by Matt Rogalsky
XI records, New York, 2006
Audio CD, 2 disks, # XI 130CD, $13.00
Distributors website: http://www.forcedexposure.com/labels/xi.html.
Reviewed by Stefaan Van Ryssen
In the booklet that accompanies these
CD's, Thom Holmes, author of Electronic
and Experimental Music, states:
"Matt Rogalsky (b. 1966) is also
a tinkering composer who works with electronic
instruments from the inside out to realize
his musical ideas. His work is based largely
on the use of software of his own design
and depends on real-time interaction between
performers and computer-generated sounds"
This quote seems neatly to summarize the
starting formula for Rogalsky's work:
improvisation + technology = sound material.
This needs no elaboration since it covers
vast areas of electro-acoustic music production.
However, it leaves out any reference to
aesthetic considerations. We need a second
formula, governing the treatment of that
material: structure + continuity = composition.
How is that? What structure? What continuity?
And how do they add up to a composition?
To start with the latter question: a composition,
at least in Rogalsky's aesthetics, is
a set of choices within a practically
unlimited field of possibilities. Composing
is a strategy rather than following a
recipe of adding ingredients in a bowl,
stirring and baking (or in these CD-days:
burning). The difference lies in the fact
that Rogalsky always keeps in mind that
other choices would have been possible.
That by choosing one road, other directions
are left unexplored. None of his pieces
try to keep up the appearance of being
compulsory, ultimate, or necessary in
any way. Quite on the contrary, each recording
is just one instance of a larger universe
of possible developments of the chosen
material in the chosen structure. Harmonic
progressions, the stock and trade of most
of his pieces, are actualised possibilities
pointing at numerous other possible choices
within a four-dimensional space. One might
say that a single piece is merely a representation
of one of many musical subspaces and the
listener is invited to imagine the more
remote areas of that space by herself.
The seven tracks on these two CD's share
structural strategy: Some real life sound
source whether it be a violin,
steel stringed guitars or a radio set
is captured, transformed, micro-sampled
and fed back into a gradually shifting
polyphonic structure. The timbre is derived
mainly from the original material, but
the architecture is Rogalsky and his software.
Usually, he limits his explorations to
rather narrow bands within the continuum
of possibilities in the four dimensions
of sound, forcing the audience to actively
and attentively listen rather than to
take in subconsciously. Of course this
smells of Xenakis, as Thom Holmes rightly
observes in the liner. And of course this
also reminisces of other composers of
the Experimental Intermedia stable like
Phill Niblock. But does that mean that
Rogalsky doesnt deserve a place
of his own under the electro-acoustical