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CHARLIE MORROW: Toot! (3 CD set)
A much needed retrospective of this pioneering New York sound artist, radio artist, performer, composer, installation artist and organiser of large-scale performance events - now in his 69th year - well travelled and much lauded but so far poorly represented on recordings. Central Park 1850 opens CD1 - a pop song length reconstruction of the bird life of that year, heard through the seasons, echoed at the start of CD2 in Central Park 2000, which follows exactly the same structure but now with the bird population of 2007. Windsong documents his interactive Arctic Storeroom in Bonn – in which visitors open drawers and cabinets to release arctic recordings. Short but nice. Very Slow Gabrielli, Morrow’s first major Work (1957) is a drastically slow motion performance of a movement from Gabrielli’s1547 Symphoniae Sacrae, a highly effective piece and a nice technique to apply to late renaissance harmonies. The method is repeated in two miniatures employing a similar principle on CD 2: Chorale Bounce1 & 2, a slowed Vermont Hymn by William Billings, for massed violins. Marilyn Monroe Collage (1967) was written for string trio, movie soundtrack clips and snatches of interview material; hypnotic listening; and Late Afternoon Chant for mult-Morrows vocalising, with accumulating electronic processing, is closest to the concrete poetry explored in the ‘60s and ‘70s. Wave Music for 30 harps is a recording of a highly orchestrated, and often exquisite, spatial performance made in the cathedral of John the Divine, NY conjuring extraordinary waves of articulated texture and detail from physically massed harps. Wave Music for 40 cellos accumulates cellos to track the colour changes of a sunset over the Hudson at another public gathering, this one outdoors. Toot N Blink Chicago is also a document of a citywide public event (mounted in honour of John Cage) and features a location announcer, atmospherics, spectators, a phalanx of ship’s horns and a fleet of speedboats. A Future harvest - vocalise is an extract from Morrow’s last work for the Klaus Schoning at the WDR Studio of Acoustic Art, a kind of chorale. The Book of Hours of Catherine of Cleve, was also made for radio, this time VPRO in Holland, and is a vast composition for bells, soundscapes, period instruments and voices that attempt to bring to ear the pictured miniatures of life that ornament that eponymous C16 mediational volume. To close, Feather is a cumulative loop piece, built from music boxes and clock chimes. The set comes with a 34p book - mainly a long essay by Julian Cowley that celebrates (and rather overinterprets) Morrow’s life and work, with shorter appreciations from Jerome Rothenberg, Robert Freeman and Michael Schumacher (Freeman gives the straightest account).
Code: XI 135