Michael J. Schumacher


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Michael J. Schumacher's fine follow-up to 2003's Room Pieces demonstrates the composer's continuing interest in sound-as-installation and as stand-alone work at the same time. Consisting of four extended pieces and featuring a variety of collaborators, including his partners in the Donald Miller Trio (guitarist Miller himself and cellist Charles Curtis), Stories also has a double-reference in its title and cover art. Stories can be told but also built, and it's the latter reference that comes into play here, as quiet but not necessarily calm introductions are then added to via other musical contributions to create involved collages and counterpoints. It doesn't build up to white noise or complete overload at any point, instead relying on subtlety and calm, unexpected shifts (when the MIDI grand piano comes in for an extended appearance on "Pulse," the effect of the longer period of time is almost shocking). The liner note reading 'all pieces by computer generation in real time using "random" procedures' may seem quixotic but calls attention to the fact that it is at once a blend of improvisation and restriction -- it is also, after all, not a constantly remade/remodeled series of compositions once recorded. That all said, the apparently non-linear interjections of sound and voice on "Two, Three and Four Part Inventions" make for a far more interesting and actually enjoyable listen than so much of the glitch/IDM work that clutters up hard drives in the 21st century. At times Schumacher takes the line of musical descent from Erik Satie to Brian Eno and beyond to its logical extremes -- the slight hiss and tiny treble sounds that consist of most of "Still" are so minimal and 'not there' as to almost defy concentration. (A way to hear the piece in radically different contexts -- try one listen on open speakers with other surrounding sounds mixed in, then again strictly on headphones.)

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