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Friday, April 28, 2017

Mel Powell/Vladimir Ussachevsky/Otto Luening - "Music For Electronic & Older Instruments" Vinyl, LP, 1968 (Composer Recordings Inc)


I have an addiction to music that was recorded in the 1950's/1960s that deal with electronic tape manipulations.  My favorite composers, and who often worked together is Vladimir Ussachevsky and Otto Luening.  Both were with the Columbia-Princeton Electronic Music Center in New York.  Which is a cell in NYC that was devoted to making new sounds.  This album, "Music for Electronic & Older Instruments" was released in 1968, but most of the music was composed in the early 1960s.  
Side one is devoted to my heroes, and the first piece is a collaboration between Ussachevsky and Luening.  "Concerted Piece" is a dual of sorts with a full orchestra and tape manipulated sounds.   They have done this before, and it never fails.  The tension between live and real music being performed with the addition of a 'future' technology is pretty incredible.  
"Wireless Fantasy" is the masterpiece on the album, and it's by Ussachevsky.  It goes back to the origin of radio sounds, and it's kind of a nostalgic piece of work because it is both a tribute but also a source of that noise that was made in the early 20rh century.   When I heard it for the first time, I immediately thought of Kraftwerk's "Radioactivity" album.   Which is also a throwback to a sound or at the very least a tribute to early technology.  
The second side is devoted to Mel Powell who I don't know.  The works on this album are electronic or tape orientated but with some pieces that are the total real instrument - although very 20th century modern.  "Two Prayer Settings" is voice by Charles Bressier, with text by Paul Goodman, and music performed by the New York Soloists.  It's a beautiful piece of music, and Bressier does his work with great voice and skill.   The electronic piece he does is called "Events, a nice" and it is text by Hart Crane, read by actors.  He prerecorded the actors and does a cut up with them, and it's a  beautiful piece but not essential for my taste.  His other tape piece is "Second Electronic Setting, " and it's hardcore tape music.   I like it.
What is great about this album is that it's a collection of works that were at the time modern and new, and I like to think of myself drinking a martini in a mid-century home with my hi-fi listening to this album.  Bland yes, but it feels great.