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Dimitri Voudouris - NPFAI.1/PALMOS/NPFAI.3/PRAXIS

Dimitri Voudouris  - NPFAI.1/PALMOS/NPFAI.3/PRAXISA South African composer of Greek birth, Voudouris is interested in the "research of cognitive psycho-acoustic behavioral patterns in humans and the behavior of sound in relationship to continued environmental changes". Don't let the composer's difficult description fool you into thinking about some kind of cerebral pretentiousness, though, as this album contains instead four magnificent examples of his approach, music that's always challenging and, in many of its expressions, of extraordinary beauty. "NPFAI" stands for "New Possibilities For African Instrument"; the two namesake pieces are electroacoustic studies, one for kundi and m'bira, the other for African marimba. In both cases, Voudouris processes the instrumental sources via computer to originate soundscapes that mix the "percussive and organic" sonic environments generated by these fascinating textures. An extremely individual character comes out of these experiments, which produce hundreds of separated aural events that nevertheless find their unique place in the air once they're out of the speakers, finally spreading like an indivisible whole; the properties of the main instruments are soon forgotten in favour of a multidirectional modification of our sense of belonging to the very music. "Palmos", for Hammond organ, oboe and bandoneon, is a wonderful pseudo-static, ever-morphing halo of interacting overtones; Voudouris states that "consciousness itself is a vibration pattern" and I take my hat off to him for two reasons: one, he's the first artist who confirms what I've always believed and two, the awesome radiance of this piece, which really throws us into an ocean of doubts without a clue about the relationships between safe mental harbors and the perennial fear of the unknown. "Praxis" makes great use of a Christian Orthodox Greek male choir (computer processed, too), ending the disc with the most heterogeneous offer, a cross of mournful recollections and radical experimentation that will put many contemporary acousmatic composers under the threat of sounding surpassed. Sepulchral lamentations and modified pitches, obtained from a damaged recording of the memorial services for the Croatian genocides held in 1999 in Sofiatown, Johannesburg, work much better as a means of protest than a million words. - Touching Extremes

Dimitri Voudouris is Greek, long time Johannesburg citizen, chemist, electroacoustic composer, and founder of Unyazi first African electronic music festival. He's not new to digital audio and multimedia experiments, with researches innervated with a specific attention to contemporary social and cultural phenomena. The outcome is notably vivid, considering the peculiar geographical origin that makes immaterial approaches less likely there as well as relaxed relationships with technology. He records as Npfai.1 (New Possibilities For African Instrument) and digitally processes the traditional m'bira (a.k.a. kalimba) and kundi sonorities. Kundi is a sort of ritual harp, able to articulate spaced atmospheres, loosely glitched, never too synthetically or naturally typified, directly avoiding certain improvised exoticism. There are looped tonalities, drones and harmonic tone colors deleting the non-audible frequencies in 'Palmos', a flat but extremely suggestive composition, listed just before NPFAI.3, weighed on the use of a tenor marimba that loses its percussive nature through a granular amalgam and synthetic textures. Praxis is the last track where an Orthodox male choir peeps from meticulously divided, spaced out sounds, minimally modulated in frequencies. - Aurelio Cianciotta, Neural

Divergent feelings: A waterfall of information and a beacon for future developments.

Dimitri Voudouris Pgus.jpg Dimitri was born in 1961 in Greece, and lives, works, creates, and operates from South Africa. His music, to get to the point immediately, is highly intellectual in its conception and extremely technical. He drives this fact to the extreme by pointing out his techniques in detail in the booklet, that accompanies the CD. There are even graphical designs to explain his sound field constructions.

Let me just quote what he wrote: '…the natures of percussive sounds and organic environments created were from frequencies generated by the decomposition of the original sound source in the process of obtaining continuous sounds out of discontinued ones, as there is a logarithmic relationship between the increase in density and perception… …as we examine ever smaller particles of matter - people made of cells, made of molecules, made of atoms, made of protons/electrons, made of quarks, etc. - we eventually reach a state of reality where the smallest particles, when broken further, do not yield smaller particles which we can put names on, but rather a universal energy matrix of relationships of vibration patterns… …these procedures were not to defamiliarize the sound of the instrument but rather to explore the deeper analogies of organic identity in the construction of micro sound environments, focusing on capturing the physical properties of the instrument and its organic sound textures…'

So far, so good, and while you follow me reading this review, excuse me for trying to elaborate on this in more common language and more oriented on what these sounds have done for my feelings and my individual experience, instead of going on talking in the language of science. So, remember what you have read before, when I quoted Dimitri Voudouris: What do we learn from his explanations? Do we really need this type of information? Do we, people who like sounds and sound-created atmospheres and the ever new temptations of the boundaries of music and sound, need to indulge in the process of creating such music? Before I answer this question, let me provide you with further information, very essential to your final assessment of my question.

The first track is called NPFAI.1. The abbreviation stands for New Possibilities for African Instruments. Those instruments are the kundi and the m'bira, traditional instruments, the first being a bowed harp, most commonly used as a ceremonial instrument. The m'bira, also known as kalimba, is a finger piano, build from wood and equipped with metal strips. The sound of these traditional, quite rudimentary instruments is changed by the computer, manipulating the sounds so far that even their basic characteristics have been altered, thus producing a new quality. The same technique is implied by Dimitri, when he uses a Hammond organ, an oboe and a bandoneon on Palmos, the African marimba on NPFAI.3 or an Christian Orthodox Greek male choir.

What did this music actually do to me? What did I FEEL when I heard these sounds? Did I enjoy them, did they bore me, or what really happened there? The answer is Yes! Yes to all of the above. Let me explain: The first track just created very divergent feelings. While I actually had the expectation to hear and be a witness of the marriage of traditional African instruments with modern technique, there was a certain degree of disappointment. Reason being, the sounds of the traditional instruments were altered in a way, that I, for the most part of the composition, couldn't even distinuish their emissions from those generated by the computer. It all sounded electronic. Whether or not this was the intention of the composer, I really can't say. The same thing happened to me when listening to the second track, Palmos, and also with the third, NPFAI.3.

The music, generally calming and peaceful, not very diverse and yet precise and well worked out in its detail, couldn't establish the connection between traditional instruments, not even the relatively modern ones among them (as in Palmos). Although I enjoyed the sounds, they didn't keep the promise made by the waterfall of information, that almost drowned me. An exception, however, is the last track, called Praxis. (Is the title really a coincidence??) This is an almost overwhelming piece of composition, that caught all of my attention, sharpening my ears and allowed me experience exactly what I had missed before: Here, the music does not serve the purpose of theoretical hoopla, but of honest, living and true experience. Here, the connection between the centuries in musical development has been made in an almost ingenious way: The computer doesn’t reign in a dictatorial way, but assists and interprets as an equal, a medium to help improve the overall theme. Sounds are accomplished and produced that create a fascinating adventure, that captivates from the first to the last note. I will even go so far as to say, that this piece may well revolutionize the experimental scene and serve as a beacon for future developments. For this piece alone, I can only advise you to buy this CD.

By Fred M. Wheeler, Tokafi

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