Various Artists

Sonic Circuits, Vol. 9

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The annual Ars Electronica competition had already transformed its academic format to embrace the growing experimental electronica culture. Its American counterpart, the Sonic Circuits International Electronic Music Festival took the same road in 2001 and the results are eloquently displayed in volume nine of the Sonic Circuits CD series. First of all, one finds the inclusion of a few tracks much closer to the glitch/clicks & cuts esthetic than academic electro-acoustics (although one must point out the American Composers Forum, who curates the event, did not use to adopt a stiff position in the past). That in itself is hardly something to blame: you'd have to live in an ivory tower to fail to see how closely related the two fields have become. No, where the surgery hurts is on the design front. The packaging of the series has undergone a complete makeover. Volume nine is delivered in a trendy antistatic plastic bag with, in place of a booklet, a folding poster in bright colors, futuro-kitsch fonts, and electronica cartoons. Well, you just can't win 'em all. One worthy novelty is the inclusion of two works from the visual/multimedia portion of the competition. Preston Wright's "Uptown Sound Labyrinth" is a rollover exploration environment filled with field recordings. Katherine Gordon's "Endless Transit" is a good (not great) art video with electronic music. Of the music works included, Douglas Geers' "Atomic Tango" and John Richey's suite of very short tableaux, "11 Studies in Noise and Dialectic," stand out. But the most impressive piece, not in technical terms but for its human charge, is Susan Parenti's "No, Honey, I Can Do It," a gripping voice-based electro-acoustic work. Anyone who had a mother of the submissive type will be amazed at how right-on her portrait of the devoted, self-ignoring woman is.

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