Magma, Thanos Chrysakis

30/05/2012

Magma, Thanos Chrysakis

Magma is a 2011 release by Thanos Chrysakis on the Russian label Monochrome Vision. The work, a 30 minute piece in the electroacoustic idiom, makes extensive use of electronic devices, acoustic sounds and field recordings.

A piece of this length is a bold venture. Most electroacoustic, or if you prefer, acousmatic pieces, for fixed medium, are in the 8 – 12 minute category. Any longer and they probably wouldn’t get programmed, unless it’s a ‘classic’ like Dhomont’s Forêt Profonde. In fact last time I checked, most of the opportunities for this kind of music insist on shorter pieces, not to mention suffering from the most pathetic ageist regulations, but I digress.  So releasing a longer work on a specialist label makes sense. If you want some fresh musical experiences I’d suggest that Monochrome Vision is well worth a visit.

I had forgotten how much I enjoy a good blast of acousmatic abstraction. Magma pushes all the buttons that you’d expect: inventiveness, pace, flow, expert use of a wide dynamic and spectral range. As a work based on a proliferation of gestures there is less in the way of morphological investigation by means of more sustained textures and the development of restricted resources. I put this down to the weight of the history of music in the teaching of this idiom – music has to go somewhere, has to show constant invention, keep busy, or be less so by contrast. In thinking about the whys and wherefores of acousmatic music Paul Virilio’s ideas about speed and information overload often come to mind. If music conjurs up a place or an inner space, then this isn’t a relaxing musical space or one made for reflection – it’s fast and furious most of the time, requiring an intellectual rather than an emotional response. All of which has its place.

This is a very well composed piece and I could go into great detail as to why I offer that conclusion, such as examining the complex relationships between the various strands of material. Primarily though, Magma succeeds in holding the listener’s attention for long periods, a very difficult feat in working with highly processed material of such abstraction.

I’ve always considered the core of acousmatic composition to be similar to working out in a gymnasium. You develop great strength, stamina and technique relating to an extremely focused area of endeavour. Your aural skills are honed to near perfection and your production values soar. Ultimately though, developing the analogy, there comes a time when you have to apply all this training to a sport, otherwise you end up with a big muscles, great strength and the only friends you have are in the gym. Or is that being unfair?

Thanos Chrysakis has since explored a range of new directions, in particular improvisational styles incorporating an electroacoustic sensibility. Magma in one sense is a (re-) statement of the artist’s credentials in which we are treated to his strong compositional skills –  the collaborative and improvisational projects build on and extend these core strengths.

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