a composer refers to influences as diverse as Rush, Conlon Nancarrow,
Peter Weir, and the Book of Job, you can be assured that this album
of electro-acoustic music is not like any other of its genre. Sharing
with John Cage an appreciation for ambient sounds, Frank Felice uses
Digital Performer, ProTools, samplers, musique concrete techniques,
and some of his favorite musicians (like "rock-bassoonist"
Doug Spaniol) to create pieces that explode with originality and fun."
Fanfare - June/July 2004 - by Robert Carl
"Frank Felice is a composer based in Indianapolis; reading between the lines of his notes, he seems not to have concentrated his efforts on electroacoustic music until the past few years, when access to a new generation of equipment piqued his interests. The works all date from 1999-2001, the majority in the last year of that span. This release is a survey of the result. Felice has a loopy sense of humor, reflected in the disc's punning title, "Sidewalk Music and other more or less than concrete notions." He also has a natural, unaffected feel for the electroacoustic realm. These pieces comprise a series of different essays in the medium, gentle in their wit and impressionistic concision.
The different categories of work include:
Sidewalk Music I, II, III (Lawnshow/Sideshow/Lateshow) is dreamlike musique concrète, a little like the Presque riens of Luc Ferrari. Outdoor sounds are layered atop one another, subtly enhanced, and allowed to develop into larger, sometimes surprising textures that follow a morning-afternoon-evening sequence.
Psychotica was originally a piano suite of six wry "horror" pieces, but Felice has since taken that material (including archival "footage" of pianist Christine Pulliam) and woven it into another "enhanced" context, where a piano can play with background wisps of itself, or a jazz combo can suddenly emerge out of the solo instrument. The result is to music as animation is to live action.
Where Two or More Are Gathered is perhaps the most conceptual work on the program. Having constructed (virtually) a synthesized hyper-violin, Felice composed an electronic work for it. Then he played it through a radio, in turn recorded in what sounds like his kitchen while he does the dishes. The result, which could be just dumb, comes off instead as sweet and haunting, a sense of the uncanny in the midst of the everyday. Brace Yourself Like a Man and "...and so the hole is dug" are both works for acoustic instrument and pre-recorded part (Felice aptly pegs my fumbling to describe the medium in his subtitle of the latter, "a cautionary tale for bassoon and the increasingly misnamed medium known as tape). The former is distinguished by its slow floating stratospheric violin-writing, the latter by its soloist's increasingly frantic struggle with his sonic surroundings.
Retrogression is probably the most original and substantial work of the program— ironically so, since it is an instance of "authentic early electroacoustic practice." The composer had access to an original reconditioned Moog synthesizer, whose analog sounds are far richer than today's digital models. All the sounds were created on the instrument in the "old-fashioned" way (amazing how writing about this medium leads one inevitably to the use of quotation marks), though the actual mix was done with the (contemporary) ProTools application, instead of razor, splice-block, and analog mixer. The three movements are brief but intense and focused.
"Reflections" from The Night Attic was originally conceived as a dance score, and is the only work here to leave me flat. Its sequence of events seems too tied to another medium, its nature too "auxiliary." As a result, its sounds feel glossy but superficial. Since it appears to be the earliest work on the program, its virtue may lie primarily in having been the stimulus for the far more satisfying pieces that follow it. Finally, Prelude and Postlude are vignettes, evoking Felice's fantasies of rock-music glory. One can't claim that this music discovers significant new technical or aesthetic territory. However, its humor, lack of pretension, imagination, and basic musicality generate work that is in the medium I admire, James Mobberley. Felice is a little more wisecracking than Mobberley, but both project a faith in the unforced blend of technology with acoustic instruments and the potential of the electroacoustic to become a fully equal member of the art music family.
Since these pieces are all the direct product of the composer's hand in the studio, they can be considered definitive renditions. The sound is excellent."