There is no telling how electronic music would have developed if Don Buchla's knob-based modules had been able to catch the attention of more artists than Robert Moog's keyboard-controlled instruments. These early pieces by Charlemagne Palestine have been created with the Buchla 100 and 200 series of modules, and they show just how versatile, flexible, and beautiful his system was. Previously unreleased, the five pieces included on In-Mid-Air were crafted late at night at the Intermedia Centre of the New York University from 1967 to 1970. Described as "late night electronic sonority," they consist of delicate assemblages of sine, sawtooth, and square waves. But unlike most electronic music at the time (yes, even Morton Subotnick's "Silver Apples of the Moon"), Palestine's shows enough beauty to draw the mind away from its processes -- much like Pauline Oliveros' own experiments with Buchla's devices. The music on In-Mid-Air unfolds slowly, sounding lush and brilliant. Palestine keeps his drones rich, shimmering with many overtones and parallel voices. He also makes good use of stereo panning. More importantly, he uses sounds as sounds, not as notes. Each piece develops its own microtonal universe -- a built-in possibility of Buchla's instruments. "Timbral for Pran Nath" is the harshest piece of the set. It quickly settles on a mid- to high-range drone with little movement and stays there for a bit too long (15 minutes). On the other hand, "Negative Sound Study" presents 24 minutes of relaxed but eventful music that explores at length the full audio spectrum. It stands as one of the most organic pieces of early electronic music one might ever have the pleasure to hear. Three shorter works round up the set.
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AllMusic Review by François Couture