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MUSIC REVIEW

Mixes spring to life via computer

December 03, 2007|Josef Woodard | Special to The Times

In days of yore, say the '60s and '70s, presenting electronic music as "tape music" in darkened rooms, sans live performers, was common, partly due to the thorny logistics of early analog synthesis. But the resulting canned feeling became something to avoid, and the current computer-music environment encourages live, real-time performers, whether they use instruments or are laptoppers behind tables onstage.

Friday night at Pasadena's Neighborhood Unitarian Church, however, a latter-day variation on tape music merged with the remix world, courtesy of the series Los Angeles Sonic Odyssey, now in its fourth season.

The concert -- run by series founder and director Jennifer Logan, a computer/electro-acoustic composer -- featured Logan as the sole "musician," perched at a mixing board in the center of an audience surrounded by 12 speakers. On all the works except one, an eight-channel piece by Paul Lansky, she turned prerecorded stereo music into live, aurally spatialized performances.

Among the beneficiaries was a work by Carl Stone, L.A.-born and bred but now based in San Francisco and Japan. Ironically, he is one composer-musician whose live-performance emphasis dates to the mid-'80s.

Typical of Stone, "Acid Bop 1, 2, 4" uses archival jazz recordings as source material. But the composer gleefully turns jazz's complexity and rhythmic gymnastics into a hypnotic new mode of propulsion.

Hypnotic from an entirely different angle, Princeton faculty member Lansky's "A Guy Walks Into a Modal Bar, in 4 Movements" isn't nearly as glib or jokey as its title. Alternately disjointed and disarmingly tranquil in its rhythmic and harmonic displacements, Lansky's construction -- derived from performances by student musicians -- illustrates his inspired way with tonality and emotionality.

As computer and electro-acoustic music goes, Friday's program was fairly sonorous and sensuous and often rooted in retooled "found sounds." The most abstract moment arrived through French composer Christian Eloy's beguiling "Orphisme." Inspired by Fernand Leger's "machine cubist" painting, it layers and melds industrial, metallic and machinistic sound elements. Leon Milo's "Resonances" evoked sparsely placed and randomly harmonized foghorns, or forlorn, banished kinfolk of the pipe organ.

Portuguese-born Patricio da Silva's chattering "Artificial Life I, II, III" suggested the inner worlds of technology and/or insects. Logan's "Sunruby" draws on texts by the Sufi poet Rumi, whispered amid "real" instruments. In this context, hearing a "straight" recording of a piano was almost jarring. It was that kind of night.

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