STRP1: Reactions To the Music of Dick Raaijmakers
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This deluxe three-CD set, including a hardbound, 200-page book, documents the music of a major figure on the European electronic music scene since the '60s, but one who is largely unknown stateside. At its best, which is often, Dick Raaijmakers' work compares favorably to better-known composers such as Iannis Xenakis or Pierre Schaeffer. His pieces range widely, from relatively "traditional" electronic scores to ultra-abstract works like the "Canon" series from the mid-'60s, made up of static-sounding crackles derived from vinyl surface noise and with only arcane relationships to one another. This becomes all the more eerie when, in the fifth canon, the quavering voice of Edith Piaf periodically emerges from and sinks back into this thorny sea. Then you have compositions like "Ballade Erikonig Voor Luidsprekers," veritable epics of sound explorations, densely packed with layers of throbbing tones, prickly pings, and the occasional importation of radio broadcasts (here, often Indian popular song). The second disc contains several pieces, written as film soundtracks, that are somewhat "straighter" (semi-regular rhythms, more recognizable electronic sounds, etc.) though just as fascinating, sounding like accompaniment for a particularly avant-garde science-fiction movie, something like Tarkovsky's Stalker. Three works centered around the figure of Chairman Mao are unusual even in this context, ranging from an eight-minute erased tape to an impenetrable game-based piece for eight ersatz Chinese violins to a lovely (if intentionally kitschy) electronic transposition of revolutionary Chinese choral music and thunder. The final disc contains, among other works of interest, a piece for enormously amplified music box (playing "The Internationale" at a snail's pace), a string quartet where the catgut and bows have been replaced by metal wires carrying static charges, and a small fantasy on ping-pong. Idiosyncratic to say the least, Raaijmakers carved out his own inquisitive, delightful sound world, and deserves to be heard by anyone purporting to be a fan of contemporary electronic music. Highly recommended.