Various Artists

Shaun Naidoo: Fiat Lux - Selected ElectroAcoustic Works, 1996-2007

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Shaun Naidoo is a South African composer who lives and teaches in California, and he has consistently won accolades from critics for his capability to "entice human-like response from his computer." To judge from his Capstone album Fiat Lux: Selected Electroacoustic Works 1996-2007, the critics are right -- in these six selections, all of which involve expert human performers interacting with computer generated music, Naidoo achieves very natural and spontaneous-sounding textures that evoke specific kinds of impressions within the listener, and there is nothing canned or contrived sounding about it. Naidoo's music has a strong cinematic component that registers visually in the mind; "Killer Toys" from the saxophone solo Blood on the Pattern (2003) is a particularly telling example of such facility. While Naidoo is not afraid of using synthesized-sounding beat patterns, as in Trenchcoat Dances (2003), it is clear that this is not techno trying to be arty; it is art music that utilizes techno-like rhythms as an element; a daunting task none to easy to pull off. Trenchcoat Dances is composed for percussionist Nicholas Terry of the California EAR Unit, and the opening movement, "Skin and Bone," is an energizing wallop of rhythm that recalls both techno beats and the percussion scoring of composers like Henry Cowell. Humorously, Naidoo utilizes the factory presets on a unit common to techno, the Roland JV-1080, as the basis for a piano solo played by Vicki Ray, Bad Times Coming (1996). It's not too often the one encounters the Dobro in either art music or electronics, but the spooky, atmospheric Out There (2006), written for Scot Ray, makes effective use of this instrument most common to bluegrass. Evocative, highly artistic, and disciplined in his use of electronics, Shaun Naidoo is a composer well worth experiencing as a vital force in contemporary music, and Capstone's Fiat Lux: Selected Electroacoustic Works 1996-2007 is an intriguing and entertaining forum for his gifts.

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