(1866-1925) envisioned furniture music. The nascent genre was, by
half a century, an early precursor to the modern (techno) ambient genre. A
concept of music heard in the background adding to the mood but not demanding
the full attention of its listeners.
music, upon first listen would seem deceptively simple; often made up of a
repetitive pattern, somewhat trance inducing. It was this seemingly simplistic
approach which made the influence of his music not fully realized nor
appreciated in his time. With never any official recognition within his
lifetime, he largely remained an artists artist.
influenced his near contemporaries Maurice Ravel (1875-1937) and Claude Debussy
(1862-1918). They took aspects of some of his concepts, incorporating it
successfully with what was already in their artistic palette.
The use of
non-musical objects, such as gunfire and the clacking of typewriters from his
ballet score for Parade would in various ways influence the early wave of
modernists in music and literature. Chief architect of the Dadaist, Tristan
Tzara (1896-1963) was a fan and friend as was Surrealist pope Andre
Breton (1896-1966). A group of young composers out of Paris called Le Six
gathered together under the wing of Jean Cocteau initially cited Erik Satie as
their spiritual forefather. Within a few years of their association some of
them would break with their artistic forefather, but all would cherry pick
different aspects of what he had been doing, incorporating it into their own
and instructions were also often included in Erik Saties compositions,
early precursor to some of the initial works of John Cage (1912- 1992). Indeed,
John Cages 433 was a piece in three movements in which not a single
note was played. Instead the ambient acoustics provided the music and sound.
Every venue in which it was performed offering a different version. This
element of chance would be emphasized even more in later John Cage works, the
in the moment not a dissimilar aspect to live jazz solos. The
433 piece could be seen as the offspring of Erik Saties instruction
for the performer to immerse themselves in utter silence and grave
immobilities and other such directions as he often wrote in the margins
of his scores.
another genre which can trace some of its origins back to the solo piano work
of Erik Satie. The steady repetitive pulse point or drone upon which a
musical pattern is formed then built off of without losing the thread of the
main theme can be glimpsed in such Erik Satie pieces as Gymnopedies
1960s the concept was refined and perfected by composers on both coasts
of The United States: Steve Reich, Terry Riley and Phillip Glass who studied
under John Cage. Minimalism seems to exist now in the publics awareness
in only one form. There is the oversimplified synth heavy works often used in
background of commercials or when showing a montage of things being done on
police procedural programs.
being a new thing, the possibilities and works are not readily
promoted to the more casual listener. This is a musical medium which still,
when utilized correctly has much potential. One of the obvious appeals to both
composer and listener would be the protean quality inherently found within
minimalisms framework. It can jump not just a musics genre, but the
actual category too, Jazz to modern classical. From a performers point of
view the ability to improvise ad infinitum over the established pattern allows
for much potential.
Transhumans album Into the Maelstrom Shows that minimalism is
far from played out. Strictly speaking, this trio is not rigidly minimalistic
nor jazz. Does it matter? Not at all.
are a trio consisting of Justin Cassidy on electronics, Bob Sterling on
drums/electronics and Patrick Rodriguez on electronics. Despite mainly being
electronic in nature the music sounds less techno and more improvisational.
I really like
this album. I could not just pick it up and listen to it at any time of the
day, but that can be said of a lot of the challenging music I treasure;
Schoenberg, Cecil Taylor, Ornette Coleman.
album are stylistic elements from many aspects of music both jazz and non-jazz.
Adrift could be free jazz. It starts with a voice real low in the mix,
giving the effect of eavesdropping on a secret daydream. The drums set up a
pattern over which feedback and other electronic blips serve as the
solo voice. The music does achieve a type of climax with the drums
increasing the tempo towards the end. The way the pattern is slowly built over
thirteen minutes, gaining momentum in a subtle way is almost reminiscent of
various North African pieces of trance music and traditional upper Egypt
Descent is not dissimilar to works by The Aphex Twins (Richard James)
from Selected Ambient Works Volume 2. A greater sense of tension is
achieved not just on this piece but throughout the album by the presence of
acoustic drums. It lends an organicness to the overall feel. In no way though
do the Transhumans merely ape or rift off of The Aphex Twins. If two people say
they had a dream of a red door, chances are the dimensions of the door may be
the same, but ornamentation, hue of color and where the door leads will be
There is some
discordance to be found throughout the album, when you are in the mood for this
type of music though, it does not detract at all. The Theremin like waves of
static in this piece could easily have been an alto during the New
Thing hay days of the mid sixties.
the album there is a repetition, a pattern is established over which the trio
further builds. This is not an album to listen to casually or if you have
distractions. It is headphone music. This is the best way to notice, as they
build their sonic Mandala, one pattern begins to fall apart even as a new one
is being formed.
Over all I do
enjoy techno-ambient music. Sound wise though, what a lot of albums eventually
suffer from is a certain sterileness. All the sounds are digital or sampled in
nature and recorded using cutting edge studio perfection which does not age
well. Here though, while this is not a lo-fi, neither is it overly done in the
vernacular of todays studio technology. Throughout the album the sound is
Drunken Boat starts with a sort of trancey bass and hi-hats setting up a
pattern over which among other things a sort of electric bowing can be heard.
This is probably the most accessible track on the album. It best
illustrates too, the potential of The Transhumans music to be enjoyed by
a wide spectrum of music fans providing they do not get bogged down in worrying
about genre names. There is what sounds like the slurring of reel to reel tapes
and a tiny voice which could be someones conscious riffing on
street life observed from within the head.
Erik Satie always
preferred to be called a Phonometrograph (someone who measures and writes down
sound) and that may also be one of the best ways to describe this compelling
trio.The packaging is professional, but no liner notes, which is actually
pretty standard for a lot of techno-ambient music. The cover is good, three
figures looking as if they are on their way to a chorus club meeting via an
Jazz for most of
its life-span has always built off of its past while ever looking ahead.
If jazz is going to continue to survive it must shake off its lethargy and
embrace not just its past, but what is new now, world music elements. What is
going on in the underground utilizing techniques and instruments which
do not necessarily come immediately to mind when one thinks of jazz. I still
find much joy and inspiration from listening to all the original masters, but
maybe the next Charlie Parker is in a cellar club with a midi enabled
return with more adventures in sound