June 9 2011: Electronic Movements composed by Tom Dissevelt (Philips EP, 1962)
Dating from 1962, these four compositions by Dutch musician Tom Dissevelt come from a similar moment as much of the best work produced by the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, and there’s a comparable – though very different – feel to most of them, perhaps anticipating in places the slightly later Vanguard productions of Jean Jacques Perrey and Gershon Kingsley, but with more emphasis on the atmospherics than the novelty value of the sound palette. Divided into four movements, titled descriptively to evoke the dominant sensation created by each piece, Dissevelt offers Syncopation, Vibration, Drifting and Whirling, and the EP sounds very advanced for its time, far more layered and structured than the minimal norms of its day.
While it would be misleading to call this machine-made music, given the enormous expenditure of human time, skill and imagination required to make it, nonetheless the sounds invoked demonstrate how the non-human creates its own distinctive sound-world when used in the right way. I’ve always found something moving and strangely affecting about the sound of machines (or more precisely, human musicians using machines) trying to approximate feeling. From the early days of Daphne Oram and Delia Derbyshire to such later experts in this territory as Boards of Canada, there’s a paradox here, in that it’s these older, limited analogue textures that still sound most futuristic, alien and laden with potential.