AMN Reviews: Jorge Antunes – “Música Electrónica” [MENT007]

 

The vinyl reissue craze continues and many experimental, electronic and free jazz recordings are being reissued on LP. If you are a fan of the LP and of contemporary electronic music, musique concréte and contemporary classical music then “Música Electrônica” will be of interest to you.

Jorge Antunes (b. 1942, Rio de Janeiro) is a pioneer in the development of electronic music in Brazil. In 1961 Antunes attended the first concert of electronic music in Brazil, which included “Scambi” by Henri Pousseur and “Essai” by Gottfried Michael Koenig. This music so inspired the nineteen year old radio technician that he built his own gear and set up a little electronic music studio in his parents living room. Two of the five compositions on this LP were recorded in this home studio between 1962 – 1970.

Antunes studied violin, composition and conducting as well as physics at the University of Rio de Janeiro. By 1965 he had established himself as a leader in the Brazilian avant garde and began his research into the correspondence between sound and color. In 1970 Antunes left Brazil to continue this research at the Institute of Sonology at the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands. While at Sonology he began to specialize in Computer Music under the guidance of Gottfried Michael Koenig. In 1972 -73 he attended the musique concréte course and worked at the Groupe de Recherches Musicales (GRM) in Paris. Jorge Antunes is currently the director of the Electroacoustic Music Studio at the University of Brazil.

The pieces on “Música Electrônica” are striking in that Antunes makes extensive use of what were undiscovered and new techniques such as various waveform oscillators, noise, feedback, loops, tape manipulation, treated vocals, glitches, turn-table manipulation and so much more. He did almost all of this in his parent’s living room between 1962-1970, often on equipment he built himself.

“Valsa Sideral” is the first electronic work produced in Brazil. It was composed in 1962 at the composer’s home studio. As the title suggests it is a kind of waltz. It is a remarkable piece that uses a minimalist sounding tape loop of three rhythmic pitches as an ostinato while improvised sine and saw tooth melodies glissando over it with echoes and reverberations. It reminds me a little bit of the early pieces by the Barons for “Forbidden Planet”.

“Contrapunctus Contra Contrapunctus” was realized at the composer’s home studio in 1965. By this time Antunes’s technique had really grown, particularly in the ability to assemble lots of very small tape edits into smooth sections of sound. The work makes use loops of pitched material and treated voices. As the title suggests the loops are used in counterpoint against each other as treated sine and sawtooth melodies float over them, joined by occasional blasts of filtered noise.

“Cinta Cinta” was composed in 1969 during a visit to the Electronic Music Laboratory of the Institute Torcuato Di Tella, in Buenos Aires, Argentina. This is Antunes’s first piece realized in a professional studio. The material in this piece is primarily filtered noise and additive synthesis sounds that bump up against each other in washes and chaotic rhythms till they disintegrate into silence.

“Auto-Retrato Sobre Paisaje Porteño” is an incredibly innovative piece composed during 1969/70 in Buenos Aires. In this piece Antunes “samples” a found object – a record of a tango by Francisco Canaro. A scratch in the record skips to create a loop that transforms the tango sample into a kind of samba. This sample is then used as material for additional processing and manipulation in series of loops overlaid with additional electronic sounds into what sounds like what might be the very first pure electronic dance piece, but just as it settles into the groove, abstraction intervenes and the piece transforms into more and more abstract sounds. The abstract sounds then give way to treated, sliced and cutup overlapping vocal and speech sounds. This is followed by a short return to the tango sample samba, only to be interrupted by speech with low percussive sounds and low evolving filtered sawtooth sounds. This continues to develop till the piece ends with a long evolving crescendo that is a mix of all of the different sound types used in the piece.

“Historia de un Pueblo por Nacer ou Carta Abierta a Vassili Vassilikos y a todos los Pesimistas “ was composed in 1970 in Buenos Aires. The piece was inspired by the novel and film “Z” by Vassili Vasilikos. It is in three sections with a coda. Each of the sections begins in silence and slowly builds a noisy texture to a loud intensity and then is crushed by a single pitched sound. The coda uses a fragment from the “International” in a canonic texture, which closes the piece.

Jorge Antunes is an electronic music pioneer and this LP reissues his earliest electronic music. The compositions on “Música Electrônica” despite their age are imaginative and innovative making “Música Electrônica”essential listening for electronic music fans. For more information visit: http://www.guerssen.com/catalogue.php?ide=26007

Chris De Chiara