EAR Volume 8, Number 4, Summer 1980, Editor: Loren Means, c/o Ubu, Inc. 36A Gladys, San Francisco CA 94110 Typed by Barb. Golden, Dec 4 1994. 400w

Charles Amirkhanian Lexical Music 1750 Arch Records S-1779

This is probably the first recording devoted entirely to an American text-sound artist. Text-sound is a form of expression known under several other names, sound poetry or speech music, and its major distinguishing aspect is that it uses words, not for their meaning, but for their sonic virtues. This may be a risky practice with the literacy rate on the decline in this country, contributing to the meaninglessness of the language, but from a strictly musical point of view the results are original and stimulating.

The compositions on this record fall into two groups: those which can be realized in live performance and those which exist only in tape format. Many of the latter use tape delay systems or the over-laying of tape loops via multi-tracking. Two of the delay compositions, "Mugic" and "Muchrooms", are reminiscent of early English catches, which we now call rounds like "Row, row, row your boat." In a catch each voice will sing the same part but starting at a different time. In fact, the one piece "Mugic" carries with it much the same feeling as a catch by Henry Purcell. In the opening line of Mr. Purcell's catch there are three very prominent burps. Amirkhanian's work is "inspired by the hinde-whoo flute and vocal music of the Ba-Benzele pygmies of the Congo" and his improvised chant uses gulps, glottals, growls, and glisses which, like Purcell, put these sounds into a musical context.

Other compositions, most notably "Seatbelt Seatbelt", demonstrate the composers virtuosity with the multi-track recording studio/instrument. Amirkhanian started with 27 tape loops, a very unwieldy collection of raw materials, produced a three section work which, though it is the longest on the record, holds together with enviable clarity. The sound has a very bouncy, bright style. It contains great humor, as do many of the pieces, which is only fitting. How could a composer use materials like "chum chum quack quack bone" without some smile peeking through. This is, to me, perhaps the most contemporary element of these pieces. The music is not stifled by taking itself too seriously. It's learned how to smile and it would bring a smile to any open-minded listener.