Monday, June 30, 2014

Angels in the Architecture

   As a gesture of justice, let's try to observe 20th century art of sound without excitation, just as one more century in the history of music. But it is not an easy task. No wonder, past century was highly irregular period of rapid changes and modifications. Social issues were significant too, and for sure economic changes had strong impact on functioning of the culture, but still it was technology improvements which had really changed our life. Electronic means of sound during the process of production and reproduction has exchanged music dramatically and at any level of its functioning. In a way this revolution was even bigger than famous improvement in printing technique developed by Johannes Guttenberg. Before the era of electronic revolution many parameters of sound and space were just randomly. Composers were trying to make structures proper for every kind of reproduction, for good and poor performers, for small and big halls and auditoriums. Their aim was to compose music which could be played in every shape, in every possible circumstance with almost the same effect.
   In 20th century electronic means revolve everything upside down. From early mechanical phonographic recordings, than modified by electronic and digital technology, the process was a new quality in musical culture. Earlier theoretical attitude was always focused on structures and means, constructive, harmonic, orchestral, supported by the descriptive reports on performance characteristics. And rapidly musicologists were able to compare different ideas and distant realities. Old school performances with all its faults gave way to perfect performances of generations learned from records. Learning from recordings resulted the experience impossible to acquire in traditional culture. Recorded in studio, or just collected and merge from many recorded fragments compositions were moved to listeners' homes as the sound product of perfect quality. This change has influenced all kinds of music, and cultural practices. 

Angels in the Architecture (1987)

   When musicians realize the common place for listening music became home and how related social behavior had changed, they started artistic search for adequate means of expression. In fact earlier changes also generate artistic revolutions, every social, economic, religious change has strong impact on culture, so there’s no surprise changes in 20th century had been changed a lot. In 1980’s, partly as a reaction on disco frenzy, partly to recognize new possibilities of creating artificial sounds and spaces, group of musicians started recording music for contemplative listening, composed more as static sound picture than narrative musical construction. Creators of this new way were recruiting mainly from progressive rock, electronic, alternative and session musicians. This part of music, strongly connected to electronic sound experiments and minimal music ideas has been called ambient music and in early 1990’s it was widely spread as alternative for rock, dance and popular music.
   One of labels specializing in ambient records was Editions E. G. which was continuation of famous in 1970’s E. G. Records. It has started in 1969 from artistic management of David Enthoven and John Gaydon who were managers of such giants as King Crimson, T. Rex, Emerson Lake and Palmer and Roxy Music. In next decade E. G. Records was still the label significant for the whole artistic movement developed from progressive rock. In 1987 label Editions E. G. (then marketed by Virgin) released sampler of ambient productions We have here classics of Harold Budd, Brian Eno, Roger Eno, Michael Brook, experimenters and intellectualists with great Robert Fripp, Bill Bruford, Patrick Moraz, Phil Manzanera and Penguin Cafe Orchestra.
   Thirteen compositions from albums signed by featured artists comprises both meditative and radical compositions and everything here is outside the mainstream. But now, when more than the quarter of the century has passed, former experiments sound nobly and honestly. It’s fascinating how time made them pure and clearly understandable, free of novelty and thus full of meanings. There’s one more chance to look behind the curtain of our memory. And what we can find in past, show us where we really are.

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