Title: The Faust Cycle (or The House of Dr. Faustus)
Artist: Ergo Phizmiz
Release Date: 2009
Label: Headphonica
License: CC BY-NC-SA

When I left off yesterday, I stated that I wanted to have a separate download of “Improvisation for Cello & Electronics” by Bela Emerson.  It is such a captivating piece that I mentioned that it reminded me of a Karlheinz Stockhausen piece, alas I didn’t mention the title: Mantra.  I also mentioned Klaus Schulze & Rainer Bloss, but didn’t mention that I was thinking of the 2nd half of the Audentity album.

I’ve re-listened to the Bela Emerson piece, and still hold to my words.  However, besides Stockhausen and Bloss, I knew there was more that I was thinking about.  The next section of The Faust Cycle was to bring the connections to other music that I have listened to throughout the years to the foreground.  Hell Kebabs by Angela Valid brought into my mind some of the really classic electroacoustic pieces I’ve listened to throughout the years…  One of the better compilations of such pieces can be found in the Archives GRM collection, which features composers / artists like Pierre Boulez, Edgar Varese, Iannis Xenakis, Olivier Messiaen, Luc Ferrari, and  Francois Bayle just to name a few.

It also occurred to me that this is one of the things that I am not hearing a lot of the electronic micro-tonal / marco-tonal works that are coming out on netlabels like Resting Bell…  While the electronic works are detailed, well structured and thought out, they tend to not have the level of text and detail found in the earliest electroacoustic works from the 1950’s and 1960’s.  It’s definitely something that sets The Faust Cycle apart from other works.

After Hell Kebabs we return to a more narration oriented section, although this time, there is some meshing of the electroacoustic work in the background of the narration, even when a tango and waltz are mixed over the top of the abstract and complex texture of Hell Kebabs, which finally fades into the background as we are introduced to “Gretchen”.

Ergo, still in his wooden puppet form, watches Gretchen, and listens to her as she whispers in his ear.  She eventually slips into song chanting portions of Anything Goes. We listen to a a small ensemble perform for a bit, then “Improvisation for Cello & Electronics” is re-introduced behind Gretchen.  This is a wonderful bit of meta-audio-narration as the familiar chirping of birds are re-introduced, the mixture of the string ensemble with muted trumpet, and several themes re-emerge.

After the conclusion of “Gretchen” we are cast into “Chronicles of the Suspicious Gentleman”.  This section starts with a piece sung by a small ensemble, and then Gretchen narrates the story as depicted by puppets.  The story revolves around the Gentleman and Madiana.  Much of the stroy is told through musical interpretation that mixes elements in a unique form, sounding like modern electronica, a 1920’s victrola and a carnival barker before giving way to an unusual interpretation (mashup?) of Fever, which gives way to another unusual interpretation — I can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch).  This gives a whole new meaning to the context of the song, bringing out the elements of jealousy and insecurity.

This section is a little more successful, or at least a little more obvious, when it comes to linkage between the music and the narrative elements.  It’s either that, or  I am getting some of my chops back for listening to a more complicated work such as this.


Ergo Phizmiz: The Faust Cycle (or The House of Dr. Faustus)




Posted by George De Bruin

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