Various Artists

CMCD: 6 Classic Concrete Electroacoustic & Electronic Works, 1970-1990

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CMCD: 8 Classic Concrete Electroacoustic & Electronic Works 1970-1990 is a reissue of a collection that originally debuted on ReR vinyl back in 1991. ReR identifies all six of the works here as "timeless classics of the electronic medium" in most of its promotional literature, but to be fair, CMCD is more of a mixed bag. The key work here is German composer Georg Katzer's Aide Memoire, a 1983 audio-collage drawn from sound recordings relating to the Nazi period in Germany. Aide Memoire (i.e., Memory Aid) is so well done that it illustrates the advantage sound has over visuals in transmitting the experience of history. Whereas over time one gets inured to the familiar, tattered old films of the Holocaust and its horrors, this mixture of happy Nazi rally songs, sped-up Hitler speeches, clanking trains, and other sounds puts the listener in the very center of what was going on. Aide Memoire would be an excellent piece for high school history teachers to play for their students in a darkened classroom -- it will say volumes more than most textbooks or educational videos about the collective nightmare that gripped Europe from 1933-1945.

The work most similar to Aide Memoire is Steve Moore's A Quiet Gathering (1988), which seems overlong and a tad divergent from its agenda of "chamber music of environmental sounds." Jaroslav Krcek's Sonaty Slavickove (1970) and Richard Trythall's Omaggio a Jerry Lee Lewis (1975) are solid and well-made musique concrète pieces that nonetheless belong to their era. Lutz Glandien's Es Lebe (1990) has worn least well of these pieces; while it is a better-than-average product within its milieu, it clearly belongs to the 1970s university faculty recital with student instrumentalist and tape genre, and is packed with old-fashioned "new music" clichés. John Oswald's Parade (1986) is merely a heavily filtered, re-edited series of bits and pieces taken from Satie's ballet Parade. Parade probably worked well as a live performance with its choreographic element, but does not leave much of an impression on its own. The Katzer piece alone is essential; the rest range from interesting to dull.

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