Boomkat Product Review:
Crucial reissue of David Tudor’s legendary feedback experiments, conceived at Mills College, captured here in performance that same year at the Pepsi Pavilion of Expo '70, in Osaka, Japan, and out of print since its original release in 1978 = a real dark star in a constellation of pioneering electronic and avant-classical works.
One to tick off a longtime wants list, ‘Microphone’ is an exceptional example of Tudor’s early years, when he was committed to shifting away from piano performances of avant-garde works by Cage, Boulez, Feldman, Stockhausen and many more, to pursue a prototypical form of electronic performance. Often credited in the footnotes of canonical releases, Tudor was a hugely important innovator of electronic music himself, with ‘Microphone’ standing as testament to his leading edge improvised approach, freely exploring electro-acoustic space with a visceral, air-shredding exploration of distortion and spatial dynamics recalling an alien adjunct to Alvin Lucier’s experiments in a similar realm.
The A-side finds Tudor tactfully but rudely feeling out an archipelago of spare, fractured, atonal sounds in space and fed back thru electronics and canny microphone dis-placement. The results are much freer than the generation of serialist constrictions allowed for, and perhaps closest to Cage’s conceptually groundbreaking ‘Cartridge Music’ works. Mix A warms-up for the more expressive dimensions that come into play on ‘Mix B’, which shares a halting stop/start arrangement, but feels more at grip with the voices his machines produced at the biting point.
For a work that makes use of a single sound-source - the modulation of microphone feedback produced in a distant echo chamber - ‘Microphone' emerges as one of the most striking and important works of 1970s electronic composition, and another testament to the powerful, enduring impact of wild, focussed sound experimentation.