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by Logos Publiek Domein
Gent, Belgium, 2005
CD, LPD 014, €15.00
Distributor’s website: http://www.logosfoundation.org.

Emmanuel Vigeland

by Nikolai Galen
Voice of Shade: Stemme 8, PK 282, Byoglu, Istanbul, 34433, Turkey
CD, €15.00
Distributor’s website: http://www.voiceofshade.net.

Reviewed by Michael R. (Mike) Mosher
Saginaw Valley State University, University Center MI 48710 USA


Is music foremost an exudation of the human body, or the product of some kind of human-designed machine or instrument? Two nude figures——composers?——of a man and a woman, like northern Renaissance Adam and Eve, stand in front of robotic machinery and gaze at us from the cover of <Robodies> to raise the question.

The drum rolls and sirens in Kristof Lauwers’ "Plastic Deformations" evoke Edgar Varèse and the World’s Fair at Brussels in 1958; not that far from Gent, is it? Godfried-Willem Raes "Gestrobo Studies" robotizes tinkling dollhouse celeste and glass wind chimes in a manner that appears unstructured in the first couple listenings. Moniek Darge’s "Klanklagen IV" is more naturalistic; I wasn’t sure I was hearing the birdhouse at the zoo as night falls, or a robotic composition enhanced with avian titter heard through open windows. What might be uninteresting in concert enlivens when combined with the ambient noises of a summer day.

Jelle Menander must tire of reviewers making "jelly meanders" jokes of his music, so this one won’t. His 14:25 "Amorgos" offers the sounds of bells, tin cans, hollering. Subsequent parts were so quiet, I thought perhaps the CD was over. The pace picking up, the listener envisions a distracted toddler in a gamelan practice room, his uncles’ huffing exhortations Hah! Huh! Hunh! and then their monklike chanting. The CD proceeds with two Godfried-Willem Raes compositions. Sirens! It’s 1958 again!

The CD called Emanuel Wigeland contains 35 tracks of improvised singing by a solo performer, the singer Nikolai Galen. In their variety the tracks could serve as a daily regimen of vocal exercises, rigorous as the "extra-difficult" Tai Ch’i workout that wiry rock singer Iggy Pop supposedly performs daily to keep himself in shape.

Galen found inspiration in a long chamber of murals by artist Emanuel Vigeland at the edge of Oslo, Norway. I wish these murals were reproduced on the CD cover, though the blurry photographs by Yasmin Erchin of figures walking in the woods do imply whistling past a graveyard, as do some of the tracks. One wonders, does Galen focus on specific characters in the murals? On their erotics? Does he feel fear? We are informed and advised "Recorded in the dark, listen in the dark".

One hears Galen’s avowed influence of Tuvan throat singing, as well as clicks and tut-tuts, whimpers and gasps, buzzing and humming, dog calls, yodels and long notes in absurd ostinato. The singer paints a wino’s nightmare then a shepherd’s mornng song. Galen makes Tom Waits grumble, before launching into prayerlike litanies, then sounds like a baby. He gives voice to the Vigeland crypt’s octogenarian caretaker, then the fabled Gnomes of Zurich counting their money.

One could argue it’s only the limitations of these artists, but both of these projects ultimately show the isolation of either a dutifully-programmed robot orchestra or an improvisational voice. Machines are less interesting when by themselves than they are when enabling and serving human achievement. It is the interaction between flesh and fabriken that often offers creative dialectic and tension. I’d like to hear Logos’ Robot Orchestra and Nikolai Galen play together, the roboticists riffing off live musicians, and the voice weaving its way around the machines.



Updated 1st October 2006

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