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CD Feature/ Felix Werder: "The Tempest"

img  Tobias

Felix Werder wasn’t exclusively a composer of electronic music. In fact, most of the time, he was something else, either writing reviews, articles, critics and essays, as well as chamber music and orchestral works. And yet the introduction to his electroacoustic repertoire proves that he wasn’t only on par with some of the big names of the scene all the way back in the early 70s, but has remained a creative source well into the last decade.

If his achievments have never fully been acknowledged, then maybe that is down to his geographical isolation on the one hand (he fled Nazi-Germany during World War II and has been a resident of Australia ever since) and his uncompromising personality on the other, always looking to provoke, rather than to please: “A thing of beauty is a bore forever", he once remarked and maintained that "music is not a soporific for calming the neurosis of a decadent bourgeois society". In a world which has always prefered music as a comforting blanket, this attitude, as any renegade will readily testify, will not get you far – at least not until you’ve turned at least 85 (as he has) and everyone suddenly starts admiring the staminy of someone they regularly ridiculed. The long distance between the first vinyl pressings of long, abstract works like “Banker” (1973), “The Tempest” (1974) or “Oscussion” (1971) has certainly not made their appreciation easier. The sharp contrasts between different frequencies and between technoid and organic material, as well as the juxtaposition of purely timbral elements and tonal development, even jazzy bass lines and piano runs, makes this a challenging experience to put it mildly. Most of the events are furthermore void of any obvious effect-processing, lending them a pure and almost dry note. On the other hand, there is quite a lot of immediate appeal as well: Werder spreads his sonic events generously over the timeline of his canvas, awarding full attention to each sound and building seemingly accidental tension archs – most noticeably on the half hour-long title track, with its clearly resonating sounds. “Ocussion” is even more reduced, bubbling bass tones duetting with friendly microscopic stabs and a vibraphone, turning the piece into a soft meditation.

Werder’s electronic compositions are not easily digested, nor are they meant to be. There is a literary source lurking behind almost all of them, allowing for discoveries within new layers of meaning and the long abstract stretches take some time to map. He wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. Instead of soothing the senses, his music is a vivid stimulus to the receptive parts of the brain, a sort of anti-escapist hallucinogen. It is the testimony of a man who thought reality to be just as exciting as any dreamed-up fantasy. And that is still a fascinating thought.

By Tobias Fischer

Homepage: Pogus Productions

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