Musique Action ’98, Dumitrescu, Avram, Hodgkinson, Cutler

Musique Action This disc was my introduction to all four of these people. Needless to say, I soon had all the discs of all of them I could find. And I haunt the stores, looking for the next new one. With the first two, that used to be easy. It’s more difficult now, but you can still find them online.

Dumitrescu’s New Meteors and Pulsars for tape and percussion bursts through your speakers like, well, like a meteor. There’s plenty of soft sounds in this piece; they’re what follow the successive bursts of noise, either from Chris’s percussion or the tape, sometimes both. While the tape sounds are not percussive, this piece is not about contrasting tape and drums but about blending them. Dumitrescu was already, in 1982, the master of high energy electroacoustic music, of hollow, metallic, reverberant sounds that swoop and swirl through space and time. I last heard his music live last November—after 24 years, his music was just as fresh and just as energetic and just as subtle (yes, subtle) as it was in 1982. Indeed this piece, listening to it just now for this review, is just as fresh as it was when I first heard it about eight years ago.

If anyone could match Iancu Dumitrescu in intensity, it would have to be Avram. Her Nouvelle Axe is played here by the extremely talented Hyperion Ensemble, founded by Iancu in 1976. Each instrument in it, even when several are playing together, is a unique and distinct voice.. The music here sounds ferociously difficult, but the players of the Hyperion follow every twist and turn—at bewildering speed—as if … well, they play like swallows fly.

Life on Earth, by Chris Cutler, might strike you at first hearing as improvisatory—not that that’s at all a bad thing. It’s very definitely not. It’s just that that first impression, for this piece, is not born out by repeated listenings. Though it never loses that sort of made up on the spot quality, with long pauses and odd, little, unrelated gestures, even after the pauses and gestures become a well-made piece. (Given that Chris Cutler is one of the best improvisers out there, it wouldn’t surprise me a bit to find out that this piece was indeed made up on the spot. Just by the way…)

Hodgkinson’s Black Death and Errors in Construction is a much more vertical piece than either of the other three pieces on this disc. That is, it’s made up of great clumps of sound (it seems feeble to call such extraordinary creatures “chords”) that stride across your brain … Hmmm. Stride. Yes, it does move through time, as any music must. But it relies more on the vertical sounds than on horizontal lines. Hodgkinson’s playing in this piece is spectacular, by the way. It’s no wonder the performers of Hyperion enjoy playing with Hodgkinson and Cutler. And no wonder Cutler and Hodgkinson enjoy playing with the Hyperion Ensemble.

These four composers are extraordinarily talented. Buy anything by any of them, and you’ll be happy.

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