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Vladimir Ussachevsky - Electronic & Acoustic Works 1957-1972

Release Date: 02/13/2007 
Label:  New World Records   Catalog #: 80654   Spars Code: ADD 
Composer:  Vladimir Ussachevsky
Performer:  Vladimir UssachevskyAlice ShieldsJoAnn Ottley
Conductor:  Dr. Newell B. WeightIan Morton
Orchestra/Ensemble:  University of Utah ChorusMacalester College Chamber ChorusUtah Symphony Orchestra Brass
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 4 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

USSACHEVSKY Metamorphosis. 1 Linear Contrasts. 1 Wireless Fantasy. 1 Of Wood and Brass. 1 Computer Piece No. 1. 1 Two Sketches for a Computer Piece. 1 The Creation: Prologue; 2 Interlude; Read more class="SUPER12">3 Epilogue. 4 Missa brevis 5 Vladimir Ussachevsky (electronics); 1,2,3,4 Jo Ann Ottley (sop); 5 Alice Shields (mez); 3 Ian Morton, cond; 2 Newell Weight, cond; 3,4,5 Macalester College CCh; 2 University of Utah Ch; 5 Utah S Brass 5 NEW WORLD 80654 (63:55)

Vladimir Alexei Ussachevsky (1911–1990) was one of the pioneers of tape and electronic music. His colorful life began somewhere near Siberia and found its way to Southern California, then on to New York. After World War II, Ussachevsky was appointed to the faculty of Columbia, where he collaborated on several occasions with Otto Luening. Although predated by a mere handful of years by the musique concrète of Pierre Schaeffer and Pierre Henry in France and, just slightly earlier than that by the Cologne Studio and its founder Herbert Eimert, Ussachevsky’s early experiments in sound were still clearly of a pioneering nature. Ussachevsky was shortly to be involved with the founding of the Columbia Experimental Music Studio (later to become the Columbia-Princeton Electronic Music Center).

Ussachevsky manipulated vocal and instrumental sounds via speed change, feedback, and razor blade edits to take them into another sonic universe. Some of his earlier works exist on Folkways and Desto LPs. The works presented here span the years 1957 to 1972. Metamorphosis for tape recorder (1957) and Linear Contrasts (1958) were originally released on Son Nova Records, before a 1976 reissue on CRI. Metamorphosis seems to be typical of the Ussachevsky sound world. Stark in its demeanor, it seems to hold the world at an emotional arm’s length. An unsettling wind seems literally to run through Linear Contrasts (1958).

Wireless Fantasy (1960) uses signals from early wireless communication in a montage, through which excerpts from Wagner’s Parsifal emerge (electronically manipulated to appear as a short wave transmission). Sheets of sound seem to scrape against each other in Of Wood and Brass (1965). Here the original sound sources come from trombone, trumpet, xylophone, trombone, and Korean gong. The final piece in the initial grouping of five is the noncommittally named Computer Piece No. 1 of 1968. Here digital sound sources from Bell Telephone Laboratories in Princeton are manipulated several times over so as to be all but unrecognizable. Spooky is the word that comes to mind.

An early form of MIDI (wherein a keyboard is attached to a computer) helped the Two Sketches for a Computer Piece (1971) into existence. The first lasts for less than a minute but is so explosive and pointillist that it makes its point well.

In contrast to all the music heard so far, the final two pieces work with the human voice. Ussachevsky took the recorded choral tracks and added an electronic part. The texts are taken from Ovid’s Metamorphoses and the Akkadian creation epic Enuma Elisha . There is much of great beauty here, although the male voice melodic lines of the end of the Interlude are rather uninspired. The rapt finale, “Spell of Creation,” is the most purely beautiful music on the disc.

The opening Kyrie of the Missa brevis (1971/2) is immediately more monumental than anything that has preceded it. Scored for choir and 10 brass instruments (and therefore without any electronics), it breathes a certain purity, especially if the present disc is played through in sequence. There is real beauty to the hushed opening of the Sanctus, before it turns distinctly Stravinskian. There is some minor scrappiness to the brass in the Benedictus, but hardly sufficient to detract from the pleasure of the experience (this is quite a rhythmically bouncy movement). The soprano of Jo Ann Ottley adds a pure radiance to the peaceful pages of the hushed Agnus Dei.

The booklet includes a useful selected discography and bibliography, as well as a fascinating extended essay by Eric Salzman on the composer and the works presented here.

FANFARE: Colin Clarke
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Works on This Recording

Metamorphoses by Vladimir Ussachevsky
Performer:  Vladimir Ussachevsky (Electronics)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1957 
Length: 5 Minutes 22 Secs. 
Of Wood and Brass by Vladimir Ussachevsky
Performer:  Vladimir Ussachevsky (Electronics)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1964-1965 
Length: 4 Minutes 21 Secs. 
Computer Piece no 1 by Vladimir Ussachevsky
Performer:  Vladimir Ussachevsky (Electronics)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1968 
Length: 3 Minutes 42 Secs. 
Sketches (2) for a Computer Piece by Vladimir Ussachevsky
Performer:  Vladimir Ussachevsky (Electronics)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1971 
Length: 3 Minutes 8 Secs. 
Linear Contrasts by Vladimir Ussachevsky
Performer:  Vladimir Ussachevsky (Electronics)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1957; USA 
Length: 3 Minutes 42 Secs. 
Scenes (3) from Creation by Vladimir Ussachevsky
Performer:  Vladimir Ussachevsky (Electronics), Alice Shields (Mezzo Soprano)
Conductor:  Dr. Newell B. Weight,  Ian Morton
Orchestra/Ensemble:  University of Utah Chorus,  Macalester College Chamber Chorus
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1960-1973 
Length: 20 Minutes 46 Secs. 
Missa brevis by Vladimir Ussachevsky
Performer:  JoAnn Ottley (Soprano)
Conductor:  Dr. Newell B. Weight
Orchestra/Ensemble:  University of Utah Chorus,  Utah Symphony Orchestra Brass
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1972 
Length: 17 Minutes 30 Secs. 
Wireless Fantasy by Vladimir Ussachevsky
Performer:  Vladimir Ussachevsky (Electronics)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1960; USA 
Length: 4 Minutes 36 Secs. 

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