Music Reviews

Title: My Dear Siegfried
Format: 2 x CD (double CD)
Label: XI Records
Rated: *****
A double cd release from this US composer, who has been active in minimalist and computer music since the 1960s, as a member, among other things, of the Sonic Arts Union with artists like Alvin Lucier, Gordon Mumma and Robert Ashley. The first disc, "My Dear Sigfried", is based on the long-running friendship and correspondence between the renown English "soldier-poet" Siegfried Sassoon, and The New York Times journalist and writer Sam Behrman (possibly David's father, but I could easily be wrong). It opens with Sassoon's 1917 "Statement against the war" to go on with letters, memories and poems, and it is obviously a (filtered) spoken-words based work, with vocalists Thomas Buckner, Eric Barsness and Maria Ludovici accompanied, but also electronically arranged, by Behrman himself at keyboards and electronics, Ralph Samuelson at shakuhachi, Peter Zummo at trombone and Tom Hamilton at engineering and effects. The exception is the last track, "Everyone sang", where Sassoon's poem is turned in an almost lithurgical chant. I admit I'm generally not a fan of vocal-based works, but, that said, this is an important release in times of war - and, unsurprisingly, it was recorded "in the dark days of 2003". Disc 2, titled "QSRL: 5 pieces", collects five tracks, composed between 1969 and 2002, of minimal drone music mostly based on hand-made synthesizers and pioneer computer-performer interaction. A very worthwhile document of early computer music, with fresh and remarkable pieces like 1969 "A New Team Takes Over" (with press conferences by the 1968 Nixon administration drowned in amazingly pre-glitch electronics, sounding like Mika Vainio at his harshest!) and the static drone of "Pools of Phase Locked Loops".

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