restocked: The music comprising John Bischoff’s new CD ‘Audio Combine’, just released on New World Records, is beautiful, fascinating, thoroughly enjoyable. Philip Perkins’s engineering and production values are superb.
The five tracks on the disc are diverse, representing Bischoff compositions from 2004 to mid-2011. The third track ‘Local Color’ evokes traditional chinese zhong bells, but also especially calls into question the ‘who’ of music performance [in asmuch as some of the bells are computer-triggered, randomly and deterministically, while others are played by Bischoff from his score] and other limits of performance identity [insofar as the bell modes and timbres evolve after the bell is struck—on the rim; on the bosses/nipples; on the wall; etc.—in aleatoric/random ways that the musician-computer can neither predict nor control]. Of course, all music emerges in less-than-predictable/controllable ways—just less obviously so than bells.
John Bischoff (b. 1949) is an early pioneer of live computer music. He was a founding member of the League of Automatic Music Composers (1978), considered to be the world’s first Computer Network Band. His long experience teaching music theory, harmony, and counterpoint is evident in his work: in the elegant balance of elements in his pieces can be heard an intuitive understanding of traditional musical forms expressed in sonic palettes far removed from the ones around which those forms were originally constructed. He describes his work as “a music built from the intrinsic features of the electronic medium at hand: high definition noise components, tonal edges, digital shading, and non-linear motion, all evolving in the variable context of live performance.” While these features are all prominent, his work can also be considered fundamentally as a form of “expanded counterpoint,” one in which the juxtaposition of sonic elements and their compositional development is a central concern. His work possesses a clear and intuitive sense of formal clarity combined with a nuanced deployment of audio events and textures.