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John France
MusicWeb International, June 2001

"An interesting CD for those listeners who like and understand electronic music. A wide variety of styles and sounds, well recorded and attractively packaged. Be prepared for a wild sonic trip to the 8th century BC.

"It is incredible to imagine that Homer's Iliad had not been translated into Danish before the version published in October 1999. Yet the whole raison d'etre of this present CD is based on this fact. Perhaps some books or portions of books had been previously given in Danish? Or maybe anyone who wanted to read the text set about it in the original Greek or in English or German. I must never forget that the Scandinavian people have a greater command of languages than most of their Anglo-Saxon contemporaries. Yet the response of some of the composers who provided music for this CD suggest that they had not approached Homer's masterpiece until receiving this commission. Having been exposed to this great work in one way or another since primary school days, I find this incredible. Yet perhaps it is just a matter of opportunity. Many school children these days, in all parts of Europe, have probably never heard of Priam and Helen and Achilles.

"...The Danish National Arts Foundation had a number of options. Firstly was to provide easily accessible music of the 'film' variety. Secondly it could have scoured the musical archives of five centuries for appropriate pieces or thirdly it could have attempted to provide contemporary Homeric music - music composed for the 'aulos' and the 'kithara' and 'chorus'. Finally they could commission works which are totally new; works which reflect the 'best' of Danish musical talent.

"For better or worse they chose the last option. So far so good. But the decision went further - it was decided to approach composers noted for their adherence to 'Electro-acoustic' musical technologies as opposed to more traditional ensembles. Each composer had to come up with music for four books of the Iliad.

"...A few words about the Iliad itself and also about the concept of 'Electro-acoustic' music are in order. It is a fault of much artistic criticism that assumes that we all know what we are talking about all the time. So at the risk of teaching granny...

"The Iliad is Greek epic poem, which is probably the result of oral tradition. It is not a through-composed work by one individual with all the details coming from the author's imagination. It was probably written down by 700 BC and is attributed to Homer. The title comes from Ilion, which was the Greek name for Troy. Basically, its topic is the anger of the Greek hero Achilles at the loss of his concubine Briseis, and at the demise of his friend Patroclus, during the Greek siege of Troy. The poem concludes with the slaughter of the Trojan hero Hector at the hands of Achilles. The stories deal with military values, social structures, and the lives of a heroic group of warriors, supported or opposed by the gods. More to the point it shows the gods as being totally capricious in their dealings with human beings. This work along with the Odyssey had an immense influence on Greek society and culture and has provided inspiration for countless tales down through the ages...

"The pieces of music given on this CD are a diverse group. The only communality is the computer. The critic does have a problem with this kind of music. There is no score. Each performance could be different if the composer decides to 're-programme' the computer whilst the composition is being played.

"The programme notes give an adequate description of each piece - at least as far as it is possible to describe this kind of music in any objective or analytical manner. Each composer writes a short resume of what the Iliad has meant to him and how he has tried to interpret this in the music.

"...What are we to make of this music? First of all it is really 'incidental' music rather than concert hall pieces. The music was designed for a particular event and a definite textual performance. So it is perhaps not fair to judge any of these pieces as stand-alone works of art.

"There is no doubt that there is a tremendous variety of tones and textures in these six works. Everything seems to be fair game to these composers. Any style is available. Some of these pieces involve 'virtual' voices or choral effects. There seem to be individual instruments playing recognisable musical phrase. Then there are great washes of sounds. Sometimes the phrase or pattern is allowed to go round in a loop -eventually breaking out into some complex of white noise. There are noises that seem like a steam locomotive shunting a goods yard and even of a dog barking. There are passages that sound like a boat builder's yard complete with riveters."

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