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listening to Donald Judd

Stephen Vitiello

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Album Review

On Stephen Vitiello's 2007 album, he salutes another artist from an older generation, outsider sculptor Donald Judd, whose various wood and metal sculptures in the town of Marfa, TX form the basis of this work. Consisting of seven pieces altogether, Listening to Donald Judd finds Vitiello working with various sonic elements taken directly from recordings on the surface of the sculptures themselves, as well as from the surrounding scrub-brush countryside as well as passing trains, one of which starts the disc in a time-extended rush that feels both nostalgic and futuristic, echoed towards the end by another train that appears before an extended conclusion. From there Vitiello's creations often consist of the kind of deep, meditative drones that reach into sub-bass levels, more readily felt and sensed than heard, counterbalanced by loops and singular notes derived from other sources. While certainly the back story and album art helps to set the mental mood for potential listeners, there's no question that a kind of hot and dry feeling permeates the disc; high-pitched hums and squeals suggest power lines in the sand in an isolated town, again both familiar and somehow alien. Much of Listening to Donald Judd unfolds in near silence, rewarding detailed concentration. It can function as a classic ambient release if one wants, but the sense of careful hush created, perhaps strangely, is one that invites direct engagement. Insects clearly dominate the second track as well as other points on the disc — or if not insects at least a re-creation thereof, setting the scene of an evening in the dry Texas heat very well. One can almost sense the low skyline and desert hush.

Biography

Genre: Electronic

Years Active: '90s, '00s

A sound artist based in New York City, Stephen Vitiello started in music as an electric guitarist. His encounter with video artist Nam June Paik propelled him into a different world. Collaborations with Pauline Oliveros, Scanner, and Frances-Marie Uitti helped him gain recognition, but he is mostly known for his photocell recordings of the World Trade Center, for which he...
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listening to Donald Judd, Stephen Vitiello
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