Ge-Suk Yeo

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Since its beginnings in the mid-twentieth century, electro-acoustic music was chiefly used to electronically reshape the raw sounds of instruments and objects, but few of the pioneers of this medium employed the human voice as a primary sound source. Some composers of musique concrète may have felt that the voice was too closely identified with traditional song and too expressive to be properly adapted to the more abstract dictates of electronic music; if it was used at all, it needed to be masked and depersonalized to work as satisfactory material. Others, though, especially among contemporary artists, have found in the voice a rich source of sonorities for manipulation, from sung tones, spoken or whispered words, and altered phonemes, to percussive tongue clicks, buzzing fricatives, and other "mouth music" effects. On her 2005 album Dalbukki, Ge-Suk Yeo amply demonstrates how she exploits her own voice and creates soundscapes that run from mysterious "narratives," to mechanical twittering and cosmic thundering, covering a wide range of pitches, dynamics, and timbres in the process. This classically trained singer and avant-garde composer seldom disguises her voice beyond recognition, yet she alters it enough to produce deep bass parts, fragmented passages of speech at different speeds, and striking non-verbal effects, which she blends with other non-vocal sounds and textures taken from her field recordings. The experience of hearing the three-movement Dalbukki will vary between listeners, depending on one's knowledge of the Korean language or familiarity with the fairy tales related; but how well one enjoys the interplay of vocalizations and electronic figurations is largely a matter of taste. To some extent, Yeo's music is overly linear and layered in tracks, without much variety of gestures and weak simulation of spatial dimensions; and her patterns sometimes seem a little too automatically generated and artificial. Yeo deserves credit for her resourcefulness and inventiveness within what seem to be limited technical means, and Dalbukki, Time Sculptures I, and Voice from Afar all have their moments of cleverness, originality, and odd beauty. However, the hypnotic quality and the repetitiousness of her music may be easiest for fans of minimalism and ambient music to appreciate. The sound of these recordings is a little dry and flat; without any indications to the contrary, this is probably due to the use of analog tapes for some sources.

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