Friday, April 12, 2024

Thom Blum’s New Album of “Soundworks”

Cover of the album being discussed (from its Bandcamp Web page)

A little over a month ago, Thom Blum released his latest album through Bandcamp. House Music is a relatively modest offering of six short compositions. He calls these “soundworks.” However, from a historical point of view, this involves an approach to recorded sounds that emerged from the compositional practices of Pierre Schaeffer in the early Forties. Schaeffer himself described the results of his efforts as musique concrète.

I should note, as an aside, that, through my informal studies with the composer Ezra Sims, I devoted most of my non-thesis-based time to creating tape recordings of such works. My most successful results were for modern dance works created by Cliff Keuter, and one of them even resulted in my traveling to Israel. Keuter had been commissioned to create a new work for the Bat-Dor Dance Company, and this was his second creation for which I provided the music.

Both of those pieces were roughly twenty minutes in duration. The longest track on House Music, on the other hand, is slightly over ten minutes. The other five tracks may best be described as musical vignettes. Presumably, all six of the compositions involved working with everyday sounds in the composer’s house.

He was particularly interested in the drone he could create based on the sound of his steam-heat radiator. (My own “first contact” with the genre was the result of my setting up a microphone while my brother and I cleaned the dishes after a Thanksgiving dinner. Many years later I would discover that Paul Lansky had done something similar for a piece called “Table’s Clear.”)

From a personal point of view, I have to say that I prefer Blum’s brevity to the lengthier undertakings of Lansky’s efforts and my own. There is something admirable in the ability to create an impression and then let it pass after it has been apprehended. It has been quite some time since I have revisited any of my early recordings; but, after appreciating Blum’s rhetoric, I fear that I might now be embarrassed by them!

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