issue 15 :: July 2008

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REVIEW: Object

“O” CD [eh?]

reviewed by Josh Ronsen

Anthony Braxton’s Composition No. 25 — scored for “creative music orchestra” in 1972 — featured a section calling for 100 balloons to be rubbed together to produce squeaking noises. I can’t think of another instance of systematic use of the balloon until now — not including pieces by Cage, Kagel and Fluxus where a balloon may make a brief appearance. Surely someone must have done more work with the balloon. Ricardo Arias of the group Object can’t be the first to focus on the balloon, can he? But I am more interested in who does it best over who did it first, and Arias has achieved a virtuoso control over his “bass-balloon kit” — a big balloon resting on a stand and played between the legs like a ‘cello. Conjuring squeals and what sounds like highly compressed bowed ‘cello — the balloons are also struck, creating the illusion of floor toms. Playing in a trio with another unusual instrument — the “glass objects” of Miguel Frasconi — including rubbed and stroked goblets/cups/bowls. At times the glass is struck producing glockenspiely tone patterns.
These two rare instrumental approaches — and we can point you to Anne Lockwood’s The Glass World if you want more glass in your ears — overshadows Keiko Uenishi’s subtle laptop computer — played on top of actual lap. Or is she processing the other players in such a way as to occult her presence? The 2004 live performance presented on disc flows through solo, duo and trio sections of gentle improvisations — tremolo hum slowing fading in — strange murky sound collage muscling through. The complex sounds — both novel and recognizable — sometimes glass striking glass is just that — pleasant and jarring — electronic and hyper-acoustic — form an appealing and prickling hour. A vocalist of “text” would turn this into the Australian group Machine for Making Sense. Or an amazing performance of one of Cage’s Variations. Marvelously astute noisemusic.
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