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Listening to art.
Playing with audio.
Sounding out technology.
Composing in code.

Dramatic Percussion, Discrete Tones

The self-released Compositions album by New York-based composer Steven (J.) Kane, who studies music at Columbia University, contains a mix of acoustic and electronic work. The acoustic music is contemporary classical: relatively a-temporal in its relaxation of metrical constraint, but more melodic than that of the composers whom it suggests (Olivier Messiaen, Morton Feldman and John Cage among them); at times, Kane’s dramatic percussion and tantalizingly placed notes recall the more experimental soundtracks of composers Jerry Goldsmith and Lalo Schifrin. Three of the album’s eight tracks are experimental tape works, titled “Scratch,” “2′ 10″” and “La Machina Verde in Stereophonic Hi-Fi (aka Destination Battlestar).” Though the array of static and otherwise unrecognizable sonic elements aren’t directly reminiscent of the acoustic tracks’ instrumentation (violin and orchestra; flute, clarinet, harp and percussion; clarinet and string quartet), the parallel between the two styles is fascinating to observe, especially in Kane’s focus on surprisingly placed discrete tones, which tend to punctuate his music. “2′ 20″” appears to present highly distressed vocal material, and the effect of the overlaid sounds can be truly frightening. “La Machina” works campy TV and radio samples into the mix. (A RealAudio file of “Scratch,” the most patient of the three electronic pieces, is available at the following link.)

By Marc Weidenbaum

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