Alvin Curran

Alvin Curran: Maritime Rites

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Foghorns and other sea sounds are the raw materials of Alvin Curran's sonic explorations on Maritime Rites, produced for ten radio broadcasts in 1985 and issued in 2004 as a double CD by New World Records. In collaboration with John Cage, Pauline Oliveiros, and other adventurous composers and performers, Curran combined recorded sounds from the U.S. East Coast with live improvisations; the programs represent the spontaneous interactions of the musicians with "found" music, and Curran's manipulations of their sounds through aleatoric procedures. That this collection drifts like avant-garde flotsam should come as no surprise, for the project's premise invites randomness, and the mixtures of horns, bells, bird calls, vocalizations, poetic recitations, electronic tones, and instrumental licks resist conventional musical expectations. If these recordings are allowed to wash over the listener as background music, then the cumulative effect is of a dream that is sometimes pleasant but also a little strange and disorienting. But if these sessions are judged with an attentive, critical ear, even accepting Curran's loose scheme, they fail to hold interest for more than a few minutes, and seem rather more about the artists' conceits than the haunting sounds of the seaboard.

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