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Breaking the Surface


(Lovely Music LCD 2082

Annea Lockwood, originally from New Zealand, but based in the USA since the mid-70s, continues to be one of the most far-reaching conceptual thinkers in contemporary music. This is a very profound CD, and its also one that's extremely hard listening. It demands exact attention if its qualities are to be appreciated. There are only two pieces on the CD, each 25 minutes long, and each for a male voice with accompaniment of environmental sounds. Both pieces concern transformations; in the first, the transformation of consciousness that takes place in shamanism, in the second, the transformation of death. Duende, the first work, is a 1997 collaboration between vocalist / improviser Thomas Buckner and Lockwood. In this work, Lockwood recorded the sounds Buckner had developed for his own use in his improvising, and structured them on tape, making a kind of improvising score for him. Buckner has a fine operatic baritone - he features prominently in many of Robert Ashley's operas - but the extended vocal techniques used in this piece are an much more complex and exciting than anything I've heard him do previously. He says that each run-through of the piece, practice or performance, has been a transforming experience for him, and I can hear, on the basis of this sparse and striking performance, how that must be the case. Delta Run, from 1979-81, is a collaboration between the late sculptor Walter Wincha and Lockwood. On the day before his death in 1979, at age 30, Wincha talked to Lockwood about his attitudes to his upcoming death. The serenity and acceptance in his voice are extremely moving, as he talks, often with extreme difficulty, about his feelings. Accompanying this are the gentlest of environmental sounds, breath sounds, rain, etc. In another context, these long environmental stretches might be questioned, but here, they establish the pace of communication, one that is slowing down gradually, to an inevitable ceasing. At the conclusion of this CD, with its voyages into shamanic and the near-death states, I was deeply moved. I still have only one comment on this CD: a soft, hushed, "wow".

(this review was first published in Chroma)

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