Review of Compressions & Rarefactions [12k1083]

Vital Weekly (NL)

Despite the apparent success of vinyl and, lesser, cassette, more downloads are sold than physical sound carriers. But some people, us included, like physical sound carriers, and I for one, love the CD. A while ago I read that the CD might come-back as the next hip-thing, must be a hipster thing. It’s not easy to sell a CD: it doesn’t have the appeal of a record (which you can carry under your arm while sipping your macchiato-with-more-odd-names), and is considered to be a cheap thing. A while ago I reviewed a very limited CDR by Vertonen, in a box with booklets, cards, lathe cut record and here Kenneth Kirschner has a CD of some fifty-five minutes of music, which is by far the smallest portion. Included is a download card with some five hours of more music by him. The CD comes with a booklet with texts/essays by Marc Weidenbaum, Mike Lazarev, Simon Cummings and Kysia Johnson. When I get up in the morning, and did all the necessary things (make coffee, get newspaper) I usually want to play something totally unrelated to Vital Weekly. This morning it was the John Cage/Jan Steele album on Obscure Records (in a digital form, I rather read my newspaper uninterrupted), which was followed by ‘September 13 2012’ by Kenneth Kirschner. That was an excellent choice – although not surprising. I like to get up and play something quiet, but in years to come I may easily revert to this Kirschner album for early morning music. Especially ‘September 13, 2012’ is one to start the day with. It sounds like a small chamber orchestra with some finely woven, flowing sounds. Yet it’s not a chamber orchestra as everything Kirschner does is to be found some way or another in the computer. At the source there might be a viola, such as in ‘October 13 2012’, but Kirschner stretches these out and creates vast patterns of sound. Sometimes it is hard to recognize these sources, such as the kitchen drinking glasses in ‘July 17, 2010’, a two-hour piece of very minimal changing patterns of granular synthesis (although, come to think of it, I am not sure if Kirschner uses computer technology at all, contrary to what I just said). But over the course of the piece things change, quite a lot actually; it’s just that his cross-fades may take a while before you are aware that a new sound is present. And even at that not all of this very carefully played: the shortest piece is ‘April 16, 2013’ uses bells, glockenspiels and xylophones, and has a ringing, Steve Reich-like feel to it. It’s up-tempo and quite up-front, unlike some of the other pieces here. ‘January 10 2012’ also has percussion but, clocking at one hour and thirty-six minutes, is sparser than the piece on the CD. Like some of the Kirschner pieces I heard so far (from this as well as previous releases), there is a certain freedom in his music. Sometimes one has the idea that these sounds are placed at random in the mix, and this piece is a fine example of that. The percussion with which this starts seems to have vanished by the end and we only seem to have stretched out sounds. ‘October 13 2012’ is the longest piece, although just two minutes shorter than ‘July 17, 2010’, but seems also the quietest piece of the lot. The viola is layered together, pitched up and down a bit; slightly time stretched and comes to the listener in various blocks, with silence in between. As the piece evolves the chamber orchestra quality of the piece deepens and it has that great Arvo Part like quality. Almost like a piece of religious music. In some way this release reminded of the work of Frank Rothkamm, especially that recent 24 hour set of his, but Kirschner’s music seems less static and bit more vibrant; within these lengthy pieces there seems to be happening more than in an hour piece by Rothkamm (which is not to say anything negative or positive about either of them, it’s just something I noted). Kirschner created five excellent pieces of music that one can find in that area between electronic music and modern classical music.

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