Charlemagne Palestine
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New York-based composer and multimedia performance artist Charlemagne Palestine (Charles Martin, 1945) was rediscovered late in his life with the release of recent recordings and several reissues. The "Golden" series brought back to light his earliest compositions. In-Mid-Air (Alga Marghen, 2003), the third installment in the series, collects five works from the 1960s that show a maturing composer, clearly educated at the school of the electronic pioneers (with plenty of references to the Darmstadt circle) although not particularly knowledgeable about the new techniques. Unfortunately, they share little with his "strumming" piano masterpieces. Instead, they hark back to an era when the like of Morton Subotnick and Jon Appleton shocked the classical audiences with clumsy electronic machines. The two shorter pieces (from 1965) are not any more interesting than thousands of studies recorded by students of Edgar Varese or (at Darmstadt) of Karlheinz Stockhausen during those years, although the seductive cicada-like buzzing of 7 Organism Study (1968) proves that Palestine was an original even within the ranks of the droning composers. Negative Sound Study (1969) is a cinematic piece that straddles the line between static minimalism and Subotnick's dadaism. The most emotional composition on the CD is probably the threatening Tymbral for Pran Nath (1970), a salvo of piercing drones that create a tragic atmosphere of suspense and grief. Nothing on this CD compares with the surprisingly quiet Piano Drone (1972) or the marvelous Duo Strumming for Three Harpsichord (1978), that appeared on volume 2 of the "golden series", or with volume 1's Alloy (1969), a piece for "alumonium" (an instrument invented by Palestine himself), "long string drone" (an instrument invented and played by violinist Tony Conrad), conch (played by saxophonist Bob Feldman), percussion and voices (Deborah Glaser and Palestine) The pieces on volume 3 are merely pages of a diary that show the composer still searching for a path to enlightenment.
Liner notes (yes, all lower case):

"the first time i heard electronically generated sounds probably came from the machines that i encountered in ordinary daily urban life the refrigerator electric motor electrical generator and the hammond electric organ but it was especially the sounds of motion race cars motor cycles war planes rocket ships that first excited my sonic imagination as a young teenager then i heard the electronic musics of tod dockstader alwyn nikolais pierre henry & schaeffer poeme electronique of varese and xenakis and gesand der junglinge of stockhausen immediately bought a cheap reel to reel tape recorder took a class on tape music manipulation and started to cut and paste recording tape making collage sound experiments and fooled with reverb tricks and bass / treble tone knob filterings trying to create already an electronicesque language of my own at first i used my own voice and the bells of my carillon and sounds i recorded around the house as my sound sources then one day i experienced at an electronic music studio what electronically produced sound waves looked and sounded like through an oscilloscope and began studying helmholtz's on the sensation of tone i started to dream of an expressive continuous evermoving everchanging sound form an enormous sonorous 3-dimensional sculptural canvas in mid-air using electronically produced sounds at first i began experiments with simple sine tone generators emitting the purest sound waves without any overtones then gradually with access to moog buchlas and arps i constructed sounds using the sine / sawtooth / square wave oscillators in a fluid everchanging mix of adding or filtering overtones and white noise to create sonorities constantly changing timbres and weight i experimented in this way from 1964 till 74 in nyc and then california finally i assembled my own drone machine of 16 ultra stable oscillators designed by serge tcherepnin and 4 band pass filters designed by donald buchla and began to travel presenting spectral continuum searches for the golden sonority day week month long journeis of harmonies and their overtones in constant evolution and transformation in space untill the late seventies when i stopped composing & performing for nearly 15 years when i resumed in the nineties my jamaica heinekens soundscape was made using arp and rubery oscillators and filters in holland and performed many sonorities in progress these last years with several simple yamaha synthesizers and now i am constructing a small electronic studio at home in bruxelles around the arog oberheim matrix 12 and expander that i bought just before the end of analog in the late eighties electronic sound forms continue to have a major place in my compositional palette."

At the same time, Palestine began his video work with Body Music I (1973), Body Music II (1974), Four Motion Studies (1974), Snake (1974), Internal Tantrum (1975), Running Outburst (1975), St. Vitas Dance (1975), You Should Never Forget the Jungle (1975), St. Vitas Dance (1975), Island Song (1976), Island Monologue (1976), two lengthier works, Andros (1976) and Where It's Coming From (1977), and finally Dark Into Dark (1979).

His first major composition was Four Manifestations on Six Elements (Sonnabend Gallery, 1974), for both piano and electronics. It contains four rhythmic piano pieces and two electronic drones. The rhythmic pieces endlessly repeat different syncopated and intricate patterns. The third movement of One + Two + Three Perfect Fifths, in the Rhythm 3 Against 2 is particularly lively and vibrant with enough mathematical drift to completely subvert its appearance by the time it completes. The limit of this three-movement piece is that the music does not "flow": each movement is the demonstration of a mathematical problem, but artistically speaking one hears just different kinds of hammering. The 16-minute Sliding Fifths goes beyond that level: the strumming is fast enough and the notes are close enough that a "whole" emerges, a bit like the sparkling reflections in a pond compose a whole of natural beauty, and, as it progresses, the flow comes to evoke the tumultuous rapids of a river. The drones, namely the 19-minute Two Fifths and the 14-minute Three Fifths. are fluttering colorful butterflies. They do little else than replicate themselves forever. The latter has a bit of movement, but mostly these are stationary enough to make LaMonte Young sound like rock'n'roll.

His Strumming Music (Shandar, 1977), first recorded in 1974, was revolutionary in that it turned fast strumming into an avantgarde technique, and minimalism into hyperkinetic (and noisy) music. Palestine improvised on a piano at lightning speed, emphasizing otherworldly overtones. The music settles on a pattern and simply repeats it until the player suddenly changes something and the music adopts it as the new pattern. The strategy is that the music is in charge, and the player only decides when to cause a "quantum jump" to a new state. The changes can be in tempo or in tone or in counterpoint.

Godbear (Barooni, 1997) documents a live "strumming-piano" performance from 1987.

A new phase began with the colossal church-organ drones of Schlingen-Blaengen (New World, 1998), recorded in 1988 (originally composed in 1979), Karenina (Durtro), recorded in 1997, two CDs of falsetto chanting accompanied with harmonium, Schlongo (OOO), a church-organ improvisation recorded in 1998, Jamaica Heinekens In Brooklyn (Barooni, 2000), a symphony of drones and found sounds, Music for Big Ears (Staalplaat, 2002), which is music for church bells (recorded in 2000 in Berlin). None of them is particularly significant. They merely repeat the same ideas in different (and not too original) formats.

Maximin (Young God, 2002) is a collaboration with David Coulter and Jean-Marie Mathoul, who basically "remix" some of his old compositions.

Music For Big Ears (Staalplaat, 2003) was performed at the Daimler-Benz carillon in Berlin.

Organo Rinascimentale Non Temperato (may 2004) contains a version of his Schlingen Blangen, originally recorded in 1988.

An Aural Symbiotic Mystery (Subrosa, 2007) was a collaboration between Tony Conrad (on violin) and Charlemagne Palestine (on organ).

A Sweet Quasimodo Between Black Vampire Butterflies (2007) documents a live performance of the eponymous composition for two pianos "strummed" simultaneously.

The Golden Mean (Shiiin, 2007) documents a live performance from 1979 for two pianos played by just one performer.

Sharing A Sonority (Alga Marghen, 2008) collects three old works: Short And Sweet (april 1974) for piano and sax, Electronic and Flute (1967), and the colossal Fundamental D Flat Group Db (april 1974) with Rhys Chatham and Tony Conrad, a piece under the influence of LaMonte Young.

The Apocalypse Will Blossom (Yesmissolga, 2007) documents a live solo-piano performance of 2000 that presents Palestine at his most "heavy metal". The idea was continued on a collaboration with Christoph Heemann, Saiten In Flammen (Streamline, 2009).

Illuminations documents a performance of late 1971 with dancer (and vocalist) Simone Forti, part of a collaborative project that started in 1971 in Los Angeles and continued for decades (staged at the Louvre in 2014). Forti would release her own album only in her 80s Al Di La` (2018).

Charlemagne Palestine's Relationship Studies (Alga Marghen, 2011) collects Relationship Study No. 1 and Electronic (1967).

Voxorgachitectronumputer (2011) documents a live performance of june 2007 with Joachim Montessuis (voice and computer).

Day Of The Demons (Desire Path, 2012) documents collaborations between Charlemagne Palestine & Janek Schaefer: Raga De L'Apres Midi Pour and Fables From A Far Away Future.

Two Electronic Sonorities (Alga Marghen, 2012), collects previously unreleased music.

The double-disc It Ain't Necessarily So (Zarek, 2011) was a collaboration German electro-acoustic ensemble Perlonex.

The double-disc Rubhitbangklanghear (Sub Rosa, 2013), documents a performance with percussionist Z'ev recorded in june 2010.

Alloy/ Holy 1 & Holy 2 (2014) collects Holy 1 (1967), Holy 2 (1967) and Alloy (1968).

The triple-disc Youuu + Mee = Weee (Sub Rosa, 2014) documents a collaboration between Charlemagne Palestine and Rhys Chatham.

Two "Bells Studies", recorded between 1966 and 1968, are documented on CharleBelllzzz At Saint Thomas (Alga Marghen, 2015): Bells Carillon and St Thomas Bells. Bells Studies (Alga Marghen, 2015) collects recordings dating back to 1965, notably Bells Studies.

The triple-disc set The Lower Depths (Alga Marghen, 2017) documents six piano performances of 1977.

Charlemagne Palestine and Grumbling Fur Time Machine Orchestra recorded Omminggg And Schlomminggg (november 2016) that includes the suite Jazzhouse Kobenhavn.

Palestine's archives yielded Aa Sschmmeettrrrrroossppeeccccctivve (Audiomer, 2018), a 33-minute piano work recorded in 1974, Ttuunneesszz Duh Rruunneesszz (Moog, 2018), a 50-minute composition, and Interrvallissphereee (Moog, 2018), an 80-minute composition.

Ffroggssichorddd (Staalplaat, 2020) is a solo album of frogsichord, a home-built harpsichord in which the tones are based on the relationship between lengths that pass through similar spaces (based on a concept by architect John Kormeling).

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