Why are female electro-acoustic composers who deal with womanhood in their work so rare? Susan Frykberg is one of them. Feminist themes inhabit most of the pieces on Astonishing Sense of Being Taken Over by Something Far Greater Than Me. The title itself refers to the act of giving birth. Her other craze is the human voice, whether she uses singers or interview material. This CD contains two major works. "Mother Too," for voice and tape, is performed by singer Kate Hammett-Vaughan. Very theatrical, she could be compared to Diamanda Galas (there is something diabolical in her tone just crying out for this reference). The piece deals with the act of artistic creation as birth. Its power comes as much from the performer as from the treatments of her voice on the tape. The second pièce de résistance is the triptych Audio Birth Project. "Margaret" uses an interview Frykberg conducted with her sister after she gave birth to her first child. It works as a documentary-like prelude to the second part, the title track, a beautiful piece for tape and violin developing through periods of tension and release, reproducing labor. Part three ("I Didn't Think Much About It"), for piano and tape, uses an interview with the composer's mother, again on the subject of birth. The piano part is interpreted by Andrew Czink. The Audio Birth Project offers a touching reflection on birth that anyone interested in the subject will like. Actually, this is the kind of work that can easily introduce someone to electro-acoustics. The sensitivity embedded in Frykberg's compositions, and the fact that each piece is rooted in a specific subject, make Astonishing Sense... a lot warmer than usual for this kind of music. Strongly recommended.
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AllMusic Review by François Couture