Albert Mayr;
proposte sonore

Artwork: Giovanni Antognozzi

Albert Mayr Proposte sonore
ants AG08. Duration: 52:45

1. Proposta Sonora 1 (1966) [6:12]
2. Proposta Sonora IV (1967) [6:11]
3. Proposta Sonora V (1967) [7:32]
4. Proposta Sonora VII (1968) [8:00]
5. Proposta Sonora X (1968) [3:44]
6. An Old Lady's Wallpaper (1969) [5:10]
7. Proposta Sonora XIII (1969) [10:13]
8. Abendgrün, per 9 ottoni (1983) [5:43]

Yes! Another CD with historic electronic sound material! I welcome it! The freshness with which electronic sound – or any sound! – was treated when electronic means was newly or rather newly introduced, has never again been reclaimed. There is fantastic music being produced nowadays, with delicacy and refinement, making connoisseurs like myself week in our knees – like the works of Yannis Kyriakides (The Thing Like Us), Hanna Hartman (Die Schrauben, die die Welt zusammenhalten) or Karlheinz Stockhausen (Engel-Prozessionen) – but the primordial freshness of fundamental sound research can only happen at the outset. Many were there, like Gottfried Michael Koenig, Henri Pousseur, Stockhausen, Herbert Eimert, Bruno Maderna, Rune Lindblad, Bengt Hambraeus, Pauline Oliveros, Ramon Sender, Folke Rabe and numerous others – and I now also recognize that Albert Mayr was there too, by way of the sound information contained on this ants CD, fresh out of the years 1966 – 1969, with a modern addition from 1983.

The booklet proves an ample source of historical information, too; another aspect of this release that I like. It has become a trend in some modern music circles – especially in the so-called electronica - to deliver the CDs in practically non-verbal covers, but for inquisitive members of the human family, like myself, a CD booklet bursting with information raises the total value of the release considerably.

It appears, that because it often took some fame and also some compromise with one’s compositional conscience to get an entry ticket into the institutional electronic music studios of the early days – which weren’t many, anyway - some individuals tried to gather as much equipment they could and start their own studio on a smaller, but uncompromising, scale.
The unnatural antagonism between those who advocated the French acousmatic utilization of concrete sounds – musique concrète – and those who fell in line with the WDR purists who made it their discriminating rule to stick with solely electronically generated sounds – Elektronische Musik – also inspired more freethinking artists to set out on their own, even though the French-German conflict over sound was a brief one, lasting only up to the day when Stockhausen delivered
Gesang der Jünglinge (1956), which is when all battles over the subject became obsolete…

In Italy in the 1960s, three studios emerged because of the above stated: S 2F M (Florence), founded by Pietro Grossi, Studio di Musica Elettronica di Torino (SMET) (Turin), founded by Enore Zaffiri, and Nuove Proposte Sonore (NPS) (Padua), founded by Teresa Rampazzi. I suppose you could say that these studios grew out of an opposition to the RAI studios in Milan.

Albert Mayr’s electronic works on this CD were conceived and executed in Pietro Grossi’s S 2F M in Florence between 1966 and 1969; magic years for a lot of reasons, especially remembered by us who were young then, but old enough to take part in the cultural and political revolution that swept Europe, fostering a generation that will never be able to forgive the genocide conducted in Vietnam; a generation who wants and needs the surviving political elite of the world’s largest democracy (haha!) locked up in The Hague along Milosevic and his angels of death.

The beginnings of S 2F M were meager. The studio managed to scrape together a dozen sine wave oscillators, a noise generator, a band-pass filter, a third-of-octave filter and two tape recorders.

Albert Mayr
(Photo: Barbara Gökgöl)

Mayr talks in the CD booklet about the importance of Grossi’s attitude, his radical re-orientation of compositional/artistic focus, through a much sought-after amnesia of traditions into the un-biased and unprejudiced exploration of sounds and lustful organization of sounds.

It is interesting what Albert Mayr says about the origin of the sounds he used for his electronic pieces here. They were evidently sounds that had been achieved before by others in the studio – so even in this sense Grossi’s thinking opened new paths. For some this procedure may seem taboo, like stealing church silver – but for Grossi it was just a matter of using some sounds to work with (and I made a one-hour recording of the first bar of Beethoven’s
Fifth Symphony, without anybody noticing, spreading it quite successfully through as Bardo Stuor Reaiddávággi before they closed down – so I have a certain sympathy for the method… and we’ve all heard about plunderphonics, nicht wahr?), but the previously achieved sounds were of course drastically altered by next user, so to say – and his works could, in turn, serve somebody else’s purpose. It was a bit like a communist ideal set to work in the electronic studio; a sure sign of the times - and a liberating way to see things, I must say; a far cry from the tight security of copyright that we experience today… and as they say: die Gedanken sind frei!

All the six
Proposte Sonore pieces herein were deduced from beats material. Mayr describes more in detail what he used, and how he treated it, but I’ll just give a few impressions from the view of a connoisseur listener.

First of all, I sense a bottomless loneliness in this music; a desolation far beyond the dearest imagination of empathy; somehow an inner confinement of the sort a scared schizophrenic in the clinic may experience when he can’t keep control of where his feet and hands are, no matter how hard he tries – or the absolute no-ness that must have been experienced by the first person who was entirely isolated from humanity; Michael Collins in the Apollo 11 command service module on the far side of the moon, while Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin were down on the surface of the Earth-facing side of the rock.

Michael Collins

Alas, that journey took place in 1969, approximately around the years of the piece on this CD. I remember later on, in the times of Apollo 16 and 17, when I was walking through the woods, seeing the moon through the pines, simply thinking to myself; it’s manned…

I can’t help but observe that some of these early works sound very much like the Californian frequency modulation experiments conducted by John Chowning at Stanford University, like
Sabelithe (1966 – 1971), Turenas (1972) and Stria (1977). Jean-Claude Risset produced similar sounds too, as did some other composers at that time. Of course, the emerging means inspired a usage that would involuntarily result in similar-sounding works, even though there always are individual streaks in all of these compositional experiments. Ultimately, the experience of listening rests with the listener, and in my case it already took me to the dark side of the moon, with or without Pink Floyd

Proposta Sonora IV (1967) comes in short sections, interspersed with sudden silences, giving this piece a specific musical structure that plays with durations as well as timbre, with soaring anticipation as well as a growing mass of expectation that is released into next short section of timbres. It’s like having a bleak dawn flash regular beams of darkness through the pale light of morn; very musical, very rhythmic, very… unexpected, like a painter slashing his canvas with a butcher’s knife, without anger.

The space feeling is a cheap metaphor – but it’s here, be it the space within, the really deep space within, or the relentless deep space without (“we were talking… about the space between us all, and the people, who hide themselves between the wall of illusion…”) – alas, 1967; Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and Mr. Harrison! The helpless feeling of Albert Mayr’s
Proposte Sonore pieces certainly puts me on that ship of 2001, A Space Odyssey (1968!), when the traveler moves at incomprehensible speeds through timbres and light into a room where he meets… himself? God?

Yes, those are the motions-emotions I travel in Albert Mayr’s suspended timbral flows, also in the last piece on the CD, which achieves the same spectral spirituality through acoustic instruments in 1983, and I am inspired and deepened by the experience, which takes me to unknown, unforeseen places of the mind. I can probably shake this off only through an intense nocturnal late winter bike ride through the countryside… but then again, I’ll see the stars, and I’ll be right back in this feeling, this palpable, mineral feeling of the space in which we live; space creatures in the Gaia realm.

Photo: Ingvar Loco Nordin 2005

So Mayr leaves me here in this vast feeling, huddling at the bottom of a sea of atmosphere, a few kilometers deep – our biosphere, where we are vulnerable, incomprehensible – and probably also eternal, like the Tibetan Buddhists say, traveling our body vehicles through innumerable lives; a thought that makes everything easier and… harder… and then easier again, as we let our thought travel several conceptual layers of habitual perception, until we…