Boomkat Product Review:
What an absolute find; Trunk extend necessary introductions to Janet Beat, owner of the first commercially available synth in the UK, and a serious concrète practitioner since the ‘50s, who has somehow eluded everyone's attention, until now - properly RIYL Daphne Oram, Pauline Oliveros, Delia Derbyshire, microtonal music.
Janet Beat was born in Staffordshire, 1937, and studied music at Birmingham University during the late ’50s and into the ‘60s. She has worked with electronic music composition and musique concrète since the late ‘50s, receiving help from Daphne Oram who encouraged Janet’s exploration of influences ranging from non-European music to natural and industrial sounds, and interests in polymetric music. It’s not hard to hear those diverse inputs manifest on ‘Pioneering Knob Twiddler,’ which offers a remarkable and arguably overdue survey of Janet’s work, created against the grain of a stale male establishment and her parents at the time, and only now - over a half century later - finding its audience beyond academic spheres.
Sensitively working between tape techniques and writing for acoustic instruments, and often imperceptibly eliding them, Janet’s music beautifully embraces the enigma and possibilities of electronic music as dream fuel, projecting her musical thoughts in a spacious matrix of whirrs and bleeps sometimes relished for what they are, as with ‘Moonbeams,’ and at other times threaded with virtuosic instrumentation, as on the 12 min duet of crystalline electronics and flamenco guitar ‘A Willow Swept By Train’ or the Dariush Dolat-Shahi alike flurries of ’Shirabe’ and almost Xenakis-esque sound architecture of ‘Plangam.’
It’s fascinating, historic work, fizzing with personality in a way that Daphne’s music so often hit and that so many academic early electronic blokes didn’t achieve, or avoided in favour of dry rigour. It’s also a reminder that the past still holds many secrets to be uncovered, and a sharp poke in the ear to any “heads” who think they know it all.