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“Go to a river,” begins the text score for Annea Lockwood’s “Water Meditations,” from 1973. One version of the piece continues: “Stay there all day. Let the sounds change you and follow these changes.”
It’s not the typical instruction one expects from a musical score, but it is characteristic of Ms. Lockwood, who for decades has studied how sound can have visceral and profound effects on attentive, listening bodies.
A composer of audacious experimental works on the border of musical performance and conceptual art — including the exploratory prepared-piano piece “Ear-Walking Woman,” the impassioned vocal lament “I Give You Back” and “Piano Burning,” for which she is most recognized — Ms. Lockwood turned 80 in July, and she is being celebrated on Thursday with a Composer Portrait concert at the Miller Theater at Columbia University. Featuring a premiere by the piano-percussion quartet Yarn/Wire, the event is a tribute to Ms. Lockwood’s devotion to collaboration and her reverence for sound’s potential to move people, particularly in a time of environmental crisis.
— Kerry O’Brien, The New York Times
November 8, 2019
I wasn’t prepared, when I walked in to the installation of Annea Lockwood’s A Sound Map of the Hudson River (1982) at LCMF, for how familiar it would be. After all, this is a giant field recording of the most ambient, neutral of all sounds, running water; as ordinary and as ignorable as traffic noise. Yet as I stepped into the vast concrete cavern that is Ambika P3, I had a visceral hit of familiarity, of knowing, of orientation. This was, I realised, a real object, with a weight and form and identity of its own.
— Tim Rutherford-Johnson, The Rambler
December 18, 2018
Ms. Lockwood’s music was heard on both evenings. Her 1998 piece “Immersion” was performed on Wednesday by the percussion duo of Frank Cassara and Dominic Donato. The work’s most compelling stretches were achieved by Ms. Lockwood’s use of a cylindrical container placed atop a marimba. One musician drew a mallet around the cylinder’s circumference, while the other gently thrummed the edges of the bars underneath, producing slight, dreamy dissonances.
On Thursday, Ms. Lockwood’s recent piece “Becoming Air” was played by Mr. Wooley, using his extended technique on trumpet to create, as in “Immersion,” a mood of elegant energy. While using circular breathing to produce long tones on his instrument, he also manipulated a small microphone inside the bell, as well as an effect pedal at his feet. As the microphone moved farther inside the trumpet, the amplified overtones shifted incrementally, producing some dramatic howls of distortion. Ms. Lockwood also made full use of Mr. Wooley’s quieter strategies, like the mouthpiece-free blowings he sometimes uses, blasts of frenzy that remain soft. (The sound is suggestive of a sprinkler system that’s gained consciousness.)
— Seth Colter Walls, The New York Times
November 2, 2018
The record’s raison d’être, of capturing the life of the inaudible is an immediately fascinating and paradoxical proposition. If the sounds are outside of the frequency range for human beings how can they be used as the basis for a record? Conversely, if through scientific and studio techniques the inaudible is rendered audible, have they not obliterated the thing which they claim to be revealing? Certainly the unworldly and thoroughly unfamiliar sounds we hear on this record testify to their origin beyond the mundane. For every squeak, whoosh or throb on Lockwood’s 30 minutes Wild Energy one wonders what the source was. A sudden rush of pure bass is overtaken by bubbling metallic sounds as if an alien species were trying to communicate though the speakers. What could the ultrasound of a Scots pine tree tell about the worlds that lie beneath the bark? Sometimes the sound seems to drop out entirely only to re-emerge from either the upper or lower range. There is a feeling of movement in the composition as if Lockwood was attempting to imbue something of the distance travelled, size or extent of time associated with some of her sources.
— Duncan Simpson, Musique Machine
June 9, 2018
While Christina Kubisch and Annea Lockwood have been significant points on each other’s radars since their first meeting in the mid-1970s, it’s only now, on this double CD release, that the two have collaborated. They do this via a sharing of sound files that effectively points towards a process of co-composition allowing each musician to enter and manipulate the other’s soundworlds. As the album title suggests, the pair were brought together by a shared interest in making audible sounds, that are, by reasons of their frequency and materiality, inaccessible to the unaided human ear. The results are exhilarating, both compositionally and in the breadth of new approaches to sound sourcing.
Each composer takes one CD apiece, each of them containing two works. Lockwood turns up the volume on the inaudible on Wild Energy, which she originally made with Bob Bielecki for a compositional installation in 2014 set in the grounds of the Caramoor Center in upstate New York. It begins with a low, sensual pulsing before traveling far into mysterious reaches. Using sounds that begin with sped-up solar oscillations and end with the ultrasonics emitted by a Scotts pine tree, Lockwood telescopes the natural world into a vertiginous journey from the macro level of the cosmos to tectonic squeaks of the Earth’s crust to the micro level of a tree’s interior: we hear these sounds because she raises some frequencies, lowers others, all the while situating us — the listeners — in a holistic and integrated sounding universe. Streaming, Swirling, Converging, Lockwood’s second composition on Secret Life, employs similar translations of energetic data into the realm of the audible. This time, the human content is more explicit: Lockwood adds sounds from Kubisch — electromagnetic waves in a subway station, the countryside during a storm, a tunnel — and uses them in a way that asks us to think of the space that they operate in, the surfaces that they ricochet from, in a way that suggests that even by the act of playing the CD, we are extending this compositional volume.
Nine Magnetic Places and Below Behind Above, Kubisch’s two works on the second CD, are created from sound sources including electromagnetic waves, transmitter systems and seismic data, in addition to the geological and cosmological sounds donated from Lockwood. Overtly much more dynamic in their sound textures than Lockwood’s pair of works — these compositions are enmeshed in rumbles, crackles, tickings: Kubisch carefully organizes the frequencies of these sounds to suggest not only sonic but spatial volume. The hearing presence of the listener completes these compositions — funstioning, perhaps, like the object that the compositional radar detects.
— Louise Gray, The Wire
Issue #412, June 2018
These two ladies, grande dame each of them in the world of field recordings and sound installation first met in 1975 when Kubisch interviewed Lockwood for an Italian magazine, and since then off and on meet, but this is the first time they actually work together. They both like underwater sounds and Annea is interested in the force of nature influencing us, and Christina does the same with electromagnetic fields in our daily lives. They exchanged sound material together and worked on each other’s sounds. However if I am not mistaken on each CD there is a solo piece. Annea Lockwood makes the inaudible audible, with ultra and infra sound frequencies, and it begins with “solar oscillations recorded by the SOHO spacecraft, 40 days of solar oscillations sped up 42,000 times, and ends with ultrasound recorded from the interior of a Scots pine tree”, and is a truly fascinating aural journey in space; or at least that’s how I perceived it, like a free floating spaceship in a vast, endless, black surrounding, with sometimes intercepting transmissions from other life forms. In her piece with Kubisch there is a fine combination of six sources per composer and has a more down to earth feel to it. Sounds from electro magnetic waves, VLF whistlers and earthquakes make up from very fine ambient piece of music, without betraying it’s musique concrete roots.
Kubisch keeps her solo piece shorter than the collaborative piece and is a thirteen-minute excursion in the buzzing whirring of modern day city life. It is a very solid piece of ambient sounds, not loud or alienating, but just solid. It is perhaps a bit of standard solid piece; nothing special or out of the ordinary. But then her longer collaborative piece, ‘Below Behind Above’, is on the other that something special. It works very much along similar lines as the Lockwood side of the collaboration. Here too things remain on a very ambient side of things, with slowly fading sounds somewhere in the mid-range, sine-wave like and very gentle, along with a more ‘stand alone’ sounds, rumbles, pitches and the occasional earthquake. This is a beautiful and intense piece of absolute beauty. (FdW)
— VITAL WEEKLY
Issue 1122, 2018
— Massimo Ricci, Touching Extremes
March 12, 2018
The veteran composer Annea Lockwood is developing a new trumpet piece for Mr. Wooley – and so complementary aspects of her visionary, wide-ranging career were spotlighted on both “For/With” programs. [Issue Project Room, 9/29/17 & 9/30/17]
Her 1995 work for solo voice, “I Give You Back,” was performed by the soprano Kristin Norderval at Saturday’s concert. In setting a text by the poet Joy Harjo, Ms. Lockwood fashioned dramatic motifs that mirrored Ms. Harjo’s balance of forceful emotional states (including a declaration of independence from fear that stops short of ignoring danger). Ms. Norderval’s performance left a strong impression: Her savage swoops between octaves are as remarkable as her feather-soft exhalations.
On Friday night, solo musicians responsible for discrete pieces gathered to improvise together… Ms. Lockwood’s graphic score “Bayou-Borne, for Pauline” – dedicated to the composer Pauline Oliveros, a “Deep Listening” pioneer who died last year – closed the show by aggregating the interpretive talents of Mr. Wooley, the soprano Megan Schubert, the violist Jessica Pavone and other composer-performers on the program.
At first, this group improvisation felt serene, as instrumentalists circled the crowd and paced the margins of the venue. Yet when the players converged at the front of the hall, the ensemble sound gradually took on the force of a waterway gathering strength.
These two richly compelling concerts weren’t in need of a culminating mission statement. But the vision embedded in Ms. Lockwood’s topographical score – with tributaries finding their way to one another – seemed an apt metaphor for Mr. Wooley’s desire to pool his fascinations and help create a new repertoire based on them.
— Seth Colter Walls, The New York Times
October 1, 2017
“While knowing the sources of the sounds from which Wild Energy has been created adds layers of depth and meaning, what is so extraordinary about this piece is that, whether you know the sources or not, the work is viscerally affecting while being completely invisible. In this way the piece is as close to a pure acousmatic experience as possible, where ‘The attention shifts away from the physical object that causes the auditory perception back towards the content of the perception.'”
— Andy Horwitz, culturebot.org
August 13, 2014
“Annea Lockwood’s installation, Wild Energy …made solar oscillations — which had been recorded by satellites and sped up 42,000 times to make them audible to humans — the opening of a piece that wove bits of infrasound sped up, and ultrasound slowed down, into a 46-minute tapestry…”
— Phillip Lutz, The New York Times
July 18, 2014
“Annea Lockwood’s Sound Map of the Housatonic River is one of many such high definition nature recordings the New Zealand born sound collector has released. From the title, I expected a field recording album with a lot of faintly lapping water and bugs chirping. What I did not expect is that it would be absolutely beautiful, listenable and mesmerizing, likely the single greatest field recording album I’ve heard…”
— Josh Landry, Musique Machine
“Apart from its crisp mastering, the album’s strength is its sense of propulsion. The recording unfolds in settings and chapters, the aquatic equivalent of a Bond film. This album doesn’t just sound like a river; it sounds like a river going somewhere, which of course it is. Along the way the protagonist — the Housatonic — experiences roaring adventures and peaceful interludes, rising tensions and hidden turns. Guest stars appear without warning: a train, a frog, a group of tourists. But nothing stops this river from its single-minded quest to reach the sea. When at last the moment arrives, the sound map seems more like a story; the grand finale is the happy ending for which every molecule yearns.”
— Richard Allen, acloserlisten.com
Although the bubble and gurgle of water dominates Lockwood’s recordings on her Sound Map of the Housatonic River it is not the only sound that she presents. We hear birdlife from trees overhead, a locomotive passing by, vehicles crossing a bridge, crickets, frogs, and hydrophonic recordings of water bugs. The inclusion of human industrial sounds in the recordings is a nice touch, reminding the listener that the health of the Housatonic River is vital to the existence of communities along its course.
Annea Lockwood has made Nature her collaborator; her sound maps of great rivers and tape works employing everything from volcanoes to tree frogs leave the strong impression that the New Zealand-bred composer molds her sense of structure and development to the demands of the sounds rather than trying to cram them into formulaic conceits. Her emphasis on natural sounds, however, has resulted in a body of work in which the human condition is only occasionally, if not rarely a primary theme. She goes strongly against type in two of the three compositions included on In Our Name; and in the case of the title piece, she delivers one of the more damning indictments against human rights abuses at Guantánamo Bay.
Commissioned by baritone Thomas Buckner, “In Our Name” (2009-10) blends voice, cello and taped sounds with the unobtrusive elegance that usually results in a Lockwood piece that feels more like a derive than a guided tour. However, the potential for the type of bucolic soundscapes Lockwood most notably achieves with water sounds — well represented by the album’s earliest work, “Jitterbug” (2007) — is atomized by the texts, gut-wrenching poems written by three detainees apparently snared by the post-9.11 dragnet without cause. Lockwood gives Buckner latitude in terms of pitch and dynamics, and he wraps his resonant voice around the texts with seemingly protective care; he also sings with a small speaker in his mouth, which emits short bursts of short-wave static that dramatically distort key words like “conscience.” Girded by the low tones of cellist Theodore Mook and taped material that prominently features a didjeridu drone played by Stuart Demps—ter, Buckner inhabits these poems, creating a gripping listening experience.
“Thirst” (2008) is a bittersweet piece, largely based on the juxtaposition of sounds recorded in Grand Central Station with Lebanese sculptor Simone Fattal’s memories of her family home’s courtyard. A linkage of sorts to “In Our Name” is made through the inclusion of PA announcements about untended baggage. Lockwood fleshes out the soundscape with the sounds of large medieval manuscript pages being turned in the Pierpont Morgan Library, and processed samples of gongs, piano and sound sculptures. Soprano Kristin Norderval initially makes fleeting appearances in the mix, adding a graceful, slightly spectral layer; she steps to the foreground towards the end of the twenty-minute piece, singing a heartrending Balkan melody. “There was magic there,” Fattal says of the courtyard in her concluding comments; much the same can be said of “Thirst.”
Ordinarily, “Jitterbug” would likely dominate the discussion of a Lockwood album. Compared to its album-mates, it is a lush work, teeming with underwater sounds, insect sounds, and a host of colors provided by David Behrman, John King and William Winant. Lockwood’s taped materials blend easily with their small arsenal of instruments including timpani, electric guitar and rainstick, creating a peaceable audio ecology. Even though it is arguably more representative of Lockwood’s oeuvre, generally, “Jitterbug” nevertheless functions more like a divertimento on this thoroughly engaging album.
— Bill Shoemaker, Point of Departure
Perhaps the time has come for highlighting the work of Annea Lockwood the composer a little more than it’s usually done. Typically remembered for burnt pianos and recordings of rivers — both types of act still needing to be considered as fundamental components of her resume — Lockwood is here represented by three scores that touch on diverse aspects of sonic apposition and which include, in the case of the title track, the despair of human beings unjustly deprived of their freedom as a reminder of the unpredictability of people’s destiny in relation to the cruelty of “righteousness”.
The gorgeously polymorphic “Jitterbug” — conceived for a piece by the Merce Cunningham Dance Company — was originally meant to be executed via six-channel tape and live performers. In this version, terrific parallelisms exist between pre-collected examples of subaqueous forms of life (insects and fish), actual instruments played by John King, David Behrman and William Winant, and resounding drones of piano tones and bowed gongs previously taped by Gustavo Aguilar, Joseph Kubera, Maggi Payne, Marilyn Ries, and Winant. Given that the “live score” consists of six images of peculiarly patterned rocks from the Montana Rocky Mountains, the idea of a series of complex natural phenomena enriched by extraneous, and yet perfectly complementary factors is soon established. Spiritually invigorating and aurally enriching matter, a considerable distance from the worthless vacancies of today’s post-Cage-ism.
“In Our Name” is a homage to the sufferance of many unfortunates who were detained and tortured, as suspect terrorists, by the US military forces in Cuba’s Guantánamo Bay. Thomas Buckner’s rendition of verses by Jumah al-Dossari, Emad Abdullah Hassan and Osama Abu Kabir (respectively, from Bahrain, Yemen and Jordan) is earnestly expressive and, in the first poem, augmented by a somewhat shocking twist: a tiny mouth speaker emitting bursts of shortwaves to dramatically stress selected words, symbolizing the desperate aliveness of the prisoners in graphic fashion. Cellist Theodore Mook’s masterfully placed pitches amidst the lyrics represent a critical component in this distressing composition.
The record ends on a more serene note with “Thirst”, in which the voice of Lebanese sculptor Simone Fattal recollects episodes from her past with a mixture of delighted emotion and peaceful melancholy. Those remembrances are interspersed with flashes of a soundscape including New York’s Grand Central Station during the rush hour and sparsely delivered strokes of bewitching resonance (piano, attenuated gong and a sound sculpture by the Baschet Brothers recorded by Bruce Odland). Again, Lockwood’s estimable ear lies at the basis of an intriguing juxtaposition of times and places that non-superficial audiences are going to perceive as a rewarding cohesion.
— Massimo Ricci, Touching Extremes
July 18, 2012
Why Annea Lockwood is not in the avant-garde’s vanguard is a vexation in and of itself. In their household at least, her name should be in lights. Born in New Zealand, Lockwood earned her bona fides on the continent, including the all-important stint at Darmstadt (under Gottfried Michael Koenig, no less). And like the best in the ’60s, she, too, flew for Fluxus. In fact, her Piano Transplants — anti-compositions for burning, drowning and burying concert grands — remain some of the most subversive pranks of the period. Now, of course, she’s got an emeritus chair at Vassar. And while Lockwood’s gotten the occasional Holland-Kozinn-Holland shout-out from the OGL, both composer and catalog have long-suffered a proper retrospective. (For a good start, check out Julian Cowley’s primer in this month’s The Wire.)
With everyone going green nowadays, I thought for sure Lockwood’s exquisite river sound maps (of the Hudson, Danube, and a la Ives, the Housatonic at Stockbridge) would fall on sympathetic, ecological ears. Thus far anyways, they really haven’t. I’ll wag short of any outright misogyny, if only because recent reissues of Pauline Oliveros, Suzanne Ciani and Daphne Oram have proved that most of us aren’t threatened by women in our studios. No, I suspect the real Söze has been a lack of good, representative recordings. True, Annea Lockwood is a difficult suspect to capture on wax. Like Mauricio Kagel’s theatre, Morton Feldman’s nuance or the whole lot of the Wandelweisers, Lockwood’s pomo musique totale works best live and in-person. Thankfully, this disc from New World gets you as close as possible without actually sitting in the room.
Apropos of Alvin, get your alpha waves — and your Beats by Dre — ready for Jitterbug. Commissioned in 2007 by the Merce Cunningham Dance Company, this restless, beguiling work was originally scored for six-channel tape, two live performers and a third just to ride the faders. Here, the piece gets an enlivened read by fellow composers John King (electric guitar, viola), William Winant (tam-tam, timpani, Jew’s harp) and Sonic Arts Union boss David Behrman (on everything from rainstick to psalter to DSP). Working from Lockwood’s graphic score, itself modelled after Gwen Deely’s photographs of the Montana Rocky Mountains, it’s often hard to distinguish between the pure acoustic and the decidedly electro. A hallmark of the Lockwood style, it’s further testament to this particular work’s substantive claim: Man can never truly out-move Mother Nature, no matter how well he dances.
Under duress, though, Lockwood’s never been afraid to get overtly political. To wit, In Our Name is a triptych setting of Bahraini, Yemenite and Jordanian detainees-cum-poets at Guantánamo Bay. Hand-picked from habeas lawyer Marc Falkoff’s translated corpus of 22 lyrics (The Pentagon could only clear so many for publication, you know), the five minutes of movement one are idiomatically bleak. Jumah al-Dossari, a father accused only of looking suspicious in Tora Bora, intended his “Death Poem” as a true suicide note. Luckily, Falkoff, Esq. found him before it was too late. Whereas Lockwood allows baritone Thomas Buckner, the work’s commissioner, to choose his own pitches, rhythms and even dynamics, she does ask him to insert a pillow mic into his mouth. Designed by Matthias Kaul to distort certain words and phrases (e.g. “conscience,” “fair-minded,” “protectors of peace”), well, you can hear where this is going. Underscored by Theodore Mook’s microtuned cello and taped short-wave radios, the girding here is worthy of Phill Niblock and Stockhausen’s finest. After detention of more than half a decade, al-Dossari was released in 2007.
Proposed by Brooklyn’s Issue Project Room, and funded by the Mary Flagler Cary Charitable Trust, Thirst is a quirky, but endearing curio of synthesis. In Lockwood’s program notes, she states that it “counterpoints tension and serenity, swinging between Grand Central Station at rush hour and Lebanese sculptor Simon Fattal’s memories of her family’s courtyard in Damascus.” My favorite part, however, was simply listening to Fattal recount their visit to a Luigi Nono festival in Salzburg. Talk about a communal vacation! The sculptor’s speech does have a playful musicality all its own, and Lockwood’s peculiar inclusion of the Balkan love song “Jutros Mi Je Ruza Procvetala” could have proven downright disastrous for a less adept composer. At 20:18, Thirst probably runs a bit longer than it should, but at this point in her life, who am I to ask for less Annea Lockwood in the world?
— Logan K. Young, Dusted Magazine
During the late 1960s, while she was living in London, sound artist Annea Lockwood initiated her River Archive, with the declared intention of recording all the world’s springs, streams and rivers. It was a project that might have been hatched in a story by Jorge Luis Borges, a patently unrealizable goal brought into tantalising existence through mere mention of it. Lockwood now readily acknowledges the deliberate absurdity of its ambition yet river recordings have occasionally surfaced in her subsequent work, starting with her early 1970s installation at New York’s Kitchen, Play The Ganges Backwards One More Time, Sam. Her absorbing 1989 release A Sound Map of the Hudson River (LOVELY MUSIC) followed the length of that watercourse from a trill in the high Adirondacks to a crescendo at Staten Island.
Lockwood loves rivers for the layered complexity of their sound, their intricate internal cross-rhythms and rich pitch patterns. In addition there’s the fine irony that each recording is both generic and irreducibly unique, that rivers trickle or roar perennially and also in each moment. Rivers are fundamentally repetitive yet alive with continuously changing spectral detail. Approaching such phenomena, the essence of Lockwood’s compositional act has been discovery through attentive listening rather than radical intervention.
A Sound Map of the Danube featured initially as a surround sound installation at the Donau festival in Austria in 2005. Between the end of 2001 and the summer of 2004 Lockwood intensively collected field recordings, made not only from the bank but also by situating microphones below the water’s surface. Her epic aural tracing of the Danube from the Black Forest to the Black Sea involves documentation from 59 sites interleaved with 13 interviews with individuals whose lives have been shaped by the river. Their words in various languages, translated into English for an accompanying printed text, register the range of its significance as a flowing host for manufacturers, sailors, engineers, fishermen and poets. Birdsong, sheep bleating, the hum of aquatic insects, the rumble of engines, church bells ringing, swimmers splashing and those human accents of varied reminiscence thicken the texture of this auditory journey, opening up vertical cross-sections of natural and cultural reference.
Of course, the sounds of water itself are beguiling; they resonate psychologically with our own interior flows, our awareness of time and our capacity to reflect. There’s fascination in the elemental; an aesthetic pleasure that’s also a way of understanding. In my listening, there’s a confluence between this deeply resonant 167-minute work and the “earish” rivers of James Joyce that feed into Cage’s Roaratorio along with Ives’s Housatonic, Thoreau’s Merrimack and countless other real and imagined waterways. With clarity and grace Lockwood’s Danube comprehends interdependence, those complex relationships that embed the routine procedures of daily human life within a continuum that extends from forces operating in geological time to an insect’s ephemerality.
— Julian Cowley, Musicworks
Issue 101 summer 2008
In 2010, Annea Lockwood will see her 40th year as a river-recording expert. In 1989 she released “A Sound Map of the Hudson river” on this very label and now, after five trips to Europe over the 2001-2004 temporal span, a triple CD documenting the forms of life inside and across the Danube, the second longest European river. The set comes with a real map tracing the course of the Danube from the German Black Forest to the Black Sea where it ends; here we can also read the English translations of the interviews realized by the author for the project, the interviewees including characters as different as teachers, fishermen, police officers, pension owners and artists. Lockwood recorded all the available voices – waters, animals and humans whose daily activity revolves around the big flux – assembling them with typical mastery and an evident inner ear, which is what distinguishes a serious environmental artist from those who just flick a switch, roll the tape and wait while picking their nose. This particular sensitiveness determines that every element possesses the same weight in the composition, although the almost perennial gurgling flow constitutes an ever-present reminder of who the lead actor is. As it often happens, the deepest levels of introspection are reached through simple means: the composer chose to put under focus well determinate sonic features, by which the listener is accompanied in regular cycles. Especially noteworthy is the musical quality of the water wash – gulping plops, dripping melodies, dynamic modifications, violent bursts at times. This is something that the composer perfectly describes in her notes: “…the river has agency; it composes itself, shaping its sounds by the way it sculpts its banks”. Of the three records, the most fascinating is probably the first, which comprises the tolling of bell towers whose majesty seems to rise directly from the undercurrents. Highlights of an important release, worthy of every single minute of the attention that you’ll give it.
— Massimo Ricci, Touching Extremes
Baritone Thomas Buckner has been making innovative music for over thirty years, working with players as diverse as Roscoe Mitchell and Jerome Bourdellon and exploring the no man’s land between improvisation and composition. New Music for Baritone and Chamber Orchestra opens with “Luminescence”, a cycle of songs by the continually underrated Annea Lockwood, setting poetry by Etel Adnan. There is nothing overtly virtuosic in the writing, as Lockwood always avoids such showiness; rather, melodies are continually juxtaposed with elemental sounds, the poems’ seascapes are conjured up by gently swooping clarinets, splashes of trumpet, ghostly waves of strings. Buckner personifies the endlessly mutating surf at one moment and the wise comforter in the face of death at the next, speaking, singing and whispering his way through these evocative settings.
— Marc Medwin, Signal to Noise: the quarterly journal of improvised, experimental & unusual music
Issue #50, summer 2008
“Thousand Year Dreaming” — composed by Annea Lockwood in 1990 and originally issued on What Next? — derives from an improvisation called “Nautilus”, conceived the year before by Lockwood with Art Baron and Scott Robinson. The definitive line-up for this version also comprises Libby Van Cleve, Jon Gibson, J.D. Parran, Michael Pugliese, John Snyder, Charles Wood and Peter Zummo. It’s a very sensual tapestry, whose ritual aspect is enhanced by the fairly unusual counterpoints happening between different instrumental families. The most evident feature resides in the exploration of ample resonant spaces, greatly highlighted by the timbres of didjeridoos and conch shell trumpets which, together with a variety of exotic percussion, alter the reality of an otherwise tranquil landscape by engaging sweet-sounding contrasts with clarinets, English horn and oboe, the trombones acting sparingly as elements standing halfway through apparently distant worlds. The composer describes the idea for this piece as “the gradual awakening and release of sonic energy”; indeed the call-and-response mechanism at the basis of this music is a nice representation of that process which, except for slightly more agitated drum patterns appearing towards the end, remains well visible throughout, as listeners can follow the development of a primal impulse into a fully fledged creature step by step. The reissue is completed by “Floating world”, a 1999 collage of splendid field recordings commissioned by the author to all her friends working in that area, who were asked to contribute sounds from locations “of personal spiritual significance to them”. The prominently aquatic character of the track, enriched by repeated cameos from the local fauna, made me recollect about Alvin Curran’s “Maritime Rites”. But even in other circumstances, such as Lockwood’s seaming of Steve Peters’ oak tree branches-cum-wind and Ruth Anderson’s sonogram of her own jugular plus a lake in Montana, we’re totally in rapture with the exquisite limpidness of these unprocessed sources, sealed by a conclusive, soul-stirring moan – an aeroplane, a power station, I don’t want to know – which leaves us ever doubtful, yet serenely detached at one and the same time.
— Massimo Ricci, Touching Extremes
“For me, the didjeridu is the sound of the earth’s core pulsing serenely, and expression of life force.” Lines like that and track titles like “the Chi stirs” might tempt the cynical old birds amongst you to reach for the bourbon and packet of smokes, but the breathtaking beauty of what Annea Lockwood does with the venerable instruments, along with conch shells, trombones, oboe, English horn, clarinets and percussion will have you putting them back on the shelf again and getting down in a Lotus position. Evolving organically from a partially improvised piece entitled Nautilus which the composer realised in 1989 with Art Baron and N. Scott Robinson, Thousand Year Dreaming is a 43-minute exploration of the virtuosity of the top-notch performers involved. In addition to Lockwood, Baron and Robinson, there’s Libby Van Cleve (oboe and English horn, absolutely exquisite), Jon Gibson (didjeridu here), J.D. Parran (clarinets), Peter Zummo (trombone and didjeridu) and percussionists Michael Pugliese and Charles Wood. Quite how the piece was notated (though it is apparently fully scored apart from two improvised sections), or how Lockwood transmitted her ideas to the musicians isn’t made clear in the notes, but it hardly matters: the timing is extraordinary, the sense of space masterly. The acoustic beats of the conch shells’ microtonal inflections might recall Alvin Lucier, but the work’s openness to melody – check out those trombones soaring through the harmonic series on “floating in mid-air”! – takes it out of the domain of Lucier’s poetic experimentalism and situates it further to the East. Originally released on What Next back in 1993, and long out of print, its return to circulation is cause for celebration indeed. So maybe I’ll reach for that bottle after all. Filling up the CD is floating world, a three-part assemblage of field recordings from all over the world, from the wilds of Cape Kidnappers in New Zealand to the New York Public Library Reading Room, made by Maggi Payne, David Dunn, Larry Austin, Chris Mann, Sorrel Hays, Steve Peters, Ruth Anderson, John Cousins, Philip Dadson, Warren Burt and Brenda Hutchinson and on permanent loan to Lockwood, who has edited them together with consummate skill and terrific attention to detail.
— Dan Warburton, Paris Transatlantic Magazine
While many of her colleagues have started composing tracks and albums, Annea Lockwood still thinks in works and concepts. Even though her CD-output is sizeable, most of it has remained a transfer from the physical world to an abstract medium. This has not been without merit, as Lockwood eagerly points out herself in reference to “floating world”. ‘Each of these recordings captures a truly transitory series of moments (…) fixing them digitally, but temporarily. When played they become transitory once more (…) a paradox I like very much.” On the disc at hand, two of her pieces face each other with a distance of almost ten years. What else do they tell us about her as a composer?
“Thousand Year Dreaming” dates back to 1990 and consists of five closely connected movements for a large group of performers within an extremely specific timbral range. More than anything, it is a work about resonance and sonorities rooted in improvisation: After a live performance with percussionist N. Scott Robinson and Art Baron, a lively discussion ensued about the creative success of their concert and the possibility of combining several didjeridus with the sounds of trumpets, trombones, oboes, clarinets, a frame drum and several other percussive instruments.
This simple idea is the basis for “Thousand Year Dreaming”, which furthermore draws inspiration from cave paintings, as well as Asian traditions and their focus on the tone as a self-sustained entity and as a cosmos which needs to be observed on its own. The resulting score uses poignant semitone motives, clustered harmonies and drones as its guiding lights, while sudden moments of constant grooves, vulnerable interactions between smaller groups within the ensemble and more concrete themes provide hooks and anchors for the meditatively engaged ear. Even though the piece was written with all the performers in mind, the didjeridu (whose sound Lockwood describes as “the earth’s core pulsing serenely”) remains the key, thanks to its pervasive presence and eclectic functionalities such as providing a space for the other instruments, separating different scenes and sending rhythmic impulses. The “performance aspect” which Annea Lockwood fostered in many of her older works, is reduced to a single moment, when the players mingle with the crowd, sonically massaging their shoulders or feet. It is not the only passage which cements this as a serious and stimulatingly diverse work in earth shades.
The difference with “floating world” (1999) is remarkable. A piece based on field recordings of other artists, it is equally intense, yet obviously placed in a very different tradition. The sounds of a beach, oak tree branches, wind, the New York Public Library and a sonogram of Ruth Anderson’s jugular (among others) are combined for new aural images. Lockwood has edited the source material and added a sound here and there, but overall, she is less interested in what she can do to these recordings, but what associations they carry in their pure, unprocessed state. Her perceptive power in this regard is stunning; as diverse as her material may be, these collages do not sound mixed-up at all, but rather smooth, inviting and fluent in a very soothing way. Of course, she profits from the incredible clarity and depth of her collaborators’ contributions, but the credit for pasting them together into this coherent composition is all hers. Juxtaposed in this fashion, these two pieces portray Annea Loockwood as an artist not simply obsessed with sound, but its every-day implications. The spirituality of “Thousand Year Dreaming” and the personal depictions of “floating world” are just as much an invitation to different layers, as well as an immediate enrichment of our physical lives. The duality of fixed and evaporate elements remains true here as well and makes for a great collection, which works separated into individual tracks and in the context of an entire album.
— Tobias Fischer, www.tokafi.com
August 22, 2007
First, take your grand piano, collect a variiety of items including screws, balls and coins; insert carefully into its inner workings. Play, listen. Ever since John Cage began preparing pianos — thereby, as Lois Svard says in her introduction to this fascinating DVD, expanding the instrument’s usual sound palette — the potential for a kind of meta-usage has been huge for all artistic endeavors. In conventional terminologies, the New Zealand-born composer Annea Lockwood and pianist Svard might both be thought of as musicians, although, as Ear-Walking Woman, a work for prepared piano, makes clear, the implications of their work have resonances in wider definitions of performance.
Ear-Walking Woman was commissioned by Svard from Lockwood in 1995. Both musicians share a history spent in the avant garde. Lockwood travelled to her current home in the US via studies in London and Darmstadt in the 60s; Svard is an American experimentalist whose long list of associates includes Robert Ashley, Alvin Lucier and Elodie Lauten. At under 20 minutes, Ear-Walking Woman itself is not a long work but it’s one full of the subtleties of timbre, tone and rhythm and a piece whose rationale is an acute attention to detail. (Not for nothing does the title describe one who, in Lockwood’s phrase, “walks with her ears”, that is, attending to all the sonic minutiae as she moves through the world.) It was premiered the following year and recorded in 2001. This DVD features that audio track as well as a visual recording, illustrated conversations between the artists and, most tantalisingly of all, an entire practical section on how to prepare your piano.
These two women, both of mild appearance, are impassioned musicians. They speak about movement, initiating sounds, as well as more drastic methods. Someone flicking through the DVD could chance upon some surreal moments. “You have quite a history of unusual piano pieces,” asks Svard of Lockwood in an interview. “What prompted you to burn a piano?”
This is a reference to Piano Transplants from 1968, in which Lockwood incinerated a miked-up upright in London, but the composer could also have asked for Piano Garden (two uprights and one grand half buried in an Essex garden – what must commuters, passing the pianos on their morning trains to London, have thought?) or Drowned Piano (concert grand anchored on seashore just below the tide line) to be taken into consideration. The unifying interest in all these works was partly ritualistic, partly an interest in the gradual process of the disappearance of sound. (In fact, that process had begun long before Lockwood came on the scene: they were all defunct pianos, past repair.) In the event, Drowned Piano was never commissioned, but Lockwood got a surprise when she saw the opening sequence to Jane Campion’s film, The Piano: there, bobbing up and down, was the image she’d visualised all those years before.
— Louise Gray, The Wire: Adventures in Modern Music
Issue 266, April 2006
Annea Lockwood (NZ/UK), renowned for her “piano transplants,” was also a special guest of the Convergence providing a very public face for the festival by installing a baby grand on Bathers Beach in Fremantle. The piano in fact went missing, only to be found a few days later at a local backpackers where they were trying to repair it! Lockwood also provided the highlight of the festival, recreating her Burning Piano performance. Despite the chattering crowd gathered in a paddock ready for a bonfire it was a beautiful meditative event, as the tongues of flame burning rainbow colours penetrated the instrument, skittering across the keys faster than fingers have ever managed, eating away at the backboard so that we could see through the body, until the unavoidable total collapse. A worthwhile sacrifice for art.
— Gail Priest, RealTime
Issue #70 Dec-Jan 2005 pg. 15
© Gail Priest; for permission to link or reproduce apply to firstname.lastname@example.org
Annea Lockwood: Sound in Nature and The Nature of Sound
The Log Journal
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Surreal Conjunctions: An Interview with Annea Lockwood
VAN Webmagazin für Klassische Musik Issue #66, 2017
Read the complete interview
Keyword Talk with Annea Lockwood, Edited and introduced by Marc Matter
Hear the complete interview
Annea Lockwood’s spontaneous world of natural sound, Soundproof June 19, 2015
Hear the complete interview
Interview with Annea Lockwood, Tobias Fischer, Tokafi
Read the complete interview
Five Questions to Annea Lockwood, Xenia Pestova, i care if you listen
Read the complete interview
In the Field, ed. Cathy Lane (Uniform Books, 2013)
“Annea Lockwood Beside the Hudson River”, Frank Oteri, NewMusicBox, January 2004
Read the complete article / watch the video
Interview in The Oral History of American Music, ed. Vivian Perlis (Yale University, 1997)