Thursday, August 6, 2020
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Artist: Pauline Oliveros & Anla Courtis (@)
Title: Telematic Concert
Format: LP
Label: Spleencoffin (@)
Rated: *****
On October 11, 2009 an unusual concert took place at the Deep Listening Institute’s Dream Festival in Kingston, New York. Electronic music pioneer Pauline Oliveros was there with her accordion and expanded instrument system, and piped in digitally from Buenos Aires was Argentinian experimental musician Anla Courtis with his unstringed guitar, objects and processing. This was an improvisational duet between two world renowned experimental electro-acoustic musician-composers, the recording of which has not seen the light of day until now, over a decade later. Pauline Oliveros (1932-2016) was a central figure in the development of experimental and post-war electronic art music. She was a founding member of the San Francisco Tape Music Center in the 1960s, and served as its director. She taught music at Mills College, the University of California San Diego (UCSD), Oberlin Conservatory of Music, and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Oliveros authored books, formulated new music theories, and investigated new ways to focus attention on music including her concepts of "deep listening" and "sonic awareness." Anla (sometimes referred to as "Alan," as on this album) is one of the most prolific international experimental avant garde musician-composers alive today. He holds a degree in Communication Science from the University of Buenos Aires, where he currently runs an annual music workshop. He played electric guitar in diverse bands and in 1993 he co-founded the legendary South American underground avant garde group, Reynols. Courtis has literally HUNDREDS of releases not only with Reynols, but also collaborations with other artists and on his own. The 'Telematic Concert' is a matchup of titans in the improvisational experimental music genre.

Now that the pandemic (as well as advances in technology) has changed the way live performances between different players are put forth (musicians in different locations coming together online) this distant collaboration may not seem like such a big deal, but a decade ago it was. Granted, there's a certain amount of leeway compared to more regimented (orchestrated) forms of music, but there still has to be some simpatico for it to coalesce, and there's simpatico a-plenty here. First, forget about the source instruments; the sounds generated have hardly anything in common with accordion and guitar. This is pure sonic manipulation that leans toward the industrial and to some extent, power electronics. It's difficult to say who's playing what where and when (the album is comprised of two lengthy pieces that last the entire side of the LP), but when something sounds droney, likely it's Pauline, and when there's an abundance of feedback, it's likely to be Anla. What starts out tentatively doesn't take long to assert itself sonically in a dominating presence of brutal resonance. While the fury of great slabs of feedback tempered with various noises is not omnipresent, there really isn't much respite in either of these phases (1 & 2, as per album side). Things shift and change, as in frequencies, pitch, attack, decay, intensity, etc., but it is always evolving, like some hellish sound kaleidoscope morphing into...well, something else. Interestingly, the acoustics of the performance space seem to indicate something on the large side, at least to these ears in my living room coming out of my loudspeakers. (I don't think I would have been brave enough to hazard headphones on this work.) So there seems to be properties that were brought out in the vinyl that may have eluded me had it been a completely digital experience. While I'm sure there was plenty of intelligence behind the sonic manipulations, this seemed more like an instinctual rather than intellectual exercise on the part of both artists as one really appeared to know what the other was going for, consequently feeding off each others' energies. It ‘s probably preposterous to say that this music isn't for everyone (surely my wife and the cat can attest to that as they were subject to the experience), but for those into experimental electro-acoustic improvisation with a healthy dose of powerful noise, this is the crème de la crème, and on vinyl, a must own.


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