David Behrman On the Other Ocean
Published Feb 06, 2019This is a remarkably contemporary sounding work for something released in 1978. David Behrman's groundbreaking research into interactive, computer-driven music was truly far reaching in both the concept and process of creation. Essentially the musicians playing triggered Kim 1, a precursor to the Apple II personal computer, the computer played its interpretation back, and the musicians improvised on that.
Behrman's arrangement was simplicity itself, which accounted for the then-glacial buffering/response of the computer of the time, and it is this understanding and sympathy that produced this quite profound work. On the first and title track (which was the 2nd piece recorded), flautist Maggi Payne and bassoonist Arthur Stidfole are given six notes to play, which Kim 1 hears, harmonises and plays back, which the musicians then respond to, playing their responses.
On the second track "Figure In A Clearing," Behrman's first work of this nature, a solo improvising cello plays with six notes and the software plays a time-based response "modelled on the motion of a satellite in falling elliptical orbit around a planet," according to Behrman. The cellist, David Gibson, was encouraged not to respond in kind, retaining his own "personality," separate from the computer response in this way. Both pieces are closed loops in process.
The tracks differ in remarkable ways: the first piece seems to reflect the computers occasional, yet regular dive-bombing responses (in the midst of more sympathetic harmonies) against the ambient textures played by the musicians; and in the second, the computer seems perfectly happy to be in sync with the cellist. What both pieces excel in is a rich, organic, complexity that on the surface may be considered "ambient," but eschews that convention in the most artful way. This recording has achieved landmark status in New Music and it's easy to hear why. (Lovely Music)