Music for Electronic & Older Instruments


Impressive “tape music” record on the Composers Recordings Inc. label with sounds dating from the early to mid 1960’s. The first side is credited to Otto Luening and Vladimir Ussachevsky, co-founders of the Columbia-Princeton Electronic Music Center. The b-side features Mel Powell, former director of electronic music at Yale University. The record begins with the sounds of the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra, the source music for Luening and Ussachevsky’s first electronic piece.

Throughout “Concerted piece”, the music alternates from standard classical to tape-manipulated electronics. The liner notes state that the music bears some resemblance to a movement from a classical concerto, with the tape recorder in the role of the soloist. Overall a wonderful start to the record and a great precursor for the rest of the LP.

The following track, “Of Wood and Brass” focuses strictly on an electronic theme. Here’s what Ussachevsky had to say about it:

“The first section consists predominantely of material evolved from the trombone and from the electronic source; the second from a single flourish on a trumpet; most of the third section was originally played on the xylophone, mixed with some electronic sounds; the final section is made almost exclusively from a glissando on the trombone and the sound of a Korean gong.”

“Wireless Fantasy” is the final track on the first side, a ‘tribute’ to the pioneers of radio technology. Here, Ussachevsky was asked to produce an electronic work utilizing some wireless code signals as basic sound material. Much of the old wireless gear he used came from the Historical Wireless Museum in Trenton, NJ (woah — is this still around?). This is probably my favorite track on here. It kind of reminds me of the instrumental work on Kraftwerks’ “Radioactivity” LP.

Just when you thought there couldn’t really be anything more interesting on this record, there’s “Events” on side two. The track combines three pre-recorded voices (each reciting Hart Crane’s poem, “Legend”) and a barrage of electronic sounds. Amazing.

The record finishes off with some more electronic work and some small-group avant garde improvisation. If you ever see this do not hesitate to pick it up; anyone remotely interested in electronic music would be quite pleased.

Listen:
Vladmir Ussachevsky – Of Wood and Brass
Vladmir Ussachevsky – Wireless Fantasy

Read more about Ussachevsky and Luening here: Columbia-Princeton Electronic Music Center

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