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CD Feature/ V.A.: "Electronic Music Vol.III - Música Viva Competition Prize Winners 2004/2005/2006"

img  Tobias

The problem with competitions is that they have a system and clever artists will be able to beat it. The reputation of events such as Donauschingen has suffered from the fact that they have been open about their tastes and aesthetics, so music is often being tailor-made to please the jurors, instead of listeners. Will it happen to the “Musica Viva Competition” as well? As this Portuguese concours is approaching its fourth edition, this collection of previous prize winning entries sets out to prove that there are still enough praiseworthy electronic composers around, who deserve to climb the winner’s rostrum – and succeeds admirably.

The organisors have certainly given their all to turn their brainchild into a quality brand for the fostering of young talent. Jurors for last year have included Francois Bayle, Morton Subotnick and Miguel Azguime, there has been an age cap of 35 years and the direct link with the Miso Music label has meant that promising particpants can go on to actually record their work next to having it performed in public. The hard, intelligent and dedicated work has paid off: There has been an average of 120 applicants for each edition, a sign that there is a real need for projects like this one. Of course, all juries have their idiosyncracies and personal opinions, regardless of how much they try being objective. And yet, quite a few of the artists represented on this CD have gone on to record with some of the more important names in the business – Adrian Moore, for example, who opens proceedings with “Dreaming of the Dawn”, has simultaneously released “Reve de l’Aube” on Francocanadian label Empreintes Digitales and if you should find yourself impressed by the “Holophony musical textures” of Greek Panayiotis Kokoras, then just a little googling will lead you to a host of publications. What this effectively means is that these contributors are not just aiming at the intellectually initiated, withdrawing into their ivory tower of comfortable supremacy – they are writing for a public again, juxtaposing the purely sound-related with the immediately emotive, building tension archs and allowing repetition into their pieces to create cohesion and aural recognition. There is a high degree of overlapping between the categories of technical laptop treatments and a sense of “virtuosity” in using these tools. Composers like Santiago Diez Fischer or Ingrid Obled are not just electro-acoustic masterminds, they listen both with the ears of a sonologist and a child. You are free to revel in the surgically precise seizures of Fischer, but you’re just as much invited to smile about Joshua Goldman’s vocal tricks or shed a tear in the touching middle part of Kokoras’ “Anechoic Pulse”.

Throughout, it is obvious that the ensemble of winners (which is completed by Pedro Almeida, Manuella Blackburn and Thomas Peter) is not just drawing inspiration from dry and theoretic lecturs, but from poetry, literature, history (Almeida’s “In Rota” deals with the trips of the Portuguese discoverers), life in general and (possibly) Donald Duck comics in particular. If there is a system behind all of this at all, it would probably be “good music”. And beating that system is no crime in my books.

By Tobias Fischer

Homepage: Miso Music

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