The join-the-dots endeavours of our electronic archivists and crate diggers seem to be in overdrive this year, with the ears to the ground of the very best musical truffle hunters bringing us a bumper harvest. Already we have had sublime reissues of ‘lost’ works by Suzanne Ciani and Jean Piche which have demonstrated a softer, arguably more accessible side to newly mined experimental electronic works.
Hot on the heels of the digital future as envisaged by Piche, come these works from Maggi Payne, similarly a musician, academic, composer, and electronics pioneer. Once again the results more than justify the historical interest. Payne composed these pieces between 1984 and 1987 for a multimedia performance group called Technological Feets. That they were composed on an early Apple computer using prehistoric samplers is perhaps more of interest to the technophiles amongst us, but the results are highly recommended for all followers of drifting, kaleidoscopic electronics.
Based on a rich palette of slowly evolving tonal compositions – some softly phasing wavelike experiments, others more staccato minimalism a la Steve Reich – there is an organic, elemental feel to the compositions which conjures emotion, sensuality and earthy natural rhythm from the boxes, with no hint of any stuffy, academic artsiness.
The coordinates for what is worthy of archival interest seem to be expanding currently. The recent archaeology of analogue innovation, initially fuelled by revisiting the British Radiophonic archive – all post-war boffinism and white heat angst – has shifted focus to new locations such as Ciani’s 1970’s New York, and now further afield into the digital revolutions of the 1980’s through the innovations of artists such as Piche and Payne. It seems our appetite for artifacts of our electronic past shows no sign of subsiding and in these dreamlike, subtly shifiting soundscapes we still feel the bittersweet embodiments of the future in the past. These are essential ‘treets’, and not just for geeks.