Boomkat Product Review:
Powerfully trippy timbral meditations by unsung synth pioneer Gregory Kramer, bought to the attention of Important by Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith, who opines “Greg is one of the pioneers of electronic music and these pieces are unique opportunities to discover how intricate and dynamic early synthesizers are.” - RIYL Éliane Radigue, Alvin Lucier, Kevin Drumm, Basil Kirchin, Coil, Carl Michael von Hauswolff
Perceptively investigating the materiality and quality of sound, Kramer’s methodically meticulous ’70s works exist in the space between composition and noise. Like the hard-to-define allure of Éliane Radigue’s longform transitions between particular tones, or likewise her enigma shared with Alvin Lucier’s psychoacoustics, Kramer’s four pieces here showcase a mix of deep research, Buddhist spirituality and technical ingenuity placed at the service of psychoactive effect. Trust there’s no fireworks or spectacular “transcendent” virtuosity, but an intently focussed arrangement of sound that exerts a powerful effect on the senses when given concerted time and space to absorb and experience.
“Kramer developed a musical language focused on continuous transformation of timbre, yielding a continuity of attention. This musical language, formed of timbral change, is a compelling aesthetic in its own right and a source of meditative experience. The four works on this album share a deep sense of order derived not from organizing pitches or rhythms, but from the evolution of timbre itself.
The four compositions collected here each represent Kramer’s unique approaches:
The structure of Meditations on 32 Parts of the Body (1978) is derived from the means of its production. Recording 5 people chanting an ancient meditation text, then layering to gradually achieve more than one million voices. The layering was all done using analogue tape recorders. The decomposition of the sound reflects the anomalies of tape machines out of sync, and the build up of artifacts from the audio tape itself, such as uneven response curves and tape hiss, are all engaged as musical materials.
Role (1972) was generated using one complex patch on a large hybrid Buchla 200/100 system. Emerging from a zeitgeist that valued pure synthesis as a combined artistic and technological research. At the time this piece was realized its as exceedingly difficult to produce electronic sounds that were internally complex.
Blue Wave (1980) is built on Kramer’s timbral development technique Veils Of Transformation which allows for disparate timbres to be woven into a continuously developing sound.
Monologue (1977) is a virtuosic performance of a massive patch on a Buchla/Electron Farm hybrid electronic instrument. Built into the patch is a pathway for continuous transformation of voice and voltage-controlled synthesizer. The blunt, raw and sometimes harsh sounds of this piece reflect an attitude prominent among composers that music can, or even should, be difficult, contrary to what’s already been done and, by all means, new.”