Women in Electronic Music 1977

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AllMusic Review by Blair Sanderson

This reissued CRI album of electronic and electro-acoustic music is an important document, not only of a fertile period for the genre, but also of the intrepid women composers who contributed their original work to it. Produced at Berkeley in 1977 and originally titled New Music for Electronic and Recorded Media, the collection made no issue of gender; yet the work of such significant figures as Laurie Anderson, Pauline Oliveros, and Annea Lockwood, as well as the imaginative efforts of less familiar composers Laurie Spiegel, Megan Roberts, Ruth Anderson, and the visionary Johanna Magdalena Beyer, made a compelling case for women as pioneers in the field. Of course, a compilation of this CD's breadth is unlikely to be equally deep, and the program is of variable quality; listeners may note hits and misses among the selections. Certainly, the Electric Weasel Ensemble's realization of Beyer's premonitory Music of the Spheres (1938) steals the show for its ethereal sonorities and slightly goofy glissandi; and Roberts' traumatic, banshee-like I Could Sit Here All Day (1976) features the most gut-wrenching vocals of the disc. Ruth Anderson's soothing study of tones, Points (1973-1974), bears repeated listening; it transcends easy electronic effects and is austerely beautiful in its simple layers and haunting harmonies. But the remaining works are less striking in their characteristics and fall into more conventional categories of electronic music and recorded sound. Among the more static or sonically limited electronic pieces are Lockwood's slowly evolving musique concrète piece World Rhythms (1975), Oliveros' dreamlike tape-delay collage Bye Bye Butterfly (1965), and Spiegel's rhythmically pulsing Appalachian Grave I (1974), all of which are adequate examples of experimental electronica, if not quite masterpieces. Laurie Anderson's New York Social Life and Time to Go (both 1977) are representative of her quirky narrative style, and fans of her later work will find these early stories attractive for their drawn-from-life personae. The reproduction of these analog recordings is very good, and the volume levels are evenly balanced.

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