Cigar Smoke

Esther Lamneck

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Cigar Smoke Review

by Blair Sanderson

Because the clarinet's pure tone strongly resembles that of a sine wave produced by an oscillator, and because some of its extended techniques -- such as multiphonics and amplified key clicks -- sound remarkably like synthesized effects, the instrument seems particularly well-suited to the field of electro-acoustic music. Esther Lamneck, a virtuoso clarinetist known for her work in experimental and improvisational music with electronics, performs seven works on this 2007 release from Innova that capitalizes on this instrumental pairing and demonstrates her versatility and consummate musicianship in her performances of uncompromising music by Robert Rowe, Lawrence Fritts, Cort Lippe, Dinu Ghezzo, Orlando Legname, Lawrence Moss, and Zack Browning. Yet in spite of the creative potential of the combination of clarinet with tape and computers, and notwithstanding Lamneck's skill in playing these intensely difficult works, the pieces suffer from an unrelieved sameness of style, with harshness emphasized over smoothness, pointillism over connected pitches, and nervous hyperactivity over sublime stillness. The primitive blips and beeps of traditional electronic music have been replaced with more sophisticated loops and layered textures, but these are still part of the vocabulary of the avant-garde of the 1960s-'70s, and the scattered gestures and atonal dissonances that dominated the older style of electronic composition are still present in these works. Adventurous people who like to immerse themselves in angular sound-sculptures and free-form noise will find this album challenging, but others who expect milder, more meditative forms of electronic music will think this CD is too abrasive for their tastes.

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