Sound recordings of multimedia events always present something of a conundrum: although a necessity for documenting the work, they necessarily leave some of it out. It’s a situation brought to mind by Cecelia Lopez’s Red/Machnic Fantasies, a 2-CD set capturing the audio of two mobile sound sculptures/installations by the Buenos Aires composer/electronics artist. Red, which makes up the first disc, is a three-movement, textural feedback piece for contact microphones and speakers embedded in a suspended net made of cables. As the net swings and wobbles, it sets up changing feedback relationships between the microphones and speakers. The second CD contains Machinic Fantasies, a cyclic, pulsating work for electronics and acoustic instruments. The mobile element in this work is provided by two “spinners” who hand-turn two large, perforated drums containing speakers. An array of microphones and speakers is positioned inside and outside the drums. The work’s source material includes recordings as well as live sound from trumpeter Joe Moffett and trombonist Christopher McIntyre. Although the recording does a good job of documenting the audio side of the two pieces, the performance and sculptural aspects of both Red and Machinic Fantasies seem to demand that the two works be experienced live in order to be enjoyed in all of their dimensions.
The collaboration of acoustic strings with synthesizer can be a challenging. Both strings and electronics are capable of great timbral range, but of qualitatively different sorts. Combining them in real-time performance opens up many different possibilities, and therefore requires some judgment on the part of the collaborators. One such possibility is to set out a contrastive juxtaposition in which each contributor retains its characteristic voice. That is the possibility realized by synthesizer player Cecilia López in her collaboration with double bassist Amanda Irarrazabal and cellist Cecilia Quinteros in a set of pieces recorded live in Buenos Aires this past July.
Over the course of six tracks and 31 minutes, López, Irarrazabal and Quinteros work a creative parataxis in which strings and synthesizer occupy distinctive spheres. Both string players explore expanded sound palettes, but no matter how extended the techniques drawn on, the rasp or creak of bowhair on string, the snap of metal against fingers or wood and the physical thump and projection of pizzicato passages all serve to announce the quintessentially acoustic presence of double bass and cello. The sonic balance of these pieces tends to tilt toward the strings, but those moments when the synthesizer comes through are notable for introducing characteristically electronic colors into an otherwise predominantly acoustic weave of sound.