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Pulse Music

by John McGuire

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  • Record/Vinyl + Digital Album

    PRE-ORDER [Due Dec 2022]

    2LP Gatefold with tipped in booklet

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  • Compact Disc (CD) + Digital Album

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108 Pulses 19:50

about

Presented together for the first time, American composer John McGuire’s Pulse Music series (1975-1979) blurs the popular narrative that Minimalism was a reaction against Europe’s angular, intellectual, inscrutable high-modernism. McGuire, born in California, studied at Occidental College in Los Angeles and UC Berkeley before going to Europe to study with Karlheinz Stockhausen, Krzysztof Penderecki, and Gottfried Michael Koenig. His compositions lock serialism’s warped geometries onto an evenly spaced grid, perfectly preserving serial music’s multi-dimensionality while smoothing its wildest disjunctures and sharpest angles. If serialism is Montreal’s Habitat 67 modular housing complex, McGuire’s Pulse Music compositions are the primary-colored grids of Le Corbusier’s L’Habitation apartment complex — an exuberant expression of the same materials and principles.

Every layer of pulses is made distinct through its timbre, register, and tempo. We hear them as a plurality, organized like stars in the sky. Every so often the sky rotates and the stars appear in a different arrangement. Our ear naturally starts to draw connections and, as it sweeps between one layer and another, what was discrete becomes continuous. Pulses become flows; quantitative reality becomes qualitative experience.

McGuire’s pulse pieces were realized electronically, in the newly built Studio for Electronic Music at the State University of Cologne and WDR, but Pulse Music II adapted his ideas to an orchestral canvas. Commissioned retrospectively by the composer and radio producer Hans Otte for his Pro Musica Nova festival at Radio Bremen. Alongside the Bremen orchestra, conducted by Klaus Bernbacher, were four pianists—Christoph Delz, Herbert Henck, Deborah Richards, Doris Thomsen—and McGuire himself playing a series of twelve drone-like chords on the organ. The techniques of the electronic Pulse Music pieces required a speed and precision too great for live musicians, so for Pulse Music II McGuire adapted his method to an expanding progression of durations; this had the advantage of being much slower and requiring none of the carefully calibrated tempo changes of Pulse Music I or III. It was still based, says the composer, “on what seemed to me an interesting foray into a completely different kind of time structure. Complex time structures had, by 1975, become a condition for me in two senses: a compositional requirement and maybe an illness.” The present recording was made by Radio Bremen at the work’s first and only performance, and has been held in their archive until now. “108 Pulses” – originally composed a proof-of-concept piece and realized as a single, repeating loop in a 20 minute tableau – is also presented here for the first time.

credits

released April 29, 2022

Pulse Music I (1975-76)
Realized in the Studio for Electronic Music at the Musikhochschule Köln. Audio Engineer: Marcel Schmidt.

Pulse Music II (1975-77)
For Four Pianos and Small Orchestra, first performed and recorded in 1978 as part of the Pro Musica Nova Festival at Radio Bremen. Performed by members of the Bremen Radio Symphony Orchestra conducted by Klaus Bernbacher. Pianists were Christoph Delz, Herbert Henck, Deborah Richards and Doris Thomsen. Commissioned retroactively by Radio Bremen. Pulse Music II recording © Radio Bremen, recorded May 10, 1978.

Pulse Music Ill (1978-79)
Realized in the Studio for Electronic Music at the West German Radio. Commissioned by the West German Radio. Audio Engineer: Volker Muller.

108 Pulses (1975)
Realized in the Studio for Electronic Music at the Musikhochschule Köln

All compositions © John McGuire (GEMA)

Pulse Music Ill ® A Westdeutsche Rundfunk Cologne Production, 1978-1979, Licensed by WDR mediagroup GmbH

Mastered by Stephan Mathieu

Graphic design by Joe Gilmore
Cover image: R.P. Lohse, 9 serielle Farblinien, 1945/1981, Siebdruck, 47 x 64 cm/ 9 serial colour lines, 1945/1981, serigraphy print, 47 x 64 cm © 2021 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ Prolitteris, Zurich

Released as UW036[CD/Digital/LP] © 2022 Unseen Worlds

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