Friday, August 26, 2011

Various Artists – Columbia - Princeton Electronic Music Center (Finnadar - QD 9010)

Columbia-Princeton Electronic Music Center is an institution (Part of both universities) which most of Early Electronic Music devotees are extremely familiar with. It is more like on par with Darmstadt and Juillard music school. Well this already explains the significance.

The center was officially founded in 1959 with the support of Rockefeller foundation. Started as a one studio and shortly it developed into five studios due to excessive demand. The first people to start working and experimenting in the studio were the faculty members Milton Babbitt, Otto Luening and Vladimir Ussachevsky. Later on other composers started to flock with names like Bulent Arel, Mario Davidovsky, Tzvi and Ilhan Mimaroglu.

The album is made up of 6 compositions from the early cooperating composers, but the works are from a 20 year period. Due to this and due to the general idea of experimentation, the collected works are quite different both in terms of style and characteristics. However, they can understandably be categorized as Early Electronic Music. Of course during the early periods, experimentation was at its peak with new sounds and equipment being brought in.

The main differences between the compositions occur based on the composition years as well as techniques and equipment being used for these compositions. For instance Ussachevsky's composition "A Piece For Tape Recorder" was recorded in the late 1950's whereas Smiley's "Eclipse" was close to 20 years later. This evidently made some drastic changes in the style and other main criterias. It can even be said that Smiley's should not be added into the same category as the other ones, but hey, who says life is fair. It found it's way into the selection and based on the composition itself, it has the place.

Another important name for me is Bulent Arel and I didn't have a chance to listen his composition "Stereo Electronic Music No. 2". It has a more depressive outlook, but given his previous works as well, this work can very much be appreciated based on it's structure and layers. Pitch alterations as well as repetitions and sudden smoothness followed by percussions and more hectic climaxes create a feeling of flowing while keeping the element of surprise always in hand. This work was commissioned by the Columbia-Princeton ECM itself.

I may have mentioned it before, but I find no stress in pointing again, listening to the early works of any kind of genre is a tricky thing. Experimentalism is of course in and of itself never boring while Early Electronic Music always reminds the listener modern time techniques, structures and melodies. Even though it seems like we have travelled throughout the music world ages since 1970s, we may not be that far away as we think. I just remember having reviewed Takemitsu's record which is not that different from today's electro acoustic/drone works. The only point was that it was written 50, performed 35 years ago.

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