AMN Reviews

AMN Reviews: Espen Sommer Eide – The Waves [SOFA SOFA578CD]; Monopiece + Jaap Blonk – s/t [Shhpuma SHH052CD]

From Europe and the American West Coast, two albums explore two of the possibilities afforded by mixing technologically sophisticated electronic sound art with the human voice.

The Waves, a work by Norwegian composer/instrument builder Espen Sommer Eide with the participation of microtonal tubist Martin Taxt and vocalist Mari Kvien Brunvoll, is a recording of a year-long, multi-room sound art installation in a villa in Maastricht, Netherlands. The album’s individual pieces are meant to capture the different sonic ambiences of the villa’s spaces, which visitors could experience in a mobile, variably perspective manner while moving through the building. On CD this multi-modal, three-dimensional interaction is necessarily reduced to the single dimension of sound, but taken on those terms alone The Waves stands as a substantial piece of timbre- and texture-driven sound art. Of particular note is the contribution of a layer of spoken words by Brunvoll, which draws on texts by Virginia Woolf, A. N. Whitehead, and Bertrand Russell.

A quite different recording combining electronically shaped, textural instrumental work is Monopiece + Jaap Blonk, an album documenting the collaboration of the American improvisational trio Monopiece (Nathan Corder on electronics; Matt Robidoux on guitar; and Timothy Russell on percussion) with Dutch voice artist Blonk—a kind of Antonin Artaud for the 21st century—who contributes electronics as well as voice. The nine relatively short pieces, recorded at Mills College in Oakland, California in April 2018, demonstrate the deep affinity between Monopiece’s brand of mutable, abstract, quick-cut constructions and Blonk’s primal, pre- (or post-?) semantic vocalizations.

Daniel Barbiero


Communicating Ideas Without a Word

The New York Times reviews a performance hosted by the Electronic Music Foundation.

Composers and poets, and of course, singers, have long rhapsodized about the purity and naturalness of the human voice, and about how instruments are really just mechanical imitations on which performers aspire to produce a lyrical line and a singing tone.

Strictly speaking, though, it has been a while since that was entirely true. Instrumentalists, when not chasing that vaunted lyricism, have long striven for a kind of virtuosity that singers cannot approximate. And these days, composers and new-music singers think nothing of abandoning that prized purity and naturalness in favor of electronic sound processing. Some singers, clearly, aspire to be electric guitars or synthesizers.

This is not lost on the Electronic Music Foundation, which is presenting “The Human Voice in a New World,” a series of three free concerts exploring new approaches to singing and vocal composition. The opening concert, on Monday evening at the Frederick Loewe Theater at New York University, was devoted to “Messa di Voce,” a multimedia collaboration between Joan La Barbara and Jaap Blonk, both composers and singers, and Golan Levin and Zachary Lieberman, video artists who work under the name Tmema.

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