CD Reviews

Friday 9th April

April 9, 2010

Californian composer Michael Pisaro’s music has long been a favourite of mine, and so just recently its been great to see his work garner a lot of positive attention, none more so than Yuko Zama’s remarkably in depth explorations of his recent music as can be read here. Given all that she and others have written about the recent 3″ disc July Mountain released in a small edition, and by now I imagine out of print on the Engraved Glass label I struggle to wonder what I might add. The fact that Michael, alongside his collaborator on this release Greg Stuart has a full length disc ready for release on my Cathnor label just make sit even more difficult for me.

That the music that forms July Mountain is really very beautiful will be no surprise to anyone that has heard Pisaro’s compositions before, so in many ways I can move on from that fact and perhaps try and work out why. The piece is a twenty-one minute composition for field recordings and percussion, but as with all of Pisaro’s work the score in itself is a work of art, a carefully arranged set of timed placements of the various elements, meticulously plotted over several pages of charts and finely detailed instruction. It also helps that Greg Stuart, the percussionist and close collaborator of Pisaro is extremely talented and very much in tune with the composer’s ways of working. The score for July Mountain can be downloaded here, and I encourage you to study it carefully so I won’t list everything it includes again. There are twenty field recordings spread methodically through the piece though, with ten of them sounding at any one time and their appearance and disappearance staggered, so as one ends another begins. The recordings are all to have been made in mountain or valley areas, and we hear birds twittering, cars and aircraft passing, distant voices chattering, the wind etc… Alongside this there are 143 separate recordings of persussion sounds divided into ten different groups of classification ranging from brushed drum sounds to falling rice grains to sinetones projected onto resonant surfaces and then recorded, through to a standard piano. Each of these sounds is placed carefully into the music by Pisaro. Even the piano sounds, which are split into 32 chord strikes, each one recorded separately and then panned through different stereo channels are arranged with precision timing, the first appearing at the eight minute mark, each further one occurring at twenty-two and a half second intervals thereafter.

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CD Reviews

Thursday 8th April

April 9, 2010

There is something strangely exciting about sleeping in a hotel room in a city centre. I think because these days I mostly do this while visiting places to attend concerts I am usually in a good frame of mind anyway, but am I the only one that takes great pleasure from listening to the late night hubbub of the city below as I first fall into bed, safe and sound behind a locked hotel room door but with a kind of murkily filtered roar present somewhere at the limits of audibility, or if I am staying in Huddersfield quite a bit louder. There is that kind of indeterminate low hum caused by the sound of distant traffic in different directions, the gaggle of human speech, the odd raised voice here and there but mostly just a blur, industrial sounds of one kind or another, etc etc… Listening from the safety of your pillow to this detailed ambience which is again submerged to some degree under the hotel’s air conditioning and plumbing at work is one of life’s little pleasures to me.

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CD Reviews

Wednesday 23rd September

September 23, 2009

Just to get the caveats out of the way first, from time to time I post adverts for CDs on Jez riley French’s  Engraved Glass label at the I Hate Music forum. All I ever do is copy and paste Jez’s text into an IHM post. I do this because he isn’t allowed to post […]

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