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Transmogrifier of sounds

Electro-acoustic music
by Kjartan Ólafsson,
experienced by KEITH BRAMICH

ErkiTónlist    ETCD 010

7 Variations - Sjö tilbrigði. © 2001 ErkiTónlist sf


This CD of electro-acoustic music from Iceland contains the Sjö tilbrigði (Seven Variations) of 2001 by Kjartan Ólafsson (born in 1958). Ólafsson studied in Reykjavík, Utrecht and then at the Sibelius Academy in Finland, where his teachers were Einojuhani Rautavaara and Paavo Heininen.

The composer has taken short segments from various of his compositions written between 1982 and 2001, modifying them in various ways then combining them to make new pieces, using the computer program CALMUS (Calculated Music 1988-2001) -- a system he also works to develop and which, from hearing this CD, appears to be a very powerful transmogrifier of sounds. Reverse play, pitch shift, sample repeat, layering and spectrum alteration are a few recognisable effects I think I can hear in this music -- I don't have the benefit of a score (or source code?) for this short review, and the liner notes are very brief.

The variations take their names from particular instruments and ensembles -- Guitar variation, Chamber ensemble variation, Electronic variation, Orchestra variation [listen -- track 4, 1:10-2:25], Flute variation, Chamber orchestra variation and Voices variation.

How can I describe this music? Similar to the eye-focussing one has to accommodate when viewing those drawings of random dot patterns containing hidden three-dimensional objects, on the first play through, my reaction was 'curious and intriguing' -- the structures complex, the textures bright but dreamy, and constantly shifting, with an ambient feel.

At the second hearing, apart from several beautiful moments, a slight feeling of boredom crept in. I felt a little lost in what I perceived as sameness and persistent reverberation, but my ears and brain began to latch onto the real instrumental sounds which move constantly into and out of focus 'behind' the computer effects.

Now, during my third exposure, I'm starting to appreciate the structure, and those 'real' sounds have become clearer as I 'hear through' the surface shimmer and electronic gloss [listen -- track 7, 4:38-5:41]. Be prepared to do some serious aural work if you explore this disc ...


Copyright © 16 March 2002 Keith Bramich, London, UK








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Record Box is Music & Vision's regular Saturday series of shorter CD reviews