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Thursday, December 12, 2013

A Bit of Music

Resurrected Reviews Dept.: Here’s a piece I wrote a couple of years ago but which never saw publication. Now the CD is out of print and selling on Amazon at upwards of $80. The Cantaloupe website (access it through the work's website) promises that it will be back in print soon, at a more reasonable $30. It’s a delightful piece of art.


“1-BIT SYMPHONY” is a five-movement work whose first four movements run about 45 minutes, with the final movement clocking in at infinity, or until the battery runs out, which probably will occur first.

Composer Tristan Perich works in electronic music, with a special fondness for that which can be rendered using a single bit, the smallest building block of digital information. He is also a visual artist who celebrates the aesthetic of electronics – he has performed music produced by the judicious use of soldering irons – and the place of electronic music in our lives. Not surprisingly, he has worked with the innovative ensemble “Bang on a Can.”

But “1-Bit Symphony” is more of a chamber work, housed in a conventional CD jewel case. There’s no CD – just the aforementioned battery, an on-off switch, an earphone jack, a volume control wheel, a movement-skip button and an IC chip. You supply the earphones. An accompanying page gives the program code.

Submit yourself to the piece and you’re in a welter of low-fidelity electronic burblings: strident, chirpy, plangent, consonant, relentless. And charming in a frantic-child way. You would listen to this as you might watch Andy Warhol’s “Sleep” – in order to be part of a daunting artistic experience.

Fortunately, you can dip in an out of “1-Bit Symphony” more easily. It’s music offered as an experience of listening to music, which in our post-ironic, re-constructionist age is a fitting commentary on the ubiquity of bleeps around us.

But don’t file this alongside your other CDs. It’s a work of art that needs its own display. And you’ll want it close at hand in order to baffle and impress your friends.

Tristan Perich: 1-Bit Symphony
Cantaloupe Music

– 19 July 2011

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