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Reviews

Recordings
for rei as a doe
Reviewed by Brian Olewnick, THE SQUID'S EAR, 20/5/2015
"Michael Edwards is a British composer who one might suspect, given the punning nature of this piece's title, to have a wry approach to his music but, judging from the release at hand, he seems quite serious — and interesting. The late work of Morton Feldman is an apparent reference point, with notable differences. A solo piano composition, (played here winningly by Karin Schistek) the music is subtly augmented by a computer program of Edwards' design called, ahem, Slippery Chicken. The music is spare and tonal, meandering (not in a bad way) from point to point, abetted by small urgings from the program. The key here is that those sounds are discreet, choosing to tickle and prod instead of equally accompany, much less overwhelm. They tend to be of a percussive nature, though tinkling like ceramic or bone, never pounding, only occasionally cresting to a mini-climax. They'll also supply background hums and breaths, as from turbines operating behind walls or in the distance. The piano writing may lack the incredible shadings of note placement and pitch choice in late Feldman, but it's perfectly enjoyable — serene and thoughtful, sometimes wending its way into unexpected corners. for rei as a doe is a fascinating work, presenting a new take on the interaction between acoustic and electronic instruments."
for rei as a doe
Reviewed by Eyal Hareuveni, All About Jazz, 20/12/2014
"Michael Edwards is a British composer, based in Edinburgh, who developed a range of musical computer techniques ranging from real-time digital instruments to self-contained, algorithmic environments. His composition for piano and computer For Rei As A Doe, was originally written for Japanese pianist Rei Nakamura and reflects long years of practicing the vipassana meditation. It is a slow and quiet piece, in which silence has an equal role to the piano or subtle, minimalist electronics. The pianist, Austrian Karin Schistek performs with great focus and precision, letting the piano's resonating sonorities blossom organically to emphasiza a sense of silent meditation and serenity. The sense of time, or pulse, is forsaken for reserved, spatial, almost uniform, playing. The piano and computer parts were created by Edwards and specially-designed algorithmic composition software, with details featured on his website. The composition is conceived in four voices. One is for for each of the pianist's hands, and the other two for the high and low voices of an analogue synthesis emulation, played back from the computer and mixed with various sound files (some algorithmic, some ambient) in four channels. Edwards, who also recorded, mixed and mastered this unique sonic journey, has succeeded in structuring a deep, meditative 40-minute piece that is alive with warm colors and arresting, subtle dynamics."
for rei as a doe
Reviewed by Julian Cowley, The Wire, 10/2014
"Edinburgh based composer Michael Edwards wrote this music for pianist Rei Nakamura. It is a luminous and meditative duet with computer software, designed to emphasise the piano’s resonant properties and, in the process, to set a challenge of balance and restraint to a performer known for her dynamic virtuosity. On this recording the piece is executed with the required poise and sensitivity by Karin Schistek, an associate of Edwards from the improvising group Lapslap. The slow unfurling of For Rei As A Doe is even and steady, but Schistek’s nuanced colouration of individual notes and chords, and the variable pulsation of the digital halo that radiates around her performance, bring an absorbing source of interest to the music’s cool progress."
slippery chicken
Reviewed by Rigobert Dittmann, Bad Alchemy, 16/10/2012
"MICHAEL EDWARDS Algorithmic Compositions (Sumtone, stcd4): Michael Edwards beruft sich auf Cage, die Kabbalah, Guido D'Arezzo und Bach als Unterbau seiner Kompositionstechnik und der dabei eingesetzten eigenen Software 'slippery chicken' . Damit hat der mit Lapslap auf Leo Records bekannte Elektroakustiker in Edinburgh die fünf hier präsentierten Stücke realisiert: 'Altogether disproportionate' für Piano und Computer (mit Per Rundberg - Piano und Edwards - Screams) zeigt ein unvermutet politisches Unterfutter, denn es bezieht sich auf ein Zitat von Winston Churchill, das klar benennt, dass sich Großbritannien ein ganz unverhältnismäßig großes Stück vom Kuchen gewaltsam angeeignet hat. Am Gegenpol dazu steht Becketts Egolosigkeit, auf der 'who says this, saying it's me' basiert, geschrieben für Tenorsaxophon (Gianpaolo Antongirolami) und four-channel sound file. 'Tramontana' für Viola und Computer ist, mit einem Gedicht von Eugenio Montale im Ohr, eine Reminiszen! z an Edwards Zeit in Italien, nachdem er zuvor fünf Jahre in Salzburg gelebt hatte. Ein Gedicht von Adrienne Rich war namensgebend für 'don't flinch' für Gitarre und Computer, in dem Ry Cooders Bottleneck nachhallt. Edwards lässt seine Musik abseits aller (Rumpel)-Kammergewohnheiten und Antiquitätenladenvorlieben sich in Laboratmosphäre entfalten. Erweiterte und, speziell was Rundberg angeht, futuristisch rabiate Spieltechniken der Instrumentalisten verbinden sich mit vergleichsweise feinen Hightechsounds. Zuerst sind schroffe Schläge, abrupte Sprünge und Schreie Programm, gipfelnd in MG-Feuer, wohl eingedenk von Hilaire Bellocs: Whatever happens, we have got / The Maxim gun, and they have not. Damit kontrastieren dann abgerissene Luftstöße, Geschnaube und tonloses Klappengeflatter, untermischt mit elektronischen Clicks und Glitches und unruhigen Klanggespinsten. Für Beckettsche Verhältnisse geht es ziemlich turbulent zu und kakophon sowieso. Die im Ensemble Int! erContemporain und dem Arditte Quartet härtegetestete Bratsche von Garth Knox kommt danach ganz getarnt daher. Mit Schlägen und wie geblasenen Klängen, schrill 'flötenden' Schraffuren und noch verdichtetem Geprassel lässt sie als eine kalte und immer aggressivere Böe einen frösteln und sich ducken. Dass Edward vor programmatischen und plastischen Anmutungen nicht zurückscheut, ist für mich kein Manko. Zagende können wieder Mut fassen zur psychedelisch umorgelten und mit Pianosplittern gespickten Akustikgitarre von Yvonne Zehner. Artauds 'Schluss mit dem Gottesgericht' ist dabei eine zusätzlich, wenn auch nur hintergründige Rückenstärkung.

MICHAEL EDWARDS Algorithmic Compositions (Sumtone, stcd4): Michael Edwards refers to Cage, the Kabbalah, Guido D'Arezzo, and Bach as a foundation for his composition technique using his own software 'slippery chicken' . With this software Michael Edwards (the electro-acoustic musician from Edinburgh who is known on Leo Records with Lapslap) realised the five pieces presented here: 'altogether disproportionate', for piano und computer (Per Rundberg - piano, Edwards - screams), displays an unexpected political background as it refers to a quotation by Winston Churchill that clearly demonstrates that Great Britain violently acquired a disproportionate share of the colonial pie. The other end of the spectrum has Beckett's egolessness as the basis of 'who says this, saying it's me?', written for tenor saxophone (Gianpaolo Antongirolami) and a four-channel sound file. 'Tramontana' for viola und computer is--with a poem by Eugenio Montale in mind--a reminiscence of Edwards's time in Italy, after he had lived in Salzburg for five years. A poem by Adrienne Rich inspired the title 'don't flinch' for guitar und computer, with echos of Ry Cooder's bottleneck. Edwards avoids all of the (rumbling) common or garden "antiques shop" cliches, allowing his music instead to develop in the atmosphere of the laboratory. Extended and--especially in altogether disproportionate--ruthlessly futuristic instrumental techniques are combined with complementary hi-tech sounds. First there are abrasive sounds, abrupt jumps, and screams as part of the programme, mounting to machine gun fire, reminiscent of Hilaire Belloc's: "Whatever happens, we have got / The Maxim gun, and they have not." Contrasting with this are cut-off air jabs, snorts, and toneless key fluttering, mixed in with electric clicks and glitches and restless soundwebs. In the context of Beckett it is all quite turbulent and cacophonic actually. Following on from this, Garth Knox's viola--already tested to the limit by the Ensemble Intercontemporain and the Arditti Quartet--seems quite camouflaged. With beats and sounds made as if blown, shrill whistling concoctions and even more compressed pattering, the viola acts as a cold and aggressive blast that makes you shiver and duck for cover. That Edwards doesn't shrink away from programmatic, even graphic impressions is for me no defect. More apprehensive listeners can take refuge in the acoustic guitar piece 'don't flinch'. Artaud's 'To Have Done With the Judgment of god' plays here an additional, merely background supportive role."

Zuppa Inglese
Reviewed by Massimo Ricci, Touching Extremes, 10/4/2011
"Lapslap’s third release is this writer’s initial approach with their work. For the occasion, the improvising entity was represented by Michael Edwards, Martin Parker, Karin Schistek and Mark Summers. The group stresses the importance of a difficult distinction between acoustic and electronically processed sources, thus revealing a will of bamboozling the audience through varying assortments of gradations and environments. By utilizing Max/MSP they generate slightly deformed versions of discernible structures. Rarely the outcome causes a loss of focus, or a decreasing in the level of gratification.

Maybe the track that better indicates the depth of Lapslap’s research is the final “Soup Delirium”, played on a balanced mixture of computerized glissando, extreme breakup and pianistic sharpness. A potential pandemonium opening up in a series of superb pictures, dramatic unpredictability and tendency to superior echelons of frequency combination giving a measure of alleviation to sympathetic minds, even in presence of severe complexity. An appreciable limitation of the most lustful processing desires is what separates this stuff from the irrelevance of certain laptop-brandishing micronizers. The non-human components never triumph, and – as it happens in “Shield” – an inoffensive weapon like an ocarina can govern the audio scene despite the noises coming by a Nord synthesizer. This piece is immediately followed by another high: “Gletscher”, a solo episode by Schistek. Its mysterious grace – taking advantage of the expert probing of the instrument’s internal zones – speaks for itself. Still, in terms of sheer beauty, the accumulation of luminescence of “Old Liptauer” (viola da gamba, piano and computer) is perhaps unbeatable.

The lone exception to the general merit is “Flatuway”, based on a distorted flugelhorn whose splinters are triggered by an auto-sampling MIDI wind controller. Frankly atrocious. However, that’s the only weak point of an otherwise fascinating album, planned and executed with fully operating brains and finely tuned ears. In the secret place where improvisation and technical possibility convene, hoping to keep the fruits of that furtive meeting private, Lapslap are hidden behind a bush to bottle some of those bizarre essences."

itch
Reviewed by John Eyles, All About Jazz, 3/2009
"Here as elsewhere, Edwards on tenor saxophone impresses with a rich tone plus keen melodic instincts on a slowly unfolding solo."
itch
Reviewed by Barry Witherden, The Wire 298, 12/2008
"Lapslap comprises Michael Edwards (tenor sax, computer MIDI wind controller), Martin Parker (French horn, computer) and Karin Schistek (piano), and Itch was recorded in Reid Hall in Edinburgh, where the acoustic is such that the musicians felt it worth trying to include it as an element in some of their improvisations. Certainly this is very atmospheric music. The ten short and varied performances explore a wide range of sonorities and textures which is further extended by use of electronic modifications. The insert notes refer to the the trio's desire "to make well-formed music in realtime", and on the evidence of these single-take tracks they have succeeded admirably.

There are passages, as on "Nailed" for piano and computer, where Lapslap evoke some of the very best of the early musique concrete productions of the Pierre Schaeffer circle, wile in part of "Honk" for tenor sax, piano and electronics, the spirit of Stockhausen hovers, though some visceral Broetzmann-style outbursts justifying the title) sweep everything else aside and go some way to preparing the ears for the flurry of Industrial noise on the next track, "Hungry", for piano and two computers. Elsewhere, in "Motor Mouth" for example, there is some good old mainstream Fire Music, with shades of Archie Shepp and Cecil Taylor. This sequence of contrasts gives some indication of the group's tactic of constantly unsettling your expectations.

Schistek is a synaesthete, a fact that informs the closing track, "Rhapsody in Light Yellow" for piano and two computers. Most of us sometimes resort to similes of light and colour in an attempt to convey the nature and effect of music, but for synaesthetes the hue of a note or a chord or key is not a metaphorical device but an objective fact. Efforts to empathise with how Schistek literally sees this music bring this impressive session to a fascinating, thought-provoking close."

itch
Reviewed by Chuck Bettis, Downtown Music Gallery, 24/10/2008
"...brings to mind compositions based on the controlled tempo of breath. With a pace similar to a traditional Sanjo, slowly breathing in ideas and bellowing out well thought out processed thoughts, each player giving just enough titillation to provoke the other to reciprocate. Lapslap creates for the listener a suspenseful and exciting auditory world. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!"
stryngebite
Reviewed by Joel Chadabe, www.cdemusic.org
"A compilation of music for strings, virtual strings, and electronics, with many different personalities and wonderful, striking sounds."
stryngebite
Reviewed by Brian Marley, The Wire, Issue 252, page 61, 2/2005
"There are certain instrumental configurations, such as violin and piano, in which a degree of incompatibility presents an obstacle to the success of the music. Often, composers have little option but to use this incompatibility as a primary source of material. Acoustic instruments and electronics/tape are, if anything, even less compatible than piano and violin, and the compositions in which they feature tend to show their soundworlds operating in consort rather than harmoniously. But although the range of technology on which composers can draw has grown enormously during the last half century (since, roughly, Karlheinz Stockhausen's "Kontakte", for percussion, piano and tape, one of the first pieces of its kind and still one of the most successful), the nature of the conflict between electronics and acoustic instruments is essentially the same as it ever was.

Perhaps wisely, Achim Bornhoeft sidesteps the issue. His "virtual string" presents what the title suggests: a computer-generated simulation of a string. Sometimes the string sounds as though it must be as thick as a hawser cable and its sound box the size of a warehouse, and this aspect of the composition is interesting though far from novel.

The other five compositions feature a solo bowed stringed instrument with tape and/or live electronics. All of them are conceptually less interesting than the Bornhoeft piece, though most are compositionally just as strong. On Karlheinz Essl's "Da Braccio", Garth Knox (of The Arditti Quartet) contributes a range of viola textures that Essl modifies on the hoof. Knox also contributes to the two very different versions of Gerhard E Winkler's fascinating "Hybrid II ('Networks')" for real-time score and interactive live electronics, in which computer generated algorithms dictate how the composition should proceed.

The two remaining pieces feature Frank Stadler and electronically modified natural sounds. At their least modified, these sounds stick out like a sore thumb, as happens during the early moments of Arteom Denissov's "Himmlischer Kreis". They're put to much more convincing use in Michael Edwards's "Slippery When Wet", whose abruptly changing collage structure more readily accommodates these blurts of disjunctive sound. Edwards is also the producer of "Stryngebite", and he writes in his liner note that utilising taped elements in composition is still an issue in contemporary Western classical music, as is improvisation (by, in this case, Knox and Essl). Who would have thought that innovation and contemporary classical would prove to be less compatible than electronics/tape and acoustic instruments?"

Apagón
Reviewed by Philip Clark, The Wire, Issue 220, 6/2002
"enormous fun to listen to"
Performances
cheat sheet, Bregenz Festival, Bregenz, Österreichisches Ensemble für Neue Music (ÖENM), 21/7/2007
Reviewed by Silvia Thurner, Vorarlberger Nachrichten, 23/7/2007
"Mit politischem Sendebewusstsein

Das "Österreichische Ensemble für Neue Musik" aus Salzburg gastierte zum ersten Mal bei den Bregenzer Festspielen und überzeugte ... Gespielt wurden ausschließlich Werke aus Großbritannien. Den Höhepunkt bildete die Uraufführung des Werkes "Cheat Sheet", das Michael Edwards im Auftrag des Ensembles und der Bregenzer Festspiele komponiert hat... Umgebungsgeräusche aus den Lautsprechern führten das Publikum in das Werk ein, nach und nach betraten die Musiker die Bühne und das obligatorische Einstimmen wurde originell in das kompositorische Grundkonzept integriert. Mit dem Auftritt des Gitarristen, ausgestattet mit Bermudas im Militarylook und Sonnenbrille, wurde die Intention des Komponisten deutlich, denn Edwards schuf ein vielschichtiges Antikriegsstück. Der musikalische Satz verdichtete sich rasch zu einem zornigen Gedröhne, fratzenhafte Verzerrungen bildeten abwechslungsreiche Kontrastfelder und verstärkten die intensive Klangwirkung... Die Werke der Altmeister der englischen Szene Harrison Birtwistle und Peter Maxwell Davies überzeugten weniger ...

With 'political broadcast' awareness

Guests at the Bregenz Festival for the first time, the Austrian Ensemble for New Music from Salzburg were convincing. Works exclusively from Great Britain were performed. The highlight was the premiere of "Cheat Sheet" by Michael Edwards, a commission from the ensemble and the Bregenz Festival. Environmental sound emanating from the loudspeakers led the public into the work; one after the other the musicians came onstage and the obligatory tuning up was integrated originally into the compositional concept. With the entry of the guitarist, outfitted in military Bermuda shorts and sunglasses, the composer's intention became clear: Edwards created a multilayered anti-war piece. The musical argument condensed rapidly to an angry droning; grotesque distortions established varied fields of contrast and boosted the intense effect of the sound... The works by the old masters of the English scene Harrison Birtwistle and Peter Maxwell Davies were less convincing..."

skin, ZKM, Karlsruhe, Mark Summers, 3/6/2004
Reviewed by Wibke Bantelmann, Badischen Neuesten Nachrichten, 6/6/2004
"Live Broadcast on Bavaraian Radio with theme 'Rhinewards/Utopia'

Edwards entfachte einen ganzen Gamben-Sturm, mit Collegno-Schlaegen, die aus den Lautsprechern wie das Knattern von Maschinengewehren zurueckkamen, oder das effektvoll gemischte Brausen von echt gespielte Gambe und der "Ueber"-Gambe aus den Lautsprechern. Hier war die Vorstellung eines Komponisten wirklich geworden: reale Utopie, wenn man so will--jedenfalls glaubwuerdiger als alles, was man ueber Utopien mit Worten sagen koennte.

Mr. Edwards stirred up a whole gamba-storm, with col legno strokes coming out of the loudspeakers like the crackle of machine guns, or the effectively mixed roar of live and processed sound. Here the imagination of a composer was really brought to life: real utopia, if you will, at any rate more credible than all that which one can say about utopia with mere words. (transl. Michael Edwards)"

flung me, foot trod, Teatro Bon, Udine, Gianpaolo Antongirolami, 19/5/2000
Reviewed by Franco Calabretto, Il Gazzettino, 7/5/2000
"... la violenza tellurica e catastrofica di flung me, foot trod (1994) di Edwards.

[ ...the seismic and catastrophic violence of flung me, foot trod... ]"
pas de poule, pas de pot, Künstlerhaus, Salzburg, Österreichisches Ensemble für Neue Music (ÖENM), 22/3/1999
Reviewed by Reinhard Kriechbaum, Salzburger Nachrichten, 24/3/1999
"'Pas de poule, pas de pot' kombiniert Elektronik und Musikinstrumente so geschickt, daß die Grenze zwischen Vorproduziertem und dem Live-Anteil fast verschwimmt.

'Pas de poule, pas de pot' combines electronics and musical instruments so skillfully that the boundary between the pre-produced and live parts blurs"
segmentation fault beta 1.1, Stanford University - Dinkelspiel Auditorium, Stanford, Edwards / Trevisani, 9/2/1996
Reviewed by Anna Sofie Christiansen, Computer Music Journal, Vol. 20 #3, 10/2/1996
"...Michael Edward's segmentation fault beta 1.0 (1996), in collaboration with Marco Trevisani, could have risen the dead. The daring so desperately missing in the previous pieces was evident here in an engaging live performance, featuring Mr. Edwards at the computer and mixer, and Mr. Trevisani playing an amplified prepared piano."
flung me, foot trod, International Computer Music Conference 1995, Banff, Gary Scavone, 9/1995
Reviewed by Robert Normandeau, Contact!, Autumn, 1995
"...in Edward's work, a hammering technique prevailed. When such a work is bad, it bores you stiff, but when the form fits the material, the result is a contrasting, dynamic and rich work especially when performed by a player as dedicated as Gary Scavone. His performance was energizing."