Folio — Volume One (2011) — Robert Scott Thompson — Avant-garde Music

The two Folio volumes are a great introduction to the electroacoustic music of R.S. Thompson. Favorite track: Ocha (Piano Bell Studies).

~ Richard Almasi excellent addition to the composer's works...

These eight recent pieces (from RST’s “classical” side, rather than the “Ambient” side) are diverse, and make an excellent addition to the composer’s works. (There is also a  Folio – Volume Two.)

There are no liner notes to the album, but he has provided a brief helpful outline of some pieces in the “Editorial Reviews” section.

The opening piece is languid, with frequent moments of silence, interspersed by short notes by woodwinds and strings. The second begins more ominously, and is more electronic, with sounds such as “scraping” of piano strings, and percussive “pianistic” and “wooden” sounds. The third piece turns sharper, and even harsher—almost grating, at times, with electronic and metallic sounds in the mix. The fourth piece, “Escape Velocities,” is for unaccompanied solo flute (RST has done other works for solo flute—e.g., the title track on  Meridian – Chamber Music Works 1989-1997), but this one is perhaps his most interesting; a virtuostic track, exploring various unconventional sounds from the instrument, which John Fonville develops to the fullest.

Star Map” (perhaps my favorite track of the collection) has lots of shimmering, echoing and reverberating (but gentle) electronics. The 6th track, “Imaginal for JC (i.e., John Cage) in Four Thirty Three” (the length of Cage’s famous “silent” composition) is actually more electronic, than “silent.” The seventh piece is a change of pace, featuring string orchestral sounds (both sustained, or in brief bursts). The final piece is probably the most “far-reaching” on the album, with recorded (and electronically modified) voices (usually with indecipherable words) and electronic sounds.

— Steven H Propp

Program Note

The Folio series features various miscellaneous compositions that develop out of my general practice. These works are the result of explorations into the modeling of sounds and musical structures that typically result in more elaborated and concentrated works. In some ways, they are “sketches” or compositional studies. Some of these experimental pieces turn out to be more than mere exercises and can stand on their own as separate compositions. The Folio series sheds light into the compositional process and also collects a number of the more interesting of these miscellaneous works.

Folio Volume One features instrumental sounds by Jan Baker (saxophone), John Fonville (flute) and Stuart Gerber (percussion). Included in this recording is Fae Oot O Killyglen, composed for the Belfast Imagined project of the Five Points Journal of Literature and Art. This acousmatic work features voices from County Antrim in a three-section setting together with other acoustic and synthetic sounds. Escape Velocities is a composition for flute that originated as models performed by John Fonville in 1989 in La Jolla, California. Aviary is an homage to the great artist Alwin Nikolais, and Imaginal for JC in Four Thirty-three is an homage to Cage.

All works date from 2011 except Fae Oot O Killyglen which was composed in 2010.

~ rst

Fae Oot O Killyglen - Program Note

Fae Oot O Killyglen (2010)

1: Five Ducks
2: I’ve Never Been Normal
3: Sheep and Sinners

Using text fragments as basic material, Fae Oot O Killyglen, presents a three-part riff on the primary regional dialect of East Antrim; with one ear attuned to glitchy electronica and the other toward avant-garde high modernism, the resulting sonic characteristics falling somewhere between the two. The piece is inspired by my lifelong involvement with the area of East Antrim, and specifically the farming community among whom I often worked during summers in my youth. I quickly became somewhat adept at speaking the local dialect and have been fascinated by its richness ever since. This was the colorful and poetic language of the pub, playground, church, field, and farm, nowadays in real danger of dying out altogether.

The three source texts are rather disparate but are drawn from distinct “voices” that I came to know well. The first section, “Five Ducks,” tells the story of spontaneously reanimating plucked ducks in the vernacular of the farming community – a voice that brought me a great sense of comfort and community, and also loads of amusement most of the time. The second section, “I’ve Never Been Normal,” features a fragment of text from Elizabeth Yensen, who upon her death at 110 had the distinction of being Belfast’s oldest woman and quite the free spirit. The sound of her voice reminds me of the “old ones” – my aunts and uncles and their friends who in the 1960’s shared many tales of East Antrim lore with a wide-eyed wean all the way from California. The final section “Sheep and Sinners,” combines the forbidding authoritarian tone of the Presbyterian Church, through the unmistakable voice of Ian Paisley, with the sounds of bleating sheep. The text is from one of his better-known sermons about the perilous evils of “the modern dance.” The sound structures, textures, and transformations for the composition were created using Metasynth.


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