The work and thought of the American composer Kenneth Gaburo (1926-1993) exhibited many striking changes during his lifetime. In fact, while the world of commercial endeavor still insists that artists develop a recognizable personal "style," Gaburo's life-work can be seen as one of continual change and exploration, rather than one of codification and promotion. Some of these changes are beautifully illustrated by the two works on this CD, Maledetto, for seven speaking voices, from 1967-68, and Antiphony VIII (Revolution), for percussionist and electronic tape, from 1982-3. Both are intricate and powerful works, both take their inspiration from "non-musical" materials, and both require virtuosity of a most uncommon order. However, beyond that, the two works could not be more different.
Maledetto is a wild choral piece, a great complex cry, a work that, while reveling in a surface texture of innuendo, word play, and pseudo- and real- history, spoken/shouted/sung by 7 amazing speakers, contains within itself a deep and profound celebration of the body, the physical, the sexual. It is one of the earliest of Gaburo's works where his concern for holistic thinking and art-making comes to the fore. This sort of thinking was in the air, of course many works were written at this time that were multi-layered in their meaning and intent, but Maledetto seems unique. It's combination of profundity and what might be called adolescent sniggering, and almost every emotional state in between, seems unprecedented. The subject of the piece is the word screw, in all its connotations, from the sexual to the mechanical, from the mildly obscene to the boisterous, with diversions along the way into topics such as perfume manufacture, printing, classical design, and structural linguistics, all of which connect with the small ridged, groovy object of attention.
Speaking voices also figure in Antiphony VIII, but here they are the voices of people giving their heartfelt reactions to the notion that nuclear war has made their lives expendable. This work was created at least 15 years after Maledetto, and the boisterous energy of the Sexual Revolution, one of the earliest counter-cultural movements of the mid-1960s, has given place to the grim organizational determination of the various Anti-Nuclear movements of the 1980s. Gaburo's attitude has also changed. If Maledetto is a celebration, Antiphony VIII is a wake, and a wake-up call. Not content merely to protest, or to document people's reactions, the percussion, electronics, concrete sounds, and voices in this piece each embody within them Gaburo's analysis of the most common attitudes people have to the problem of governments treating them as expendable - helplessness, indifference, anger, uncertainty, and presents them all to us as a summary, and a questioning of our own attitudes to the problem. Gaburo the deep analyst of phenomena is still here, but now his analytical mind is dissecting not just a problem, but the wide variety of people's responses to that problem both as a structural resource, and as a means perhaps of intuiting the way forward. - Warren Burt (from the liner notes)
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