Info 21st Century Preparation Man 
"Trilogy From The Outside"
by Eric Glick Rieman
Water Goes Into The Air (independant)
"In You, I See Your Past Identities"
"The Thrust Required To Hover"

Eric Glick Rieman's URL


fn issue October 2011
'N-Plants' - Biosphere
'Sky Snails' - The Electric Golem
'Echo Park' - Willamette
'Gramophone Transmissions' - Broken Harbour
'Negative Space' - Blue Sausage Infant
'Home Patterning' - compilation
'Polychromatic Integers' - Richard Lainhart
'Generate Records' - compilation
'Sung In Broken Symmetry' - Aquarelle

A time-honored method for creating music that sounds like no one else is to build your own instruments. From Harry Partch's elaborate and beautiful tuned sculptures to John Cage's prepared piano, new instruments elicit new sounds. Berkeley-based composer Eric Glick Rieman follows the same vein of west coast experimentalism with his prepared Rhodes electric piano. With a resume including a period at Mills College, where his teachers included Fred Frith, Pauline Oliveros and Eliane Radigue, he has also been involved extensively with other instrument builders through a dedicated group at Rieman's preparations involve considerably more dismantling than Cage's, with the insides spread across the performing space, not to mention his use of electronic preparations, such as harmonizers and other outboard effects processors. The unprepared Rhodes has a unique and recognizable sound, and what sets Rieman's music apart immediately are the mechanical noises and other native artifacts of the original instrument. They bring a tactile flavor that's almost eerie when set next to the drifting sustaining drones created by bowing the internal tuning forks.

Although Rieman participates in group releases (including one which we wrote about here last year), this is Rieman's first solo album on the prepared Rhodes since Ten to the Googolplex in 2001. Since that time, he has "visioned, revisioned, budgeted, rebudgeted, finalized, and redrawn" a collection of pieces that he presented late last year in the form of a three-download set entitled Trilogy From The Outside. Turnbuckle, the first volume, features the prepared Rhodes in several looping passages, slow, lilting rhythms softly cushioned in a layer of bell-like drones. Melodic and textural passages slowly merge into the distance, fading away so others can take their place or sustaining a more prominent lead. The weave can become quite thick as new gestures are assimilated, while Rieman's preparations sound like a Gamelan. The periodic loops give this volume more of a sense of a beat than the others, which tend to be more abstract.

Volume two, Animist, explores events and their resonance. Disembodied attacks in the title track eventually produce sustained bells, with wooden clacks wandering around the sound field. The structures are looser, held together by common sound objects coloring the piece differently depending on their processing. Single notes with a fibrous wooden resonance evolve into a distant dubby relative on Allomorph, maintaining an internal groove for a few beats, hovering in a murky wash of windy sustained tones. His backgrounds here are evocative, full of wandering soundscapes that unroll at a gentle pace with small percussive events harnessing the listener's immediate attention, while the windy drones slowly morph into new swampy textures.

The third volume, Inverting the Sphere, has some of the most subdued, sparse, and minimally processed music in the trilogy, such as the extended melodic duet on Recognition of Faces and the awakening toy shop on Inverting Perspective. It also contains the most abstract: irregular rolling textures punctuated by accented bell tones on Trilobite and aperiodic, queasy drones on The Thrust Required to Hover. With fleeting texture changes and an acceptance of dream-like logic, Inverting the Sphere closes the cycle with descendants of Cage's prototypical mutes, encircled by burnished bowed drones and delicately accented temple bells, a look behind the curtain to hear, relatively unprocessed, a reminder of the prepared instruments honorable origins.

Taken as a whole, Rieman's monumental Trilogy from the Outside is a compendium of the possibilities of his unique and versatile instrument. All three volumes have an immediacy and a sense of events responding to each other, as if the music could have been performed live and edited together for the overarching vision of the trilogy. Each episode sustains imaginary narratives, chapters peopled by other recurrent sonic characters passing in and out. The Rhodes' unadorned timbres provide a central character across the trilogy like the Proustian narrator of a life-long memoir.

Review by Caleb Deupree


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