Carl Stone

Carl Stone: Nak Won

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Veteran American electronic composer Carl Stone moved to Japan in 2001, where he writes for the Tokyo-based magazine Sound & Recording and teaches digital electronic music at Chukyo University. Nak Won, issued on the French/Japanese Sonore Records label, consists of some of the last pieces Stone composed in the United States before his departure for Japan; this program more or less follows one that Stone presented in Los Angeles not long before his departure. Prolific to a degree on CDs in the 1990s, Nak Won was the only solo release Stone produced in the early 2000s, even as his work in collaborations with others (such as pipa virtuoso Min Xiao-Fen) and live performances throughout the world remained constant. Nak Won consists of three long-form electronic pieces of which the outer two require a good deal of patient listening as their secrets only unfold over time, though Stone's unwillingness to compromise in this regard is a hallmark of his artistry.

The title track, Nak Won, is centered around a stubborn tone that sounds like an old frequency tester, moving up and down on the same pitch in different octaves. This sound is joined by distant, fractious elements placed far in the background that ultimately conjoin themselves into the main tone, creating a pleasing and atmospheric result for a time before it comes apart. Nak Won has the virtue of having a clear-cut formal structure and a sense of purpose. The second piece, Kreutz, is a very attractive ambient piece that unfolds through a series of subtly shaded chords.Darul Kabap begins with modified sounds from a stringed instrument -- possibly a pipa -- answered by similar sounds filtered in a different way, joined by another related, more purely electronic voice, and so on. While the entrances of these voices are carefully timed, the result resembles something of a free-form electronic jam as it goes along.

Stone utilizes a G3 Powerbook in realizing these works, and what he does with it is very musical; as such, listeners attuned to average "laptop band"-based noise might not get much out of Nak Won. Stone's work is primarily created with live performance in mind, and the disc, good as it is, can only be seen as partially representative of what he is up to. Nonetheless, Carl Stone remains a vibrant force in digital electronic music, and Nak Won is a worthy addition to his canon.

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