Funktasia: Music by Zack Browning and Sever Tipei

Zack Browning

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Funktasia: Music by Zack Browning and Sever Tipei Review

by James Manheim

This disc presents music by two American contemporary composers (both affiliated with the consistently experiment-friendly University of Illinois) who have written both electronic compositions and those for conventional instruments, investigating the common style that persists through the two media. The title Funktasia is more applicable to the music of Zack Browning, which mixes select references to the language of popular music with structures derived from abstruse formal devices like magic squares. His zippy music is made up of short, punchy blasts that are accented by sharp but subtle contrasts of texture between instruments, often between an electronic and an acoustic sound. In the opening Pure Sweat, for example, a bass clarinet veers off from buzzy electronic sounds. The use of the electric guitar in Coming Up Sevens (1987) is notable; it is one of a fairly small group of modern compositions that uses instruments from the popular world but divorces them from its stylistic references -- and plays with the results in interesting ways. The music of composer Sever Tipei is more oriented toward electronics and extended techniques that are all displayed in a wild setting of the Antonin Artaud freak-out poem "L'exécration du père-mère"; the booklet notes that the music reflects the text's background in "delusions, auditory hallucinations, glossolalia, and violent tantrums." Fasten your seatbelt! The performers are a mostly youthful group who throw themselves into the music with enthusiasm and confidence, and the result is a mind-stretching set of pieces that is never dull.

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