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John Bischoff: Audio Combine

Release Date: 02/14/2012 
Label:  New World Records   Catalog #: 80727  
Composer:  John Bischoff
Performer:  John Bischoff
Number of Discs: 1 
Length: 1 Hours 0 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

BISCHOFF Audio Combine. Sidewalk Chatter. Local Color. Decay Trace. Surface Effect John Bischoff (electronics) NEW WORLD 80727-2 (60:00)

John Bischoff (b.1949) is one of the pioneers of live electronic music, in particular networked performance with fellow composers. In the latter guise he’s been successively a member of the League of Automatic Music Composers and The Hub, mainstays of Bay Area experimentalism.

In an era when any kid with a laptop can call her/himself a Read more composer, what Bischoff does might not seem so radical, but it has opened up a world that now seems quite normal as an option of creative folks working with sound, if not exactly traditional. The pieces on this collection, all written between 2004 and 2011, share many aspects. Isolated, timbrally distinct events appear and disappear, overlap, at times gather momentum and outline contrapuntal textures. Things are and aren’t pitched; we’re in a realm here on the cusp of both music and noise. The general principle is of recursion—live sounds enter into a digital system that transforms them, outputs the result, and then they are up for further modification in real time by the composer as performer. (And these works, by the way, are all controlled by the composer alone.)

All the pieces demand close listening; they’re not particularly pulsed or groovy. Even though there’s a lot in this music that actually has been influential toward the development of techno, composers in that vein won’t find much in common, except perhaps for very cool sounds to sample. It’s definitely uncompromising, and I’ll say that on repeated listenings that quality becomes increasingly satisfying.

There are in particular two works that stand out to me and deliver the most fully rounded listening experience. They’re the earliest and latest on the program. Local Color (2004) is distinguished by truly lovely bell tones that glisten jewel-like, and project real presence. These in turn are joined by drifting glissandi and shifting background harmonic pedals that create a substantial composite texture, one that grows gradually yet dramatically. The other is Surface Effect (2011), which is far more dramatic, and has clearly defined sections whose color characters are highly demarcated. It’s perhaps the most symphonic work on the disc. It also has the craziest, most extreme sonic outburst, one that knocks you to attention.

What I find myself appreciating most about Bischoff’s work (and perhaps this is the composer in me speaking) is the originality of his counterpoint. It’s made up of very different timbres, rather than melodic lines, whose punctual appearance and disappearance, and overlapping, create an impression of layers of sounds coexisting and evolving. I know that sounds a little dry, and it might be if the sounds didn’t have the presence they do. No mistake, this is demanding stuff, and the target audience out there hopefully has gotten the message they need from this review. But even for those not among these self-selected ones, this is work whose seriousness of purpose would reward those curious to explore the outer limits.

FANFARE: Robert Carl
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Works on This Recording

Audio Combine by John Bischoff
Performer:  John Bischoff (Electronics)
Sidewalk Chatter by John Bischoff
Performer:  John Bischoff (Electronics)
Local Color by John Bischoff
Performer:  John Bischoff (Electronics)
Decay Trace by John Bischoff
Performer:  John Bischoff (Electronics)
Surface Effect by John Bischoff
Performer:  John Bischoff (Electronics)

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