NOAH CRESHEVSKY – “The Tape Music of Noah Creshevsky (1971-92)
This one’s a special one that I’ve been waiting a long time to share.
I first heard of composer Noah Creshevsky through a series of LPs on the Opus One label, an imprint from the mid ’60s up until the late ’90s that specialized in experimental, avant-garde and “new music” works. Formed by composer Max Schubel, Opus One’s roster was incredbly well-picked, and their LPs were incredibly distinctive, with covers featured crazy day-glo colors (sometimes even with black-light ink!), as well as some supreme abstract graphic design. (You can find the audio stream of a terrific 1976 radio interview with Max Schubel here.)
Late one night, while poking around the dusty LP archives of KXLU 88.9fm, the college radio station in L.A. that I was on for almost ten years, I found a stack of Opus One LPs buried amongst the station’s massive, stodgy collection of baroque and operatic recordings. Their distinctive cover design popped out immediately, and I took them all to a listening station, lapping up their peculiar sounds. At the time, when I was still not yet of legal drinking age, these records constituted some of the strangest shit I’d ever been exposed to, and the most entertaining and satisfying records of the bunch were all by Noah Creshevsky, a NYC-based composer whose tape collages and electronic bips-’n-bleeps are wholly unique to his style. Wikipedia sez:
Creshevsky has been composing electronic music since 1971. Much of his musical vocabulary consists of familiar bits of words, songs and instrumental sounds that he edits but seldom subjects to electronic processing. By obscuring the boundaries of real and imaginary ensembles though the fusion of oppositesâ€”music and noise, comprehensible and incomprehensible vocal sources, human and superhuman vocal and instrumental capacitiesâ€”Creshevskyâ€™s music sounds both Western and non-Western, ancient and modern, familiar and unfamiliar.
This alliance of opposites is heard both in his text-sound compositions (1973-1986)â€”Pop Art works in which extreme and unpredictable juxtapositions of iconographic sonic materials establish links between music and societyâ€”and in later pieces, in which the integration of electronic and acoustic sources and processes â€œcreates virtual â€˜superperformersâ€™ by using the sounds of traditional instruments pushed past the capacities of human performance.
The recordings on this compilation CD do not constitute the entirety of Creshevsky’s “tape music”, sadly, but I suspect that this was all that would reasonably fit into the running time of a single disc. I’ll try and post some of the missing bits at a later date, once I get some of the last LPs remaining in my physical collection transferred over to MP3.
My absolute favorite piece on this comp is “Sonata”. Give that one a whirl first, if the above description sounds a little too impenetrable to figure out. Another highlight is “In Other Words”, which takes just a handful of phrases from a recorded interview with John Cage, and fucks with them in a highly amusing manner.