Various Artists

Untitled Songs

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Why should a 50-year anniversary be more significant than others? The label Sirr probably did not want to wait any longer to pay tribute to Karlheinz Stockhausen's genre-defining "Gesang der J├╝nglinge," the composition that introduced sound spatialization (and multi-channel composition) as one of the key interests in electro-acoustic music, back in 1956. The main focus of Stockhausen's piece was a transformation of the human voice into an electronic instrument, the raw material being a female voice reading an excerpt from the apocryphal Book of Daniel, about burning souls. Untitled Songs collects 21 pieces by artists who acknowledge the work's influence and offer a modern take on the relation between voice and electronics or, in some cases, develop its "fire" theme. Most of the contributions are previously unreleased, but a few others were already known, including Janek Schaefer's beautiful "Love Song," which smoothly opens the proceedings on disc one. The piece features the voices of the women in his family, recorded singing the word "love" in various pitches. Heitor Alvelos also remains in his family, using the earliest recording of his own voice as the basis for his piece. Dale Lloyd extracts vocal consonants from a dialogue in Japanese to shape an alien form of communication, though not as alien as the landscape Paulo Raposo sound-paints. Anna Homler's improvisations in her own unique language (accompanied by cellist Michael Intriere and engineer Mark Wheaton) provide the only mostly acoustic contribution, a bit out of place at the beginning of disc two, but still a fine piece from an artist too rarely heard. Andrew Deutsch, John Grzinich, Anthony Pateras and Robin Fox (as a duo), and Steve Roden also contribute strong pieces. There is no need to be familiar with Stockhausen's work to enjoy Untitled Songs -- although you should, if only for its importance in music history. This two-CD set can be approached simply as a broad picture of contemporary sound art with a focus on the human voice.

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