Music Reviews

Artist: Gary DiBenedetto (@)
Title: Twin Towers
Format: CD
Label: Electroshock Records (@)
Distributor: Electronic Music Foudation/CDeMusic
Rated: *****
Gary DiBenedetto is an electro-acoustic composer and kinetic sculptor from New Jersey, who specializes in interactive installations. He has an impressive international resume going all the way back to the early 1970s, and Twin Towers is his latest audio work. While most Electroshock Records artist are European (with a high concentration of Russian) artists, Gary is not, but his music is no less avant garde. As you might expect from an electro-acoustic installation artist, the music is abstract, resembling more a sound-sculpture than any traditional musical format. I have read the intellectual explanations of the pieces on 'Twin Towers' on Gary's website (and also on the CD liner notes), but I won't be rehashing them to any great degree in this review. The nine pieces on this CD are intended to represent different things, and only the final title track refers to the 9/11 tragedy.

The opener (no pun intended) 'Knock and the Door Shall Be Opened,' is based on the sound of the men's room door at the State Library Complex in Berlin. It doesn't get any more obscure than that I suppose. There are some electronics, and mechanical sounds that must be the men's room door. An interesting sound-sculpture for sure. At one point, it sounds like somebody's having a little trouble negotiating said door. 'Walden Pond' is both liquidy and creaky with random sample and hold electronics, buzzes and burbles. 'A Question of Principle' (in 3 Movements) begins with some bellish tones and seemingly randomly played synthetic strings and other sporadic percussion for the First Movement. Not my cup of tea at all. It's those artificial synth strings that really leave me cold. Perhaps if more realistic strings were employed it might have come off better, but it just sounds cheesy. Second Movement dispenses with the obnoxious string ensemble and concentrates more on a clatter of electro-acoustic effects. Not bad, pretty interesting. The Third Movement brings back the obnoxious string ensemble again, much to my chagrin. The other elements of this track are engaging enough, but I can't get past those ersatz strings. This piece is supposed to have some political-religious implications regarding Nicaragua and El Salvador, but it is a stretch to glean that from just listening without reading the text of the artist's vision.

'Oh You're So Adollorable' employs some squinky electronic sounds and rumbles with an occasional repetitive vocal sample stating the obvious ('one dollah') in the background. The temporarily electronics morph into a surreal Star Spangled Banner melody. There is another repeated vocal sample by what sounds like a chorus of Third World children upping the ante to 'three dollah'. The piece sort of reminds me of Joe Byrd's (Field Hippies) music, perhaps an obscure reference that only 'old heads' are likely to get.

'Petroleum Complex' is a brief but interesting piece with perhaps the most currently relevant title, but it doesn't sound very oily to me. Its juxtaposition of high, bright tonality with random percussion elements and low ominous tones seems perfectly in balance. This is classic avant-garde electronic composition. 'Self Portrait ' employs a number of squiggly-wiggly sounds, and further into the piece, processed voice. I am thinking now, that from a strictly audial standpoint, the theme of this CD could just as well be about a colony of alien insects as its intended subject matter. The final track, 'Twin Towers' (the longest track at 10:46) begins with the solo recitation of poems by Meena Alexander that lasts for the first 3:40 of the piece. After that DiBenedetto simulates the flights and explosions of the planes crashing into the World Trade center. What follows is a surreal aftermath, occasionally punctuated by manipulated kettledrum samples (played by high school students). The piece is supposed to condense the 101 minute tragedy into 1/20th of its time frame. It makes me thankful that Gary didn't do it in real time.

As a whole, 'Twin Towers' is an interesting, if somewhat perplexing listen. There are parts that I liked a lot, and some things I didn't care for at all. So it goes with the avant-garde. If you love abstract electronics, especially on an intellectual level, you will probably enjoy this, and even if you don't like all of it, there are elements that make it worthwhile.

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