Philip Bimstein

Garland Hirschi's Cows

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Bimstein is one of several composers who have a love for "natural" or environmental sound and have created pieces that transform musical characteristics (pitch, rhythm, etc.) found in that sound to acoustic instruments (composers such as Ellen Band, Scott Johnson, Annea Lockwood, Gene "Blue Gene" Tyranny, Hildegard Westerkamp, and others). There are many methods created around that idea, sometimes varying with specific content. In Bimstein's delightful "Garland Hirschi's Cows" (1990), a concerto in three "moo-vements," the lively acoustic music is based on the sounds of cows and their owner, who begins by asking, "You wanna know a little bit about my cows, huh?" The second part is called "Pasturale," and the third "Moovement." "The Louie Louie Variations" (1989), played here with wonderful sensitivity by the Modern Mandolin Quartet, are, of course based on an iconic chord progression that has become part of the cultural environment. By highly inventive deconstructive and transposition techniques, the composer turns this otherwise maudlin -- or at least predictable -- series into a richly harmonic and lyrical treat. "Dark Winds Rising" (1992) for string quartet and tape uses the voices of three generations of the Jake family as source material that is manipulated by computer. Their subject is the toxic-waste incinerator that threatened the health and traditional sanctity of the Kaibab Paiute Reservation. The instrumental part is performed with great feeling and accomplished technique by the Turtle Island String Quartet. "The Door" (1994) is a humorously droll and remarkable tape composition made from samples of sounds of the composer's versatile, creaky studio door. "Vox=Dominum" (1994) is a deeply mysterious meditation for tape employing Persian classical music and poetry as sound sources.

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