Wednesday, January 23, 2013

James Tenney - Collage #1

Alternations between medium-low tones and white noise act as introductory percussion as if setting the tempo for the piece. The tones slowly start to modulate in frequency, timbre and texture and still the white noise acts as a percussive cut-up of the tones. In this setting, the white noise, even with its breathy whisper, creates a larger presence and impact than the musical tones, which start to shimmer and undulate. High frequency vibrations are then added to the mix, giving the piece a frenetic feel, as if the listener is suffering from a mood disorder. The alternations between low and high frequencies, punctuated by a pure silence sprinkled throughout, continue to increase in speed. Suddenly, the schizophrenic tonal modulations give way to a breath or two of a 50s rock and roll tune followed by the static of the radio dial hovering between stations. The stations change to a new tune, but the dial cannot make up its mind; the sound is pulled back and forth along the radio index. We hear snippets of what appear to be different songs but a familiar feeling lingers after each change of the dial. The tunes are all Elvis Presley's "Blue Suede Shoes" played at different speeds. As Elvis' vocal registers continue to compete with each other, the musical tones come back into play, reverberating in an eerie, sci fi manner. As the different iterations of his emblematic song give way to a sonic landscape of pure tonal modulations and white noise - coming full circle to the beginning of the piece - one is prompted to wonder: which of these various characters, if any, is the real Elvis?

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