Notes and Editorial Reviews
At the risk of sounding supercilious, there is something rather quaint about this music, all written for either a combination of acoustical instruments and electronically synthesized sounds or electronic media alone. It may have sounded bizarre and even shocking when it was first produced, beginning in the mid 1970s, but after a generation of familiarity with electronic sound, the technique is no longer paramount, and what we are left with is music of tremendous craft, charm, and even beauty. Presumably, this is precisely what Arthur Kreiger had intended all along.
Almost predictably, the music comes from the composer’s long association with one of the nerve centers of electronic music, the Electronic Music Center of Columbia University, where Kreiger studied with such pioneers as Vladimir Ussachevsky, Chou Wen-Chung, and Mario Davidovsky. These are composers who used electronic effects in a very precise and delicate way; Kreiger also follows that path. There is no intrinsic reason why electronic music cannot be sensational, or at least symphonic, but this music is neither, instead beckoning the listener in for a closer examination, as one might view a painting by a Flemish master. My two favorite works are both scored for percussion and tape, the
, for percussion quartet and electronic tape, and the
Dialogue for Steel Drums and Electronic Tape
. In each work, the electronic sounds are completely integrated in the overall texture of the music, resulting in a rich and even sensuous ensemble. In other combinations, such as
for clarinet and tape, and
for flute and tape, Kreiger is more interested in the theatrical contrasts of temperament in his media, as a classicist might combine violin and piano.
The three works for electronic tape alone are perky, concise, etude-like, and very easy on the ear. In the spirit of his teachers, Kreiger employs electronics in a cohesive and rigorous way, considering tone, rhythm, dynamics, and pace as a piece. The synthesis of these elements is, simply, delightful. The homage to the memory of Kreiger’s teacher, Ussachevsky, does periodically depart from the quick pace of the idiom for what might be called electronic dirges, resulting in an entirely appropriate contrast of celebration and sorrow.
I’ll bet I speak for most of my colleagues when I say that—although I hope never to tire of a great performance of Beethoven’s Fifth—it is always invigorating to encounter some new composer with a fresh voice, expressed by wonderful performers. Such was my experience with this program of the music of Arthur Kreiger. Give it a listen.
FANFARE: Peter Burwasser