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Improv 04

My Dear Siegfried

David Behrman

Behrman- keyboards, electronics

Thomas Buckner, Maria Ludovici, Eric Barsness- vocalists

Peter Zummo- trombone

Ralph Samuelson- shakuhachi

Tod Hamilton- engineering and special effects


WW1-era antiwar British poet Siegfried Sassoon and American S.N. Behrman exchanged spirited letters and poetry for many years. David Behrman (apparently no relation to S.N.), inspired by this correspondence, programmed his electronic musical devices to interact with vocalists reciting some of these texts. The results are uneven. Behrman’s instrumental subtleties are as wonderful here as they have been throughout his career. He is one of the 20th century’s most gifted electronic music-makers (There, I said it). But the pastoral gentleness coming from his machinery is not very compatible with the largely unmusical character of the recited texts. I think it would’ve been much more preferable to let the listener silently read the texts while listening to the music; the two aren’t inherently mismatched. An exception is the piece “Everyone Sang,” the ecstatic poem Sassoon wrote to commemorate the end of WW1. The electronics fit well with the words, and that’s mostly because the poem here is sung, not spoken.


Disc 2 in this 2-cd set is more enjoyable. Five more newly-recorded pieces by the composer are here and are all outstanding. “QSRL” and “Viewfinder” are Behrman at his lovely best, the electronic devices issuing music ranging from the gentle to the transcendentally lyrical. “Touch Tones” and “Pools of Phase Locked Loops” are far more beautiful than their hardware titles would suggest. To say that disc 2 is worth the cost of the whole set would be a great understatement. Followers of Behrman won’t want to miss this set and newcomers should try the second disc first.

Experimental Intermedia

XI 129



Richard Grooms