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Language, Message, Drummage; Wayfaring Sounds; Mutatis Mutandis; Sawdust


(EMF CD 00614)

(EMF CD 00624)

(EMF CD 00634)

(EMF CD 0064)

(Four CDs from Electronic Music Foundation. )

Herbert Brun is more than just a composer of computer music - he is, in large measure, the current representative of a dissident Germanic tradition which views art as an ethical and moral force, rather than as just the play of sense perceptions. His views are no facile modernism, easily knocked down by the Sancho Panzas of contemporary critical theory, but constitute one of the most rigorous bodies of challenging intellectual engagement going today. So what is his music like? Diverse and rigorous is the answer. On these four CDs (and really, you should own the complete set) are most of his works, ranging from his neoclassical Five Pieces for Piano, op. 1 (1940) to his 1997 work for viola and tape, on stilts among ducks, which combines intricacy and seriousness, sarcasm and whimsy. His Project Sawdust pieces, which involved programming computer sounds from the waveform up, and observing and exploring the results, take up a complete CD to themselves. These pieces are some of the crunchiest, rastyest sounding music ever composed, and Brun makes the point that there is a profound political difference between composing a situation, or a set of rules, and observing the result; and composing every element of a piece with total control every step of the way. These pieces definitely are the result of the former, experimental attitude. There are a number of classic pieces on these CDs as well. Generations of electronic musicians have been raised on Brun's Futility 1964, with its alternation of advanced sounds and fragments of a nihilist text; and early algorithmic classics Non Sequitur VI (1966) and Soniferous Loops (1964), both for instrumental ensemble and tape. These four CDs, which cover almost half a century of uncompromising questing by one of our eraÕs most penetrating minds, are simply essential listening.

(this review was first published in Chroma)

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