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CD Feature/ Joe Gilmore: "On Quasi-Convergence and Quiet Spaces"

img  Tobias

In the liner notes, right in between friends and colleagues such as cut label head Jason Kahn (who released this CD) and Taylor Deupree (who published his music on a previous occasion), Joe Gilmore extends an affectionate thank you to „3.14...“. It could be a joke, if one didn't know about the importance that numbers play in this man's work.

Numbers and algorithms, that is. Experiments with feedback systems, correspondance between  organic motion and effect processors and the raprochement of music and graphics are at the heart of his art – or, speaking more generally, the convergence of computer-generated and human sounds. The most obvious example of this aim can be seen in rand()%, a 24hour radio station, sending out nothing but exclusively computergenerated music, which he helped to co-create (and which is currently on an unfortunate hiatus). How far has Gilmore man gone in making machines sing?

Maybe not as far as many might think. „Mathematics and Philosophy are essentially the same thing“ a friend of mine used to say and consequently, many have approached his work with one question in mind: „Is there life inside the machine?“ In this context, composing and programming are not all that different and the appreciation of Gilmore's music remains restricted to the technical coup de main of making his laptops play as though they were breathing. Purveyors of this theory will find comfort and proof in the fact that tracks like „X-Null“ or „Lambda“, with their bleeps and cool respiratory gestations, are within arm's length of the ouevre of Rochdale residents Autechre.

I have a strong feeling, though, that Gilmore cares little for these considerations. Of course, the subtitle of „On Quasi-Convergence and Quiet Spaces“ - „Five Improvisations for Solo Computer“ -  leaves a lot open in terms of the composer's involvement in realising the tracks. And yet, the music seems less occupied with making computers play like humans than in finding out what makes our perceptive system decide what sounds organic and what doesn't.

Even though they are built on gurgling and stuttering rhythms, metallic sustains and icey brushes, radio scramble and white noise, feedback and impenetrable patterns, alien noise and scattered tonal debris, there are uncountable moments of intense stillness and cheek-reddening romance to be found on this album. Closing track „U+221E“ especially begins with a synthetic cymbal rush, deforms like a soft  candle burning down and smoothens out into a solitary drone which sublimates into a cloud of whisper.

In the majestic minutes of this piece's dying embers, I couldn't care less about what kind of algorithm made this happen or how long Gilmore's machines must have worked to render the final mix. Instead, what occupied my mind was how a music constructed from such cold timbres could spark such a hot flame inside me.

Needless to say, the answer to that question is a personal one. It leads back to one of the most basic tasks of any kind of art: To bring the individual into contact with itself. The fact that the music was performed by computers is nothing but a number in this respect.

By Tobias Fischer

Homepage: Joe Gilmore
Homepage: Cut Records

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