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sound/music CD reviews

 Da Contents H2

May 1 2013
Jon Rose

April 3 2013
zephyr quartet
a rain from the shadows

July 17 2012
the wired lab
wired open day 2009

May 22 2012
ros bandt, johannes s sistermanns

March 20 2012
new weird australia editions: thomas williams vs scissor lock, spartak
jewelz & nippon

October 25 2011
avantwhatever label collection
gulbenkoglu gorfinkel; ben byrne; alex white; ivan lysiak

May 24 2011
disintegration: mutation

May 10 2011
blip (jim denley, mike majkowksi)

listen to the weather

March 22 2011
difference engine

November 22 2010
artefacts of australian experimental music volume II 1974-1983

September 20 2010
clocked out
the wide alley

September 7 2010
clocked out
foreign objects

August 23 2010
matt chaumont

July 26 2010
sky needle
time hammer

May 10 2010
mike majkowski
ink on paper

November 6 2009
new weird australia vols 1 & 2

October 26 2009
clare cooper & chris abrahams
germ studies

July 17 2009
erdem helvacioglu
wounded breath

rice corpse
mrs rice

April 28 2009
james rushford

joel stern
objects, masks, props

January 22 2009
loren chasse
the footpath

mark cauvin

December 12 2007
the splinter orchestra

October 24 2007
artefacts of australian experimental music 1930-1973

August 28 2007
akathistos fragments


various artists produced by le tuan hung; dindy vaughan
on the wings of a butterfly: cross-cultural music by australian composers; up the creek

May 1 2006
ai yamamoto

camilla hannan
more songs about factories

found: quantity of sheep

philip brophy

rod cooper

December 1 2005
anthony pateras
mutant theatre

December 1 2005
charlie charlie & will guthrie
la respiration des saintes & building blocks

dj olive

new belief system

jodi rose & guest artists
singing bridges: vibrations/variations

lawrence english

lawrence english
ghost towns

michael j schumacher
room pieces

robin fox
backscatter dvd


the necks
mosquito/see through

tim o'dwyer
multiple repeat

guns, cars & guitars

warp: various artists
warp vision: the videos 1989-2004

zane trow
for those who hear actual voices


michael j schumacher

room pieces

XI Records, 2002, XI127

New York sound/installation artist and composer Michael J Schumacher founded Studio 5 Beekman and Diapason sound galleries–2 of the few in the world. His latest double audio CD Room Pieces features a 75 minute rendition of an installation work, and a set of 4 pieces exploring other approaches to composition, improvisation and instrumentation. The liner, heavy with essays, has plenty of supporting information.

The first disc’s Room Piece XI (2002) is based on an installation of the same name that Schumacher has shown many times. It's a generative piece–the composer establishes a set of parameters including the quality and movement of the sounds, and the computer generates the actual material–similar to the basic action of a screen saver. Room Piece XI is presented here in a stereo mix, while the installation itself is a multi-speaker work, reconfigured each time it is exhibited. The music is designed for gallery rather than concert listening, ie the audience will enter and leave unpredictably. Schumacher has dealt with this issue by creating a continuous stream of mini endings and beginnings, short phrases woven seamlessly together. This device is supported by the dynamics of the piece, which resemble a conversation of voices, rather than a grand dynamic of orchestral swells. These approaches are well thought out solutions to the challenges of sound in galleries. I am reminded of the clever seamlessness of Muzak–Schumacher has substituted the play of popular melodies with fragments of noise and virtuosic instrumental/sonic performances–the whole stretched into a reflective reverie.

Much of the music on both discs sparkles with a superhuman fluidity born of the digital. The compositions have an unusual sense of time, contrasting very slow drone/ambient sounds with hyper-active flickers and fragments. On disc 2, Piece in 3 Parts (2002) begins with violin and percussion performances integrating hi-speed reproduction/replication of those performances. Still (2002) pursues an ambient/computer drone of... stillness, with a nod to the micro-tonal strings of 60s European orchestral avant garde. A reworking of the prior track, Still (2002) [sic] contains the formers' ambient bed, with frantic computer music mutterings, taking the fragmented phrasing of serial composition into an acoustic realm of insects and birds. Untitled (1999), a drone piece, sounds very similar to the granite and glacier music of Phil Niblock, weighing in with a much higher density than the other tracks. Overall, the work exhibits a high degree of crafting and refinement, of contrast, dynamics, phrasing and timing.

Hailing from the incense and thick rugs end of New York, rather than the beer and sticky carpets precinct, Room Pieces is fine wine and fine dining. Rather than becoming decadent, the works such as Room Piece XI have purity and aesthetic spareness tasting faintly of minimalists such as Arvo Part, mixing Western tradition with 60s transcendence.

Bruce Mowson

© Bruce Mowson; for permission to reproduce apply to [email protected]

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