, if not listeners.
Yet, leaving aside questions of whether or not Campbell has
anything compelling to say here, the pieces somehow contrive
to be musical in a laid-back kind of way. Listener interest
is maintained through an intelligent variation of timbres and
textures, as well as an endearing degree of light-heartedness.
Really there can be no question of mountebankery, because Campbell
is not making grandiloquent statements or trying to be elaborate
in any way. Instead he offers the listener a benevolent, hazy
meander through an ornamental, slightly oriental garden of colours,
sonorities and textures.
The CD case is of the digipak type, and has the look - intentional,
no doubt - of a mass-produced pop album. This impression is
enhanced by the 'battered typewriter' print, and
a complete lack of indication as to what kind of music this
is, what the forces are or who the performers are. These questions
are not wholly answered either by the inside notes, printed
incidentally straight onto the card, or indeed by listening
to the disc! Campbell's quirky notes on individual items
range from the raw - Interlude 1 is "Tons of birds
in a bush!" - to the harlequinesque: Shining Furrows is
"...awe, the light dances and the whole earth is waving.
This one is from a bean sprout or insect perspective."
There are further general notes by George Tsontakis, who, as
Campbell's erstwhile teacher, was always likely to pen
something dithyrambic, and so it proves - but at least his comments
are slightly more illuminating!
Sound quality is excellent, although in fairness to labels recording
musicians in concert halls and churches, these recordings have
been through a mixer; yet the processing has been very skilfully
done, and sampling is unobtrusive. The same music is also available,
by the way, on Innova 749 - not a CD, but a vinyl disc! Innova
certainly is a trendy label.
Collected reviews and contact at reviews.gramma.co.uk