Lejaren Hiller; Avalanche, Nightmare Music, Suite for Two Pianos and Tape, Computer Music for Tape and PercussionCreel Pone
CP 186 CD
Great to see this particular title of purely electronic pieces by Lejaren Hiller in the series; we last heard from him via the piece "Vocalise" on Creel Pone #039, "Electronic Music, Experimental Studios In Prague, Bratislava, Munich ..." but this particular collection, specifically including the otherwise unavailable early tape-music piece "Nightmare Music" (1961), gets into an area of his work that veers straight into the same text-and-electronic-sound miasma as such C.P. classics as Anestis Logothetis' "Fantasmata 1960", Dieter Kaufmann's "Bildnis Einer Frau Im Spiegel", and especially Salvatore Martirano's "L's GA."
Hiller was a prolific composer of Electronic & Computer Music, founding the University of Illinois Experimental Music Studios in 1958 & perhaps most famously collaborating with John Cage on the insane multimedia barrage "HPSCHD" (1967-69). The recording industry was kind to Hiller, who saw his work often spread across multiple pressings on CRI, Deutsche Grammophon's domestic Heliodor imprint, Nonesuch, Wergo, and even our beloved Orion & Spectrum labels. Following a pair of Heliodor rundowns of Electronic & Computer Music from the University of Illinois, showcasing the work of faculty & composers-in-residence such as Herbert Brün, Kenneth Gaburo, Charles Hamm, Leonard Isaacson, Robert Baker, and Hiller, the label went forward with this all-Hiller program of four extended pieces:
"An Avalanche For Pitchman, Prima-Donna, Player Piano, Percussionist, And Pre-Recorder Playback" (1968) wraps wry, often humorous preparation-chatter, operatic warble, and stray percussive klang into a meta-exercise, reminding me of Jacques Lejeune's "tune up" piece "Petite Suite." "Nightmare Music From 'Time Of The Heathen' For Tape Alone" (1961) is the record's tour-de-force, 10 minutes of prescient tape-sound rhythms, Shepard-tone blooms, and harsh, discordant textures assembled at a breakneck pace, pre-dating the majority of the key pieces in this particular nexus by a good decade.
On the flip, there's "Suite For Two Pianos And Tape" (1966) merges ongoing, incongruous barrelhouse with synthesized, flitting ring-modulated squeak before erupting into a halo of Cecil Taylor -lineage "88 tuned drums" bash & erratic hollering. Finally, "Computer Music For Percussion And Tape" (1968) settles into the de rigeur pointillist bleep, occasionally settling into some rather jaunty straight-time phrasing.
This Creel Pone reproduction, long ago nominated, acted upon recently, comes complete with a replica of an apropos clipping from the May 17th, 1970 issue of The New York Times citing "Avalanche" for its "electronic camp", "Nightmare Music" is clarified as a "score for a film about a former bomber pilot's mental state"