|Since studying with Boulanger in Paris and with Berio at Juilliard, New York avant-garde-ist Noah Creshevsky has been director of the Center for Computer Music, professor of music at Brooklyn College and taught at Juilliard, Hunter College and Princeton University. A thirty year career in electronics / tape manipulation has, in the main, centred on two working concepts: 'Hyperrealism' in which oft-ignored minutiae is magnified to unimagined levels, and the electronic simulation of acoustic instruments are 'performed' way beyond human capabilities, like piano roll absurdist Conlon Nancarrow with knobs on. He received warm applause from 'Village Voice', 'Gramophone', 'Fanfare' and 'American Record Guide', but there were distinctly less ripples reaching European shores. This could've been due to releases on 'Opus One' (Noah's label) being a mite difficult to obtain over the pond. In fact, I recently noticed a letter posted on the internet desperately asking for information on how to score some Creshevsky vinyl. Well, if the seeker doesn't have a total aversion to the little silver disc, his quest could well be over. EM Records of Japan have collated eight of Noah's compositions that first appeared on shared albums with the likes of Anne LeBaron, David Mott and Max Shubel. The exception being 'Cantigna' which, as far as I can gather, is unreleased - until now.
'Circuit' from 1971 is the earliest and perhaps the most strait-laced of the compositions here. Its foundation of harpsichord recordings begin politely enough at separate tables, but eventually further mass crowding results in personal space issues, elbow room is compromised and chaos ensues with fragments of wood and wire flying about all over the shop. 'In Other Words' (Portrait of John Cage) followed on five years later and is the odd piece out as the quick chop and change, cut'n'paste elements are set aside in favour of a series of cavernous drone-scapes that encircle John Cage (with a voice not unlike x-film icon Vincent Price!) and his musings on certain aspects of creativity. 'Great Performances' (from 1978) uses a plummy-voiced commentary and prissy chamber music excerpts to take the rise out of the preciousness of certain classical performances. Eventually a quiz show host is heard and, through the miracle of overdubbing, is dumped in a jungle. He won't last long as I hear lions. This is gloriously nuts and takes on some of the trappings of fellow gonzoid splicers Negativeland. 'Highway' is equally screwy. In between orchestral blobs, a worried voice asks "Am I having a nervous breakdown?" and "Am I masturbating too often?" These snippets, presumably sourced from public health broadcasts eventually move aside for a glimpse into a deep south religious picnic with "potato pies" and "coconut custard" for dessert. After all that initial self doubt, it's nice to have a happy ending. 'Sonata' captures numerous segments of verbal waffle and hesitant burblings which are flecked with electronic door creaks and ear-mashing snare rolls. This percussive heaviness continues with 'Drummer' (1983) and is pictorial as much of the previous material. This certainly can't fail to flood your mind with images of mambo-crazy conga drummers in amongst a bustling N.Y. cityscape. We're now in '86 with the ten minute plus 'Strategic Defense Initiative' - an even heavier drum barrage (which seems to have become Noah's trademark) matches blows with the grunts and screams of battling Bruce Lee clones. 'Cantiga' closes the collection with a rapid flicker of cello, choirs and harpsichords, which becomes almost stroboscopic in its delivery; an aural equivalent to observing a low slung sun during a speeding car ride past an evenly spaced treeline.
There have been quite a few more N.H. releases since '92 through Centaur Records and Mutable Music, but we're not talking about those; this is EM's moment and it's good to know that through their good works, we can experience a vital set of irreverent, off the wall and just plain weird compositions that have been neglected for far too long. (Steve Pescott)