The Anatomy of Melancholy

All this reading about electronic music lately – partly in procrastinating my real research – has inspired me to write about some music I encountered recently: a live electronics piece called The Anatomy of Melancholy by Rudolf Komorous.

On October 7th, Martin Arnold, the artistic director of Arraymusic, (a Toronto-based new music collective), presented the piece, a multi-speaker sound installation in which the listeners are free to move about.  The piece consists of recorded musical segments, which are collaged and montaged by the performer, who draws on about five hours worth of material to create a unique arrangement or “score.”  Every performance is intended to be different and according to Arnold, the composer “doesn’t want you to improvise.”

The recordings, made by Komorous in the 1950s, feature vintage electronics, field recordings, bent signal processing, and acoustic instruments.  Originally, from Prague, Komorous moved to Canada in 1974 and became a professor at the University of Victoria.  There he taught Linda Catlin Smith, whom I met last month and who informed me about this presentation.  She also has performed this piece.  Komorous also taught my former teacher, Owen Underhill, who has also performed this piece, using tape reels no less (the recording files were digitized in the 90s). Both Linda and Martin performed it using CD players, with Martin adding the use of a laptop.

As you can imagine, this piece is a real treat and something one will never hear again the same way.  It has certainly sparked a desire to create some abstract, collage-based electronic music of my own and the feeling has been enhanced by recent reading.  But it’s gonna have to wait – lots to do in the meantime!

Anyway, Happy Halloween!



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