issue 17 :: August 2010

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REVIEW: Dimitri Voudouris

“NPFAI.1 / Palmos / NPFAI.2 / Praxis” CD (Pogus)

Greek-born, Johannesburg-residing composer Dimitri Voudouris uses the computer to transform acoustic instruments to great effect on these four pieces. The highlight is the half-an-hour long “Palmos” which mixes the overtones of a Hammond organ, an oboe and the bandoneon (a South American accordion) into a lovely, waverly drone of gentle swirling effects and insect-like chirps. At times sounding like a lost organ work by Scelsi or Legiti, or an electronic work from the Touch label, I hear new things within this work on each listen, and I've listened to this piece many times. From the liner notes: “Consciousness itself is a vibration pattern and it is these vibration patterns that through our subconscious state of mind give one the experience of being in a sound environment that is alien and familiar at the same time.”
“Praxis” uses a damaged tape recording of a church choir, memorializing the Greek Orthodox victims of the 1990's Yugoslav wars, creating a dramatic and cryptic soundscape of twisted vocal sounds. These sounds, some muffled as if emerging from a cave, others broken down to shushes and groans of agony, resemble the sprawling multimedia pieces of Kenneth Gaburo. The confusion between what was (the church service as recorded) and now what is (Voudouris' reconstructions) mimics my personal confusion surrounding the ethnic/religious/national wars of that time. Voudouris writes of distortion in historical and religious senses. Like “Palmos,” this remains interesting after multiple listens.
The two “New Possibilities for African Instruments” originate from recordings of m'bira (thumb piano), kundi (bowed harp) and marimba and are processed by computer. The points at which one can recognize the source instruments are the weakest, as they suffer from a particular dull equalization from the computer, but the sections of truly new sound transformations are interesting and enjoyable. Both pieces move episodically between these two poles of more and less recognizable material.
review by Josh Ronsen
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