Noah Creshevsky

(Copyright © 2003 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )

Man And Superman (1993), 7/10
Who (2000), 6/10
Electroacoustic Music (2003), 7/10

Noah Creshevsky (1945), who studied with Nadia Boulanger in Paris and Luciano Berio at the Juilliard School, has developed a musical language that employs collage as the fundamental medium.

His "songs" are rapid-fire assemblies of snippets of (human and instrumental) sounds, a form of reconstructin of music. He refers to his aesthetics as "hyperrealism" because it employs "real" sounds and amplifies their meaning and emotional impact. The main difference between Creshevsky's collages and, say, the collages of musique concrete is that Creshevsky's music always remains "musical": his job consists in smoothing out the discontinuity which is inherent in the concept of a collage. Sounds are juxtaposed so as to lend a musical quality to what is no more a musical piece, but a sampling of many different pieces.

His original interest was for the creation of "hypervirtuoso" music, music performed by electronic instruments simulating acoustic instruments played in a way that no human virtuoso could possibly match. Circuit (1971), for harpsichord on tape, was such a composition. Man And Superman (Centaur, 1992) focuses on the dialogue between live human performers and electronic "superhuman" performers. It includes the elegant Variations (1987), an ebullient merry-go-round of pitched sounds, Electronic String Quartet (1988), the harsh symphony of contrasts of Memento Mori (1989), Electric Partita (1990), the rhythmic study of Talea (1991).

Auxesis (Centaur, 1995) collects compositions by Charles Amirkhanian (Politics As Usual) and Noah Creshevsky (Borrowed Time of 1992, a collage of vocal music dating from the middle ages to the 20th century, Private Lives of 1993, a creative take on the baroque harpsichord concerto and medieval choir music, and Coup d'Etat, a breathtaking collage of human voices and symphonic sounds).

Creshevsky's electroacoustic music (which processes the sounds before assembling them together) is documented on Who (Centaur, 2000): Fanfare (1998), the suave vocal harmonies of Sha (1996), the breathtaking flow of vocal sounds of Twice (1993), the stuttering and agonizing Who (1995), the undulating geometry of Et Puis (1998), Gone Now (1995), Breathless (1997), Nude Ascending (1999). These are dynamic (albeit hermetic) puzzles of voices and instruments that display an inner cohesive structure and a sense of purpose.

Creshevsky as a virtuoso of the sampler is best documented on Hyperrealism/Electroacoustic Music by Noah Creshevsky (Mutable, 2003), a program of collages, each a frenzy of cascading sounds, in particular the "hyperdrama" Ossi di Morte (1997), which creates a choir of sort through a number of singing voices, and Jacob's Ladder (1999), which brings together a multitude of musical sounds (ranging from operatic sopranos to piano notes) to craft a moving piece. The other compositions are: Canto di Malavita (2002), Vol-au-vent (2002), Hoodlum Priest (2002), Novella (2000), Jubilate (2001), Born Again (2003).
Lines notes:

Hyperrealism is an electroacoustic musical language constructed from sounds that are found in our shared environment ("realism"), handled in ways that are somehow exaggerated or excessive ("hyper").

Fundamental to hyperrealism is the expansion of the sound palettes from which music is made. Developments in technology and transformations in social and economic realities have made it possible for composers to incorporate the sounds of the entire world into their music. Essential to the concept of hyperrealism is that its sounds are generally of natural origin, and that they remain sufficiently unprocessed so that their origin is perceived by the listener as being "natural." Since the sounds of our environment vary from year to year, generation to generation, and culture to culture, it is impossible to isolate a definitive encyclopedia of "natural" sounds, but there are a great many sounds that are familiar to nearly all of us. These are the most basic building blocks in the formation of a shared (if temporary) collective sonic reality. Hyperrealism celebrates bounty, either by the extravagant treatment of limited sound palettes or by assembling and manipulating substantially extended palettes.

The Tape Music 1971-1992 (EM, 2006) collects assorted compositions, from the musique concrete of Strategic Defense Initiative (1986) to the collage of found sounds Highway (1979) via novelties such as Circuit (1971) for manipulated sounds of the harpsichord.

Favorite Encores (Pogus, 2008) collects four compositions by Noah Creshevsky and three by If Bwana. The former are examples of "hyperrealism". either exaggeration of familiar sounds by traditional instruments (notably Mari Kimura Redux and Favorite Encores, that sound like famous violin solos but transcend the possibilities of classical music) or expansion of familiar sounds with alien sonic elements (Shadow of a Doubt, which is basically a collage of orchestral and operatic snippets).

Twilight Of The Gods (Tzadik, 2009) is relatively lightweight, including pieces for kletzer and jazz combos, but also the eleven-minute I Wonder Who's Kissing Her Now, a collage of orchestral and vocal music.

Rounded With A Sleep (2012) collects seven compositions that constitute more serious examples of his "hyperrealism". Rounded With A Sleep creates the atmosphere of a medieval madrigal despite being a disjointed flow of vocal and instrumental samples (notably harpsichord and violin). La Sonnambula (2010), one of his artistic peaks, sounds like a defective record playing an old jazz piece for clarinet and piano until the harpsichord notes cause a neoclassical spike. The piece then plunges into frenzied dementia and then morphs into a carillon-like tune. Lisa Barnard Redux (2008) toys with human voices creating a haunting looping labirynth. What If (2009) is a hyperreal sonata for frenzied harpsichord and piano that mocks baroque music's mathematical progressions. In Tomomi Adachi Redux II (2011) what begins as a dadaist collage of funny vocal utterances a` la Schwitters' Ursonate turns into a melancholy madman meditation. The Kindness Of Strangers (2009) for string quartet (guitar, bass, lap-steel and banjo) and voice is another methodical baroque deconstruction to which the composer adds a layer of cryptic voices. The technique here is mostly limited to sampling (or, better, deforming) individual lines of music. Not collaging but remixing.

The Four Seasons (Tzadik, 2013)

Noah Creshevsky died in 2020 and asked to be buried in a mass grave.

(Copyright © 2003 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )
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