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MUSIC REVIEW : Stone Plays 4 Works at Zeta Dance Collective

July 20, 1990|JOHN HENKEN

New music is hardly the swankiest neighborhood in the arts scene, and deep in the heart of the ghetto lies electronic music. Orchestras and opera companies, with their big houses and big crowds, seldom come calling with commissions there.

But that is where much of the more imaginative and liberating work is being done. Thanks to home computers and the digital revolution, composers can create directly with sound, as improvising virtuosos in their own right, rather than writing down more or less specific plans for others to realize.

One of the most technically sophisticated and artistically enlivening of such composers is Carl Stone. Wednesday he presented four of his latest creations as a compact concert, produced by the Independent Composers Assn., at a well-attended Zeta Dance Collective.

Stone's pieces, bearing the names of favorite restaurants, are based on sequences of sampled and processed sound, which he manipulates on the spot. This may mean anything from relatively modest mix adjustments to full-on editing, with Stone doing some twitching, chair-bound dancing behind his computer and equipment stack.

The composer was most involved physically in "Mom's," a hot, frenetic piece of cyber-salsa. The strata of clearly defined cross-meters eventually coalesced into a pulsating, rock-the-house rhythm track, over which Stone laid articulate electronic songs, goosed with raw slabs of sampled mayhem. Spatial effects, from speakers around the room, helped keep the texture remarkably transparent, as in all the pieces, be they ever so densely layered.

"Gadberry's" proved the flip side, a cool jazz mosaic of bopping bell sounds. The contrasting middle section seemed abruptly shortened, making for a rather perfunctory structure, but the main section was wonderfully liquid and balanced.

Stone began with "Chao Nue," a flowing, meditative prelude. He is a master of organic, Escher-like transformations, and the piece developed lyrically in unpredictable ways that always sounded inevitable, after the fact. The complexity of the permutations was balanced with a poignantly varied recapitulation.

At the end came "Kong Joo," a short quasi-ethnic closer that sounded something like a Sino-Celtic parody of "We Will Rock You," minus all the heaviness.

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