Truax Miscellany

Pacific FanfarePacific Fanfare(1996)

Like all such, Pacific Fanfare is a short piece; unlike other fanfares, this one has no stirring licks by the trumpet section. Instead, there are some very nice foghorns, as befits the Pacific part of the title.

Sadly, short here means three minutes, which is not just way too short generally, but way too short for this piece, which promises many more minutes than it delivers. Oh well, it is a delightful three minutes, full not only of coastal sounds but various train and other mechanical sounds as well as some wild bells, ringing out. (Edition RZ 290405)

(Pacific Fanfare is also available on Soundscape Vancouver: Cambridge Street Records CSR 2CD-9701 and on Islands: Cambridge Street Records CSR CD-0101.)

AscendanceAscendance (1979)
Long, slow crescendo. Various voices added as it goes along, an extremely high frequency, a throbbing low frequency, some shortwave radio-type sounds, and so forth. All quite subtle and unobstrusive, too, detracting in nowise from the rise and fall of the opening four minutes. And then, after a short crescendo, there’s a sudden and startling burst of high, bright electronic grit. The next, slow swell of sound is intermittently accompanied by these bursts. When that is over, the low, rich, dark sound that remain sound even richer and darker by contrast. There is, of course, a lot more to it than that. A most subtle and engaging piece. (Chrysopée électronique – Bourges LDC 2781112/13/14)

(Also available on Androgyne: Melbourne SMLP 4042/43)

AndrogynyAndrogyny (1978)

A slow moving piece, mostly low throbbing sounds at first, with some high sounds floating over them. These are joined by some metallic-like clangs before moving into a section of long, slow melodies (yes, melodies) punctuated by single tones. After some sounds like the swish of ocean waves, the metallic clangs return, transmuted into long, long tones–i.e., not at all clang-like, yet retaining that quality of sound. Insensibly, the piece grows and swells like the surge of water in a tidal pool, only vaster, like the whole great, brooding ocean itself.

One would never think, just by the way, of the ocean or of water while listening to this piece. I’m merely trying to convey something of the power and movement of Androgyny. (CSR CD-0501)

(Also available on  Androgyne: Melbourne SMLP 4042/43)

Sonic Landscape #3Sonic Landscape No. 3 (1975, rev. 1977)

The most interesting thing to me about this piece is how the sounds themselves, many of them like something out of a Buchla Box, are treated so differently from what one would expect from a keyboard-operated synthesizer. (Though, to be fair, the Buchla Box is no ordinary keyboard-operated synthesizer, either.) Some of the licks of Sonic Landscape No. 3 may vaguely recall, momentarily, licks in pieces by Subotnick or Czajkowski. There are pitches, and even tunes of a sort, and some of those electronic buzzes that seem to expand and contract (in density, not in volume). But the piece moves through time, in spite of all that, for all the world as if it were an innocent electroacoustic piece that had never heard of such things as Moog or RCA. Fascinating use of sounds with very clear connotations used almost completely contrary to our expectations for them. (Cultures électroniques – Bourges LDC 278065/66)

(Also available on  Melbourne Melbourne SMLP 4033)

The Wings of NikeThe Wings of Nike (1987)

The Wings of Nike is in four sections; slow, fast, slow, fast–though it might be more apt to say placid, busy, placid, busy. That is, the tempo doesn’t alter all that much. Section one is a long, slow drone; two is made up of active, short, quick bits; three is another drone, lighter in texture and perhaps for that reason seeming more complex; and four gets some phase work going, but not consistently, just part of the overall design. Everything merges eventually to a revving engine kind of sound that goes higher and softer to the end. (Perspectives of New Music PNM 28)

(Also available on  Pacific Rim: CSR CD 9101 – three movements)

RiverrunRiverrun (1986)

Truax’s music, however much it may share with that of other practitioners, has never seemed to me easy to categorize. Sounds that seem to belong to one type of electronic music (Sonic Landscape #3, for instance) are treated as if they were in a different type altogether. What’s more, as one can hear particularly in The Wings of Nike and Riverrun, Truax sometimes sounds as if he belongs more with people like Daniel Menche or Zbigniew Karkowski than with John Chowning or Jean-Claude Risset.

The only predecessor, of sorts, that I can think of for Riverrun is Xenakis’ Bohor,  which is similarly sparing of material and overwhelming of effect. And to mention Bohor is simply to mention another outlier in this world. Truax mentions in the Asymmetry interview that he has redone the piece for eight channels, to match how the original version was before mixing it down to the four it was performed in or the two we hear on CD. I hope someday to hear the eight channel version, of course, but the stereo CD version is pretty stunning all on its own! (Cultures électroniques – Bourges LDC 278055)

(Riverrun is also available  on Digital Soundscapes: Cambridge Street Records, CSR CD-8701 and Wergo Records, WER 2017-50.)

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