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CD Feature/ Barry Schrader: "EAM"

img  Tobias

This collection of compositions from the mid-80s up until the year 2000 sets out to demonstrate the validity of two theories in the oeuvre of Barry Schrader. The first one relates to the very nature of Electro-Acoustic Music (any more questions about the acronym of the album title?) and its in-built connection with technology: According to Schrader, it should be possible to appeciate music created in the Studio situation and by purely electronic means without prior knowledge of the tools used in the process. It may or may not be a conscious wink that the first two works on display here are full of Classical allusions and hark back to a time, when this thesis was in fact still highly disputed.

“Bachama”, for one, bases on two famous (surprise, surprise!) Bach-compositions, while “Ground” transposes the Baroque ground bass into densely layered electronics. While the former piece starts off in a quasi-caricatural way with the melodic lines overlapping in frenzied counterpoints, only to later caress the ear with a gently smeared-out and tenderly tentacled version of the “Air”, the latter manages to create a sense of time supsension and unexpected coherence in a piece which explores various facets of a simple, but intricate motive. In the middle, Schrader brings in the heavy artillery, with massive washes of threatening, pulsating clusters superimposing the variations, but their impact is just as immense with or without the details of which synthesizers were used in which way in the process. The use of Classical foms and archetypes makes this even clearer: After all, the question which was on the mind of Handel’s contemporaries was certainly not which instrument was playing which part, but how the composer had solved the challenge of thematic transformation. If the proposition is put to a test at all, then it is more so by the poignant “Dance from the Outside”, as it uses concrete elements from recorded winds alongside purely electronic material – but even here this only matters, because Schrader’s entire recorded history would suggest otherwhise. In a different context (another important aspect to consider), the technical backgrounds to this track would certainly be of minor importance.

On then to the second theory, which deals with Schrader’s conviction that timbre can be perceived as a third relevant musical dimension next to pitch and rhythm. The exploration of this idea takes place in “Triptych”, a twenty-minute suite encompassing rondo-form sections as well as a segment focussed on changing timbral focus. It is a hypnotic piece, which has ended up a mixture of textural and melodic passages and comes across the way you would imagine symphonic music to sound like in the next millenium.

I’m just not quite sure whether it serves as proof in point when it comes to the initial presumption. Not because I disagree with it in principe, but rather because I’m unsure whether the segment in question works so perfectly because of its timbral modulations or because of its soft and lightfilled qualities contrast so effectively with the harsher nature of what preceeds and succeeds it. On the other hand, thinking about this too much would conflict with the opening suggestion of allowing the music to simply be. “EAM” is a mesmerising, eclectic and potentially addicitve collection of electro-acoustic compositons. Let’s just leave it at that.

By Tobias Fischer

Homepage: Barry Schrader
Homepage: Innova Recordings

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