In 1993, after 20 years of competitions, the sponsoring organization felt that the competition was becoming too rigid and staid. Their response was the Puy Competition, held for two years only in 1993 and 1994, named after a game played by medieval troubadours. They proposed four new categories: electro-acoustic music for contemporary dance; with humor; for young people; and for social, profane, or religious occasions. This release contains the first, second, and third prizewinners in the dance category on disc one and selected winners from the other three categories on disc two. Disc one compares favorably to other releases in the Cultures Electroniques series. Although many of the pieces were collaboratively written with dancers, the music for the most part successfully stands alone. Joseph Hyde contributes a circular piece that starts with a complex and multi-layered tuned percussion sound, moves to a metallic melody against a highly reverberant background and a slow percussion section, then unwinds back to the original source material. Akemi Ishijima's quiet and mysterious Solark is based almost exclusively on piano sounds and muffled gestures over a slow, throbbing low-pitched drone. Jean Piche's dramatic and moving tribute to the Attica prison riots contrasts a clear, drifting harmonic background against taped interviews of the prisoners. But the last work on disc one, Eduardo Beck Miranda's "Electroacoustic Sambas," reveals some of the drawbacks of the unusual approach of the Puy competition. The new categories were designed to appeal to an audience who doesn't typically listen to electro-acoustic music; unfortunately, they do not represent the kind of music that academic electro-acoustic composers generally write. Miranda's sambas, based on Brazilian dance forms and with sound material from Brazilian percussion, don't carry the kick that drives other pop-based contemporary Brazilian-influenced dance composers (such as David Byrne or David Van Tieghem). This problem is even more pronounced on the second disc, where most of the winners use funny voices and sound effects, but don't begin to approach the work of collagists such as Negativland or Tape-Beatles. For whatever reason, the IMEB thankfully made the Puy competition a temporary affair, and this collection is one of the least interesting in the series.
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AllMusic Review by Caleb Deupree
Track Listing - Disc 1
Track Listing - Disc 2