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Studio Retrospect

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Album Review

As its title implies, Studio Retrospect is a small retrospective of several works by electronics pioneer Gordon Mumma, in this case six selections ranging in date of origin from 1959 to 1984. It opens with a piece actually titled "Retrospect," one that was worked on over 23 years, a collage of sorts that, partly due to its length of gestation, incorporates sounds from both early analog synthesizers through digital ones. The ride is an invigoratingly rough and tumble one, including raucous abstraction, snatches of Spanish speech and (apparent) drum ensembles. "Music From the Venezia Space Theatre" projects splintered shards of sound through its space in a manner that recalls some of Xenakis' electronic works. Designed for the 1964 Venice Biennale and intended to be heard in an opera house, one can only imagine its effect in a live setting. A harsh stop-and-start work in memory of the bombing of Dresden viscerally evokes the uncertainty, fear, and tension of citizens not knowing what the next several minutes might bring. Other tracks float strangely nostalgic harpsichord morsels over an eerie, sine wave-like hum and delicate bowed psaltery wafting in pools of silence. Once the listener gets comfortable with Mumma's very idiosyncratic sense of time and sonic juxtapositioning, he or she is in for a curiously delightful, very unique experience. Studio Retrospect is a valuable overview of this underappreciated composer's career.


Born: 30 March 1935 in Framingham, MA

Genre: Classical

Years Active: '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

Gordon Mumma is a cofounder, with Robert Ashley, of the Cooperative Studio for Electronic Music in Ann Arbor, MI, which has been in existence...
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