Personnel: Gordon Mumma (horns, piano, computer); David Tudor (bandoneon); Robert Ashley (piano); William Winant (percussion).
Recording information: 1963-1985.
In the late 50s, Gordon Mumma was one of the earliest practitioners of live electronic music performances. This disc collects five pieces, four from the mid-60s and one from 1985, presented in reverse chronological order. "Than Particle," the most recent work, is a lovely, burbling piece for percussion and computer, the latter emitting more or less percussive sounds. They engage in a beguiling conversation, neither overpowering the other, with an improvisatory feel that allows the dialogue to easily drift until a final, forceful drum punctuation. "Hornpipe" is a signature Mumma composition, designed for two types of horn connected to a "cybersonic console." This augmentation filters and processes sounds from both the horn and the ambient environment as the performer walks around the performing/recording space. Gradually, as the players' technique enters more extended territory, the electronics take on a life of their own in startling and eerie fashion. Similar principles are applied in "Mesa," here represented in a 1967 recording with David Tudor manning the bandoneon, the sound of which is transformed beyond recognition by Mumma's processing. It's a harsh, gritty piece but offers layer upon layer of sound and invites deep contemplation as does "Horn" with an even more rough and tumble approach, all buzzes and spatters. In the archly titled "Medium Size Mograph," from 1963, a piano, played 4-hands, is subjected to like treatment, resulting in sounds far different from the horn-based works. Instead, an almost proto-synthesizer effect is heard, the ringing, sustained tones decaying oddly, evanescing into space unexpectedly. All of these pieces are invigorating and stand the test of time quite well in and of themselves. They also serve notice that Mumma's activities during the mid 60s were well in advance of much "avant-garde" music created decades hence. ~ Brian Olewnick