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Sunday, 10 May 2009

Maryanne Amacher - 'Sound Characters (making the third ear)' (Tzadik)

Actually experiencing a Maryanne Amacher live performance is one of those life-fracturing events that I'd recommend to anyone ready for the next level after Initiation.  This disc sat on my shelf for almost a decade before said experience, getting a few plays. But after I experienced It, I thought "Well, I'll never listen to that again."  You see, there's certainy frequencies she can send through a decent PA system that cannot exist on compact disc form.  Tzadik tried anyway, and actually pulled it off pretty well.  But it's nothing like Being There.  Her 44.1khz-ised 'Third Ear Music' does work if you have a decent stereo and you can play it LOUD - like, neighbor-annoying LOUD - but it's completely pointless played quietly or on headphones (as Amacher confesses in the liner notes).  The other pieces (which actually make up the majority of this disc) are very site-specific, with frequencies and speaker placement chosen to respond to a particular physical space.  Again, you gotta Be there, otherwise you're basically getting a bunch Xeroxed stills instead of seeing the film.  So what you're left with are some deep, droney rumbles, not half bad to listen to on their own as they really play with the dynamic range of a recording and move between dense and barely perceptible, and from thick to wispy.  I've never been sure if her name is pronounced AW-mak-her or AM-mak-her so I've always gone with the fancier Aw-mah-CHAY.  When you see her in person, with her weird little aviator hat on, it just sorta works better if you say it French.

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