Vol. 24 Issue 3 Reviews
Jorge Antunes: Musica Eletronica 70's I-II, Musica Eletronica 90's I
Compact discs CD ST 0001 (1994), CD ST 002, CD ST 004 (1998); available from Sistrum Edições Musicais Ltda., Caixa Postal 04580,70919-970 Brasíla—DF, Brazil; fax (+55-061)368-1797

Reviewed by Osvaldo Budón (Montreal, Quebec, Canada)

Born in 1942 in Rio de Janeiro, Jorge Antunes is, with Reginaldo de Carvalho (Guarabira, 1932), Gilberto Mendes (Santos, 1922) and Willy Corra de Oliveira (Recife, 1938), one of the earliest practitioners of electroacoustic music in Brazil. His first experiences go back to 1962, when he had built several generators, filters, modulators and other electronic equipment. Mr. Antunes is presently Director of the Electroacoustic Music Studio of the University of Brasilia and President of the Brazilian Society for Electroacoustic Music. These three mini-CDs present an opportunity to listen to a selection of his compositional output, including both early and recent works.

Musica Eletronica 70's I
This disc includes two compositions realized at the Electroacoustic Studio of the Centro Latino Americano de Altos Estudios Musicales (CLAEM) of the Torcuato Di Tella Institute in Buenos Aires, Argentina. If nothing else, the commercial release of these pieces is important as it documents part of the musical output of this institution, which existed between 1961 and 1971 and had important repercussions on the new music life of Argentina and Latin America.The CLAEM offered biannual scholarships to young Latin American composers who thus had the opportunity to study with some of the most important musical figures of the day, such as Iannis Xenakis, Luigi Nono, Riccardo Malipiero, Oliver Messiaen, Bruno Maderna, Luigi Dallapiccola, Alberto Ginastera and Gerardo Gandini.

Cinta Cita (1969) is a five-minute composition which is the first that Antunes - a student at the time - realized in a professional studio. The purely electronic sound material used includes filtered noise and synthetic sounds created by additive synthesis. The piece presents the interaction between sustained, continuous textures and groups of short sound events which create irregular rhythmic configurations. It works quite well, displaying an effective economy of material and formal clarity.

Auto-Retrato Sobre Paisaje Porteño (1970) incorporates to the electronic sounds an "object trouvé" in the form of an Argentinian tango taken from an old record. Fragments of this material are looped and provide a basic pattern over which the composer builds the characteristic rhythms of Brazilian samba. Halfway through the piece, the spoken voice of Antunes makes its apparition, gradually coming to the foreground. Made of mostly meaningless words, the speech includes however certain understandable words which are intended to convey the concern of the composer with the political situation of Latin America in those years. This is a longer piece (ca.15') and formally as successful as Cinta Cita but in a sense more interesting as it presents the result of a conscious search for a musical identity that will reflect the young composer's belonging to Latin America.

Musica Eletronica 70's II
Features a single 20-minute piece composed at the Institute of Sonology of Utrecht University in Holland.

Dedicated to the composer's first son, Para Nascer Aqui (1971) is organized in 3 sections outlining a kind of ABA' form. Long, slowly evolving complex sounds characterize the A sections, while configurations of mostly short and punctual sounds provide for the contrasting middle section. I very much enjoy the exploration of a limited yet rich sound world and the way in which these materials match the time span over which they evolve.However,I do not find a correspondence between the formal structure and the composer's declared intention that "The music tries to evoque all the dramatic aspects of pregnancy and of delivery". For that reason the weeping of the composer's son and a repeated major chord (elements expected to express "conclusive manifestations of Life and Hope") which are brought in at the end of the piece appear to me as foreign material, unrelated to the composition's internal logic.

Musica Eletronica 90's I
This CD contains a single composition produced at GRM in Paris. Here we find Antunes approaching electroacoustic music as a means of witnessing the social reality of its time. Ballade Dure (1995) centers on the recording of the voice of an unemployed man asking for money in the Paris metro. As a counterpoint to the man's voice, sounds of the metro - particularly those of closing doors - and static textures made of electronic sounds are used. It is clear that these sound materials, even the strictly electronic ones are used for their evocative qualities rather than for purely musical reasons.

I find the (few) digital transformations of the man's voice to be very unimaginative. Also, in spite of the modern equipment used to generate them, the electronic sounds appear to me as being aged, as belonging to a different decade. I also find that some of the concrete recorded materials (running steps) sound like low-budget radio theatrical sound effects. Moreover, the formal organization of the piece seems rather loose and its temporal extension (20'), excessive. All this is surprising coming from an experienced composer. Perhaps he was not quite at ease with the technological environment he was working in. Or perhaps he trusts the message contained in the material itself (the recording of the beggar's speech) to be strong enough to override all the above mentioned deficiencies. In any case, I was disappointed.

Judging from the program notes, Antunes does indeed have high expectations about the extra musical communicative power of his composition: "The final part of the work takes us to a new and surprising situation. Antunes uses an expressive silence of about ten seconds which will provoke, in the attentive listener, a great and powerful moment for profound reflection on our society and our internal and external worlds." I truly believe that the result does not really measure up to the expectations.

I find these CDs to be uneven in their artistic quality. I would rate Musica Eletronica 70s I as the most interesting, followed by Musica Eletronica 70s II and last, by far, Musica Eletronica 90s I.