Once I got over the shock of the ‘minimalist’ duration of this CD, I enjoyed both electronic works. I do not have a passion for this genre of music, although like many people of my generation, I became aware of its the potential with the theme music to Dr Who, composed by Ron Grainer and realised by Delia Derbyshire. As an aside, my first introduction to ‘musique concrete’ was in the comedy film What a Whopper (1961), starring Adam Faith. One of the characters, ‘Vernon’, played by Terence Longdon, is an avant-garde composer. He manipulates sounds to create the roar of the Loch Ness monster. It was some years after this, that I discovered Boulez and Xenakis!
Aeolus was created by Irish composer Gráinne Mulvey to compliment an installation sculpture, Spatial Reverberation (?) by Mark Garry. This was exhibited at the ‘Sounding out the Space’ conference in 2017. Alas, there is no picture of Garry’s ‘masterpiece’ included in the liner notes, nor could I find one in the internet. Mulvey writes that the music alludes to Aeolus, king of the floating island, referred to in Homer’s Odyssey. He was keeper of the Winds. Aeolus was also the inventor of the Aeolian Harp which was an ancient Greek ‘stringed instrument that produces musical sounds when a current of air passes through it.’ Garry is an expert, apparently. at making these harps. Recordings of this instrument are combined with ‘ambient’ wind and bird sounds ‘captured by chance when making the field recordings’. The stage is now set for Mulvey’s attractive and satisfying exploration of this unique sound world. It is music to sit back to, close one’s eyes and simply enjoy.
Christopher Fox’s untouch (without a capital) is the first section of a composite work called ‘untouch-touch’ written for the percussionist Serge Vuille. It was first performed at the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival in 2017. The composer explains that in the second part (unrecorded here) the soloist plays six Thai gongs suspended around him in ‘slow, almost ritualised repeating patterns.’ Untouch on the other hand, works in a ‘mysterious way’ – apparently the percussionist does not actually strike the gongs but ‘passes his hand over them creating sine waves.’ How this is engineered is not stated.
Despite the fact the ‘sine wave’ is quite penetrating in sound (goes through one a bit) I enjoyed the sheer simplicity of this highly meditative work: I did not want it to end. There is a video recording of the entire work on Vimeo.
The CD liner notes contain biographical notes about both composers and their collaborators, as well as the usual programme notes.
Finally, I read on the Métier webpage that this CD is regarded as a ‘single’ rather than an ‘LP’. So, the short duration is understandable. It is priced at around £6.00.
Gráinne MULVEY (b. 1966) Aeolus (2017)
Christopher FOX (b.1955) Untouch (2017)
Rec. Both works realised by the composers during 2017
With thanks to MusicWeb International where this review was first published.