Game and Earnest is a study on chance and order, improvisation and composition, undertaken through the game of chess. In 1989, four German composers united to create this highly conceptualized and pretty unique work. Dietrich Eichmann, Christoph Grund, Uwe Kremp, and Wolfgang Von Stürmer wrote and recorded 64 short electronic compositions. They were assigned to the squares of a chess board hooked to a computer. Whenever a piece is placed on a square the computer plays the appropriate segment. Additionally, four improvisers (Eichmann on piano, Kremp on guitar, Von Stürmer at the turntables, and saxophonist Reimar Volker) interact with the game in progress. Now, a game of chess usually follows a rather fast pace at the beginning and slows down as the play develops. That's exactly how Annemi Egri and Wolfgang Rihm behaved. The time elapsed between moves and the decreasing number of pieces on the board result in cluttered music in the beginning that gains space with time, gradually leaving more room for the improvisors who have to take a prominent role in the end to fill the gaps between each move. As a concept, Game and Earnest is highly rewarding; it stems many questions on the nature of order and chaos and the relation between man and machine (especially since chess has been central to the development of artificial intelligence). As music, it is not as fulfilling, but it has some great moments. This recording comes from a concert held on December 11, 1989 (it was released 12 years later as part of Oaksmus' Strand III series of historical recordings). The first two parts, packed with unrelated sound events, are simply too dislocated, but as the improvisors take control of the board (so to speak), things get more interesting.
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AllMusic Review by François Couture