20TH CENTURY MUSIC
February 1999



DISTORTION PORTALS

CRYSTAL ELIZABETH

Alaskan composer Matthew Burtner works in the steady-state, post-minimal tradition of small acoustic differences in the spirit of Alvin Lucier. The opening Portals of Distortion, for nine tenor saxophones has sustains reminiscent of Terry Riley's Chanting the Light of Foresight and Poppy Nogood and the Phantom Band, allied with considerably more animated material, building up into a huge landscape that would not be out of place in one of Joseph Celli's Video Ears Music Eyes projects. There is a horror and beauty in this music that is most impressive.

Fern inhabits a similar dronic world of soaring spacial effects, all realized on a computer-generated tape. Split Voices takes the insect buzzing high end of these drones in consort with a sona-like soprano saxophone in a music that can set one's teeth on edge until lower airport sounds enter the mix. Very scary and multitextured, even before the blurting tenor sax and high glass harmonica-like effects toward the midpoint.

By contrast, Mists for computer noise controller and stone trio, is a very quiet work of Nancarrowesque rhythmic relations (65:52:39). Incantation S4 works along the lines of Split Voices in its use of digital granular synthesis, building large sustains up from small particles of sound. Glass Phase (nice pun) is a high-pitched Reichian wobble of very close rhythmic relationships that crickets out into an impressive cacophony towards the end.

 

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