VARIOUS ARTISTS: OHM - The early Gurus of Electronic Music 3CDs and 1 DVD box with 116pp book

 
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Re-edition, expanded of the classic collection of pieces spanning 1948-1980 (a couple of works - for Theremin and Ondes Martinot - were written earlier, but the recordings are recent). Excellently curated by Jason Gross to include most of the names you would expect to see: Pierre Schaeffer, John Cage, Herbert Eimert, Otto Luening, Hugh le Caine, Louis & Bebe Barron, Oskar Sala, Edgard Varese, Richard Maxfield, Tod Dockstader, Vladimir Ussachevsky, Milton Babbitt, MEV, Raymond Scott, Steve Reich, Pauline Oliveros, Morton Subotnik, David Tudor, Terry Riley, Luc Ferrari, Milton Babbitt, Francois Bayle, Jean Claude Risset, Iannis Xenakis, La Monte Young, Charles Dodge, Paul Lansky, Laurie Spiegel, Bernard Pamegiani, and others - chronologically arranged. A fascinating aural journey through a vibrant and exploratory period populated with many ideas and alternative approaches. A good number of the classics are represented here and, interestingly, the track order winds up telling another surprising tale - the last few tracks on the 3rd CD (representing the last years of the 70's) to me eloquently document a kind of entropy; a descent into species of drones. It also includes names stupidly added by Ellipsis for commercial rather than artistic reasons, not least those of Brian Eno (who with Jon Hassel and Klaus Schulze belongs to a different story and a world remote from that of the early pioneers). Eno was wheeled in to write the introduction too (anecdotal and anodyne, depriving us of a more useful one by the set's compiler), while his obligatory piece, shoehorned in, doesn't actually fall into the designated period. It's a shame - if typical - that Ellipsis, for the sake of shifting units, muddy what could have been a great historical document with mis-informative and irrelevant matter and exclude what would have been essential: a linking overview of the unfolding of the form. Sensibly, Jason commissioned the artists themselves - or people close to the artists, or informed commentators - to write the individual notes - all of which are good - but there is nothing to hold the whole story together. In lieu of contextualisation, Ellipsis spot the 114 page book with large-type quotes from DJ Spooky, David Toop, Thurston Moore, Bill Laswell, Peter Namlook, Simon Reynolds and other "name" commentators - a page each - which although fine in themselves, in light of their size and prominence and in the absence of anything else, seem to indicate that the pioneers were just the stumbling forbears of today's electronic dance and club aesthetics. However, the collection itself is indispensable and highly recommended. Even the evidence of the exhaustion of the form provides illuminating food for thought. New to this edition, the DVD contains 20 pieces - by Clara Rockmore (Theremin - with interview inc. Robert Moog and Dr. Hoffman), Robert Ashley, Alvin Lucier (the justly celebrated and great brainwave piece: percussion 'played' by an immobile Lucier and electrodes) , Holger Czukay, Alice Shields, Paul Lansky (animation soundtrack, nice animation), Leon Theremin, Iannis Xenakis, John Chowning, David Behrman, Max Matthews, Mother Mallard, Pauline Oliveros, John Cage, Steve Reich, Morton Subotnik, and interviews with Bebe Barron, Robert Moog, Clara Rockmore and Milton Babbitt (about the old RCA computer). Indispensable, and remarkably cheap.




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