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SIMON STEEN-ANDERSEN: Pretty Sound
SIMON STEEN-ANDERSEN: Pretty Sound
Steen-Andersen (b 1976) is that rare thing, an academy trained original. Firmly located in the world of contemporary music, he has extended various C20 compositional strands into a single, coherent and experimental approach to sound generation: the application of amplification and sound projection to conventional instruments, the introduction of non-musical or exotic sounding materials to scored compositions and new and unusual playing techniques Ė all tied to the exploration of small sounds made large. There are five pieces featured here: On And Off To And Fro (2008), for saxophone, vibraphone, cello and three megaphones, Rerendered (2003), for a pianist and two assistants, In her Frown (2007) for two performers, Pretty Sound (up and Down) (2009), for piano and Study for string Instrument #2 (2009), for cello, electric guitar and whammy pedal. All rely on very close-miking and amplification to make audible unconventionally produced - and mostly unfamiliar and unidentifiable -sounds. These pieces are closely scored, highly structured and, in these performances by the Norwegian ensemble asamisamasa, finely articulated. In On and Off the megaphones both amplify and sing in their own right (feedback), In Frown, the performers (also very closely miked) use their voices (mostly unidentifiably), breathe, and do a lot of things with paper and a football horn. Pretty Sound goes further with what can be done using only the inside of a piano than any other composition (or improvisation) Iíve heard to date - and again, itís meticulously composed, so that the effects are carefully orchestrated. In study, the whammy pedal (a guitar processor that pitch shifts - very crudely - through a two octave range, is applied to both guitar and cello in a wild, but disorientingly disciplined, way; a tour de force in a field of one. These are bold, interesting pieces of quality and integrity a seldom seen since the 1960s. L

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