Kenneth Gaburo - Tape Play
be said that the impact of the first two decades ('50s-'60s) of
American electronic/electro-acoustic music has not been as strong as
the work produced in Europe during that period. Sure, Babbit,
Ussachevsky, Mimaroglu and a few other composers associated with the
Columbia-Princeton Electronic Music Center and Subotnick out of San
Francisco made a strong impression in their day and continue to be
admired now. True also that Edgard Varese's brief but important foray
into the field and John Cage's pioneering collages and subsequent work
remain important influences on the avant garde scene. But there were
many composers active then that are not as well-remembered now, many
worthy of our attention.
Kenneth Gaburo (1926-1993) is one. So it is especially welcome that an
anthology of ten of his tape works covering the period of 1964-1992
have been issued/reissued as Tape Play (Pogus 21020-2).
Gaburo liked to mix comparatively unaltered instrumental and vocal
sounds in with electronically generated ones. Most of the time he
tended toward more of a "chamber" than an "orchestral" electronic
palette. He had a sense of humor sometimes lacking in the electronic
music of the period and a somewhat quirky sense of dramatics. All this
combined served to distinguish him as somewhat untypical.
The ten works represented in the volume at hand are sequenced in more
or less chronological order. The earliest works, some originally
released on a Nonesuch LP at the time, have less of a virtuoso feel to
them than some of the later works. They are perhaps a bit more
conversational and slightly casual compared to what followed. "Fat
Mille's Lament" (1965), for example, combines an altered vocal loop
with clouds of rapid high-pitched glass-bell sounds, then takes a jazz
orchestra snippet and modifies it by doubling for a moment, only to
fade away to leave an open space that is again filled with a short
reprise of the loop and cloud.
"Re-Run" (1983) uses rapid-fire melanges of single-timbred sounds. It's
a good example of how later works seem a bit more developmental; they
generate unified discourse from single-idea kernels much of the time,
and may combine abstract spoken word dialogues with electronic
soundscapes. You can hear this in "Mouth Piece II" (1992), or "Kyrie"
(with Henri Chopin)(1974) and its familiar children's nonsense
rhyme-song incanted in deadpanned seriousness while a mystical drone of
sustained altered voices sounds in the background.
Kenneth Gaburo has a timeless presence in these works. The fact that he
tended to avoid the sort of serial syntax in favor then and his
attention to ambiance gives him a vibe more in common with the
electro-acoustic music in vogue today than some of the more
methodologically minded composers active at the time. And the music
continues to hold fascination.
True, he may not be at the very pinnacle of achievement for his era.
Nevertheless it is good to hear these pieces again and/or (at least for
me, some) for the first time. They keep their interest and most
certainly don't repeat themselves. He was ever imaginative and puckish.
And perhaps easier than some composers of the day to grasp by those
uninitiated in avant fare, since he tended not to seek out much in the
way of strident dissonance or complex noise. Recommended, especially
for the avant completist. - Grego Applegate Edwards, Gapplegate Classical-Modern Music Review