Author: Jay Batzner
The Rothkamm Quartet
E Pluribus Unum
The Flux Records Archive of New York
FB03 completes the FB01 machine trilogy. I have not heard FB01 or FB02, so I’m not sure how well the entire trilogy addresses “the evolution of absolute music to itself.” After hearing FB03, though, I am very curious about these earlier two recordings.
The sole instrument of the Rothkamm Quartet is a Yamaha FB01 FM Sound Generator which is, according to the CD notes, “previously owned, and inscribed, by Buck Dharma of the Blue Oyster Cult and purchased on eBay for $26.” I point this out because the sound world of the 36 minute-long CD is rather “old school” in the electronic world. Most of the tracks sound straight out of Bell Labs from the 1960s. I do not point this out as a flaw or defect in any way. Instead, like the Moog Cookbook, Rothkamm’s music shows that older sound worlds still have lots of legs. If you are into Ussachevsky and Luening, you will dig this.
The odd number tracks of the CD are hysterically short. As in 6 seconds apiece. These tracks (they are unnamed from what I could find, they all make up FB03) are wonderful amuses-bouche that break up the trajectory of the longer movements.
Rothkamm clearly has an artistic agenda. The notes for the CD read more like a manifesto than an elucidation of the music. It is the only set of CD notes that I have ever gotten with a glossary. The underlying structure of the music is a “superhuman” 768 tone-per-octave scale. The notes say it best: “Today’s civilized humans are still unable to perceive pitch differences this small, so only in the future will we be able to distinguish the many parts. Today it is still only one.”
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