Olivia Block – 132 Ranks

olivia blockOlivia Block’s new 49-plus-minute live concert and sound installation is breathtaking in its scope. 132 Ranks, composed for pipe organ between 2016 and 2017 is a slow moving, gorgeous beast of a recording.

The Chicago-based experimental music/sound composer and media artist wrote the work for the giant Skinner organ in her hometown’s Rockefeller Memorial Chapel. Its debut was more participatory sound art than it was conventional concert.

Block placed half a dozen speakers around the chapel to play noise, tones and pre-recorded organ pieces. Combined with her live performance, the acoustics of the magnificent building were drawn out in luxurious detail.

It’s described this way in the album’s notes: “White noise and low bass tones pulsed and sliced through the air, while sine tones and organ clusters created complex beating patterns and inner-ear sound phenomena.”

Audience members were then invited to walk around the chapel as they pleased. For them, it meant hearing the music bounce around the various nooks and crannies of the grand space. Some climbed up into the balconies. Others lay down on the floor.

As they moved, the respectfully quiet noises they made became part of the production.

It won’t surprise you to hear that this live recording doesn’t capture all of it. That would be an unrealistic expectation. Instead, this recording focuses our attention on Block’s great big, beautiful performance. It’s an exceptional release.

Kevin Press

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