Monthly Archives: February 2016

Recent Arrivals – Innova

Innova Recording have been releasing a steady catalogue of innovative CDs for many years. Most of these feature the works of contemporary classical music composers but, also other genres. Here are a few which have arrived in the post recently.

Paula Matthusen – Pieces for People: Paula Matthusen is currently Assistant Professor of Music at Wesleyan University (experimental music, composition, music technology). This recent release focuses on a number of works in collaboration with other performers. Each piece presented here explores a different area of compositional styles.

Sparrows in Supermarkets is a piece for recorder (Terri Hron). It consists of various loops and drones and also explores the sounds of varying physical spaces. Limerence features the sound of the banjo (James Moore). Here, the instrument is used as a sound source to produce abstract manipulated sounds which float in an intriguing soundscape.

Two movements from AEG feature glitchy cut-up sounds including voice and real instruments. It was composed for dance. Of Architecture and Accumulation is a work for solo organ (Wil Smith) which examines the slowly increasing and decreasing dynamics of the instrument.

The CD also features works for large and small instrumental ensembles in the pieces corpo/Cage and In Absentia.

This discs presents a wide overview of the Matthusen’s compostional areas of exploration.

Gordon Beeferman – Four Parts Five: At first glance of the credits, you’d be forgiven in thinking that this was probably some straight-ahead jazz recording. Featuring piano, Hammond B3 organ, sax, flute, bass clarinet, electric guitar, double bass and drums, this is definitely not straight-ahead jazz.

Each of the four works included here possess their own quirky internal sonic engine. It is glitchy, funky, minimalist and dense with looping rhythms that ebb and flow but also jar and intrigue.

It is an odd blend of funky jazz meets minimalist composition. Think of Frank Zappa meeting up with Philip Glass at a strange late-night dance club where the music is not conducive to dancing. Pleasantly odd and inviting sounds abound. A challenging and rewarding listen.

Karen Gottlieb – Music for Harp: With her latest release, harpist┬áKaren Gottlieb presents the works of four American composers. The disc is book-ended by pieces by Lou Harrison. Suite for Cello and Harp from 1949 presents a duet sound which reveals an optimistic melancholy which serves as an excellent starting point.

A series of seven other brief Harrison works dating from 1967 to 1977 conclude the disc. Music for Harp and Percussion presents a series of short works which explore the dialogue between the instruments. Each is like a vignette of sonic possibilities for duet.

John Cage’s 1949 composition In a Landscape is a solo work with a Satie-esque charm. The brief phrases loop and repeat in a hypnotic manner. This work was originally composed for dancer Louise Lippold.

The CD also contains two more recent compositions by Wayne Peterson and Dan Reiter and once again highlight Gottlieb’s feel for the works of these composers.

This is a well produced and varied selection of pieces which truly highlight her gift for interpretation of many different composers.

The Tefifon – Obscure Audio Playback from Germany

While recently doing a search for something audio-related on youtube, I came across an interesting video about an audio playback device of which I was totally unfamiliar. It’s a device called the Tefifon.

The Tefifon got its start back in the 1930s as a recording and playback device much like the Dictaphone. Towards the end of the 1940s, the company decided to enter the commercial market and began producing consumer-oriented machines as well as music cartridges to play on them.

Cartridges for the machine could hold up to four hours worth of recorded material. Unfortunately, they were unable to license audio recordings by popular artists and had to make do with cover versions of material that was popular at the time. This put the company at a bit of a disadvantage.

As you can see in the video, the cartridges for this player are somewhat like the endless loop 8-track tape cartridges that were fairly popular back in the 1970s. However, the Tefifon cartridges do not contain magnetic tape. They contain a thin plastic band which contains parallel grooves like a phonograph record. You can think of the playback medium as something like an old thin flexi-disc record. Instead of the grooves being pressed into a circular format, they are simply located on a very long piece of thin plastic.

By the early 1960s, the Tefifon had finally had its day. Despite the introduction of stereo playback, the limited market in Germany (it was apparently never marketed internationally), the unimpressive music offered for the format and competition from the LP record, the Tefifon finally vanished.

Sit back and enjoy this video showing the Tefifon in action courtesy of youtube video producer Techmoan.

And if you enjoyed that, here is a follow up video with more interesting details.