Boomkat Product Review:
Deeply moving, previously unreleased material from the late electronic composer and flautist Ruth Anderson and sound artist Annea Lockwood, who separately capture their five-decade creative and romantic connection on this collection of previously unheard archival recordings, featuring snippets of phone conversations between the pair, field recordings, slowed and treated songs of the era and meditative concréte. Stunning material, pretty much impossible not to well up listening to it.
When Ruth Anderson was looking for someone to replace her as director at Hunter College's Electronic Music Studio for a year in 1973, her friend Pauline Oliveros suggested Annea Lockwood, a New Zealander who was at the time living in London. When they met in person for the first time, the pair immediately connected and were described later by Lockwood as being "joyously entangled" from that day onwards. Over the next 5 decades they shared space on a number of early electronic and tape music releases and taught a course on the history of women’s music-making called “Living Women, Living Music”, and co-authored a number of Hearing Studies designed for people with no formal musical training. They spent most of their private life between Crompond, NY and the house they built themselves at Flathead Lake, Montana.
The central part of Tête-à-tête, ‘Conversations’ features sections of carefully edited phone calls Anderson recorded between the pair when they first met, gently weaving their awkward expressions and infectious laughter around slowed and screwed bits of parlour music that lends the whole thing a dreamlike quality that’s incredibly moving. Anderson presented it to Lockwood in 1974 - and it still sounds like little else, a sort of highly personal encapsulation of love's first blush, filled with the kind of absurdity and pregnant pauses that make you feel like you’re eavesdropping on something entirely private albeit expressed in code, especially with its concréte treatment of relentless and contagious laughter that’s a pure, bittersweet joy to behold.
Lockwood responded to the piece in 2020, a year after her partner died, by returning to Flathead Lake in Montana where the pair had spent Anderson's final years. ‘For Ruth’ uses additional fragments of those early phone conversations, juxtaposing out-of-context words and phrases with field recordings taken from around the couple's home, letting the space they shared together fill in the gaps. It's an impossibly tender way to consider the fuzzy temporality of a long-term relationship, contrasting the lilting hesitation of young love with its long-term rhythm, building an ornate landscape from memory and technical musical expression.
The disc is completed and opens with Anderson’s final electronic work, 'Resolutions' from 1984. Rooted in exploration of tonality, it was conceived as a meditation for the individual listener, inspired by Ruth’s Zen practice. it’s a rigorous, process-driven piece that’s minimalist in execution, yet powerful in effect, it glides by almost imperceptibly, with new tones arriving and hovering or levitating upwards like a Shepard tone. In effect, Anderson coaxes us to consider the passing of time as the piece changes rapidly but retains its continuous momentum.
Together, this trio of recordings reveals an outpouring of creative and romantic energy between two gifted individuals who each left an indelible mark on modern composition, capturing so much about love, the passing of time, and the artists' life in the process.