Marina Rosenfeld: Plastic Materials

Though New York-based composer and turntablist Marina Rosenfeld has established an enviable reputation as an innovative artist and performer, she's been rather underrepresented in recording terms, so it's great to see ROOM40 help address that with the release of Plastic Materials. One of the most appealing things about this engrossing collection is that, despite being an economical forty minutes in length, it offers an encompassing sampling of her diverse musical directions, from electroacoustic settings to vocal pieces, in this case three excerpts from Teenage Lontano, her “cover version” (scored for teenaged choir) of György Ligeti's 1967 orchestral piece Lontano, which was premiered at the Whitney Museum in New York in 2008.

The material is heavy on texture—no surprise given Rosenfeld's focus on the audio detritus of crackle and static associated with vinyl (sounds which, incidentally, are drawn from hand-crafted dub plates of her own making). Prominently featured amidst the alien transmissions of “Formal Arrangement” are pops and crackle, and Rosenfeld couples vinyl surface noise with piano clusters, computer-generated treatments by Raz Mesinai, and trumpet interjections by Ari Fenton on “The Conversation.”  Instrumental settings such as “In F” and “Sweetest Sensation” are similarly immersive meditations for piano, electronic textures, and disembodied voices.

Breaking up the presentation of the three Teenage Lontano pieces (they appear as the second, sixth, and eighth tracks) makes for a more satisfying listening experience as doing so makes the contrasts between the vocal and instrumental pieces become more pronounced. In the first excerpt (“‘Cuz I Cannot Find My Way...'”), fragments of conversations, laughter, and chanting (soulful and otherwise) appear alongside electronic colourations, while strains of Ligeti's multi-tonal style emerge audibly in the two other pieces' vocal streams (“‘I Treated Myself... Like I Knew I Would...',” “‘Hey, Girls (It's Not An Issue For You...)'”). Rather unusual for electroacoustic recordings that often focus on long-form improvisations, Plastic Materials is a succinct recording (with two exceptions, none of the pieces exceeds five minutes in length), though that works in its favour by presenting various facets of her music-making in easily digestible form.

January 2010