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Emerson Meyers - Provocative Electronics (Electronic Constructions On Traditional Forms) CD (album) cover


Emerson Meyers


Progressive Electronic

3.83 | 3 ratings

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4 stars In 1979 my father bought a copy of Mike Hankinson's The Unusual Classical Synthesizer. It was a classical Moog album not played on Moog but the Putney VCS-3 synth. It was released here in the States on Westminster Gold, a classical label originally called Westminster Records. Westminster was originally independent until bought out by ABC/Paramount. The label went dormant around 1965 and resurfaced in 1970 as Westminster Gold. On the back of The Unusual Classical Synthesizer is a description of the album, and a list of several other titles on WG, one of them being Provocative Electronics, so I was aware of this album since I was a small child but never owned a copy until now.

It's not hard to see this album came out of academia. For one thing Professor Emerson Meyers hailed from the Catholic University of America, out of Washington, DC. Like Columbia-Princeton, they too had their own electronic music center. The album makes claims that the electronic music center had Moog synthesizers since 1964 and as of 1970s, they had 40 of them (I wondered if they had any Mini Moog prototypes by that point?). Unlike Gassman/Sala's Five Improvisations on Magnetic Tape/Music for the Ballet "Electronics" (1961, originally released on Westminster, reissued on Westminster Gold in 1970), a good portion of Provocative Electronics was performed off a Moog synthesizer. Of course the Gassman/Sala album predates Moog, but has that similar avant garde approach. What you won't get with Provocative Electronics is nice melodic electronic on the lines of Jean Michel Jarre. This is avant garde electronic that does not go down easily. I can tell on this it's a Moog (other than it says so) as it don't have the prototype synth sound of an Ondes Martenot or a Selmer Clavioline, but has all the hallmarks of a full-on synth, but with an avant garde approach. It's as what if Karlheinz Stockhausen or someone of his ilk were using a Moog synthesizer rather than prototype electronics or musique concrete. Some of the songs on here are simply a lot of synth blips and bleeps, a few divert from that. For example, "In Memoriam for Soprano and Tape" features, well operatic vocals from Katherine Hansel, with spoken dialog (also by Katherine Hansel). Pretty strange. "Fantasia for Organ & Tape" with organ provided by American of Armenian heritage Haig Mardirosian, with tripped out use of pipe organ and synth effects kicking in. "Intervals I" has a nice often spacy ambience to it, and I swore I heard this watching a 1978 documentary called UFO Journals, either that, or it just reminds me of that. "Fanfare & Raga for Bassoon & Tape" as it claims is all done on bassoon. It attempts to recreated an Indian Raga but with bassoon instead of sitar. The album claims it's all bassoon, but where do all those tabla-like percussion come from? "Moonlight Sound Pictures" was an excerpt for a NASA exhibition called Artist in Space. Only 4:50 is used on this album, it claims there's a total of 30 minutes of it, I really wish I could hear the entirety. There's also an "Intervals II" but as stated on the album, it's not featured here.

This is a nice album of avant garde electronic music, although I've seen my share of poor reviews, it's no worse than anything else I've heard of this style. Not for everyone, like avant garde in general, but I like it.

Progfan97402 | 4/5 |


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