Monday, 16 April 2018

Gordon Mumma - Studio Retrospect (2000 compi of works 1964-84)

Another ear-bending and brain frying collection from Gordon Mumma, who previously featured here with Electronic Music of Theatre and Public Activity.  This CD from Lovely Music is an equally well-rounded presentation of what made Mumma's electroacoustic music so interesting - the six works here might be missing their theatrical elements, quadrophonic mixes and the like, but the pure sound is still so engrossing and often noisy and jarring that it rewards repeat listens.

Taking up the retrospective theme straight away, the opening track here is called Retrospect, a mix of earlier tracks spanning 1959 to 1982, including Chilean president Allende's quip to the New York Times on the day of his death that he'd have to be "carried out in wooden pyjamas".  This is followed by a couple of works from 1964-5, which were first released on a 1979 LP along with Megaton (see link above).  Music From The Venezia Space Theatre is a whirring, hissing piece of electronic mayhem from a live multimedia revue organised by Luigi Nono, and The Dresden Interleaf 13 February 1945 commemorates the WW2 bombing of that city with a proto-SPK grind in which the silent intervals are even more unsettling than the noise onslaughts.

From 1978, Echo-D is an extract of an evening-long dance performance, and musically is based around a pedaled D note on a harpsichord whilst a Buchla synth and other sound layers float in the space around it.  Very minimal stuff, but fascinating to listen to as it progresses over 15 minutes.  The following Pontpoint underwent a lengthy and frequently interrupted creation between 1966 and 1980.  Its eight short sequences features an instrument Mumma made frequent use of, the bandoneon, and a bowed zither, both 'cybersonically' modified by him.  The resulting sounds, that gradually mutate in pitch, timbre and rhythm, are probably my personal highlight of this collection.  There's still a four minute postscript to go though, in the nice little mix of acoustic and digital spectral sounds that makes up Epifont (1984).

mega / zippy

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