What?? was composed in 1967 in the electronic music studio of Swedish Radio, and was originally released on the German new music label Wergo with Bo Anders Persson's Proteinimperialism, another static drone piece. What?? is based on Folke Rabe's intense interest in monotony and harmonic overtones. The work is based on deep drones and their partials, where each partial is separately manipulated. Sometimes this coalesces into a beautiful chord, sometimes into more dissonant structures, but is continually and seamlessly evolving and mutating from one state to the next. Although the work is nominally beatless, Rabe mixes up the partials so that they provide illusionary internal beats as the sound waves intersect, similar to the drone work of La Monte Young and Tony Conrad. For the CD reissue in 1997, Rabe included a second version of What?? played at half-speed. He had used both versions in concert performance over the years, and the half-speed version provides the ability to hear the events at a slower pace. Far from sounding like a half-speed version, the second piece takes on a life of its own and has a different set of characteristics from the first. The drones and slow-moving pace make What?? an excellent piece for sleeping, dreaming, and meditating, providing a calm sense of repose for the listener.
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AllMusic Review by Caleb Deupree