Sunday, April 5, 2009
Yoshi Wada - Earth Horns with Electronic Drone (Em Records CD)
Just in from Brainwashed:
Fluxus artist Yoshi Wada has had a bit of a resurgence in the public eye lately due to a number of recent reissues of works that, in retrospect, fit alongside many of the best and most challenging minimalist works of the last forty years. Here, EM presents the fourth and final Wada release in their series with the world premiere of a 1974 performance in Syracuse, New York consisting of a single drone and four Wada-created "pipehorns" tuned to the frequencies of the room itself.
What results is a 162-minute drone work (cut to 77-minutes for the CD version) of near stagnant enormity. Beginning from the drone, an oscillation that takes acoustic information from the room and recycles it back out, each horn enters one by one only to spend the next two-plus hours monolithically exploring the overtone structures of the room in a kind of quartet meditation on sound.
Works like this are, to be fair, not for everybody. This is truly directionless, and the musical change which takes place from beginning to end is near zilch. As with anything this unmoving then, the important question is whether or not the journey from beginning to end achieves its intended effect and whether that effect is worth one's time. The answer to both of these in this case is an enthusiastic yes.
Each horn note's bellow or drone gradually builds the whole into an intoxicating blend of overtones no less effecting than those used in La Monte Young's Well-Tuned Piano. It is always a pleasure to hear sound and space used in such unity, as it creates a dialogue not so much between the musicians and their instruments but between them and the sound itself. As the room bends and shapes the slight variations in sound it creates an effect far beyond the actual notes played, and it is to this effect that the horn players (Jim Burton, Garrett List, Barbara Stewart and Wada) contribute when playing their notes.
Thus the work is one whose strength comes from its size, as it is only with complete immersion that the piece comes to hold any its potentially meditative intricacy. This is a minimalism far removed from Reich and Glass's restructuring of classicist forms and is far nearer to the ritual spirit of Angus MacLise, the stark and simple structures of Alvin Lucier and the tonal attunement of Pandit Pran Nath. Often such works are touted as lost classics, but it is rare that it is actually the case. In this situation however, its value is as clear as can be.