Electroshock Records: Review:  
Gary Dibenedetto: “Twin Towers” (Electroshock Records 2010, ELCD 051)

9 tracks. Total time - 42:01.

With an evocative and emotionally sensitive title such as “Twin Towers”, you don’t really need to have it spelt out to you what the subject matter of this album is concerned with. However, the bulk of the album is a collection of nine sonic collages consisting of found sounds, treated sounds and loops. Most are more sound affects than music, for instance “Knock and the Door Shall be Opened”, is based on recordings of the noises made by the door into the gentlemen’s washroom at the State Library in Berlin. These recordings of the door banging shut are treated in different ways to produce a rhythmic piece. And so it is with all the pieces on this album - each has its own concept and you’ll need to read the inlay notes to see if you think the composer has succeeded. As for the “Twin Towers” section itself, this is based around a series of poems written and read by Meena Alexander, unfortunately the sound level of her voice is so low that even with full volume one has trouble making out her voice and her words. The following soundscape represents the towers falling. There is, of course, a strong emotional resonance to this that only the thick skinned will find unmoving.

John M. Peters ("The Borderland")

“Gary DiBenedetto is an electro-acoustic composer and kinetic sculptor from New Jersey, who specializes in interactive installations. He has an impressive international resume going all the way back to the early 1970s, and “Twin Towers” is his latest audio work. While most “Electroshock Records” artist are European (with a high concentration of Russian) artists, Gary is not, but his music is no less avant-garde. As you might expect from an electro-acoustic installation artist, the music is abstract, resembling more a sound-sculpture than any traditional musical format. I have read the intellectual explanations of the pieces on “Twin Towers” on Gary’s website (and also on the CD liner notes), but I won’t be rehashing them to any great degree in this review. The nine pieces on this CD are intended to represent different things, and only the final title track refers to the 9/11 tragedy.
               The opener (no pun intended) “Knock and the Door Shall be Opened”, is based on the sound of the men’s room door at the State Library Complex in Berlin. It doesn’t get any more obscure than that I suppose. There are some electronics, and mechanical sounds that must be the men’s room door. An interesting sound-sculpture for sure. At one point, it sounds like somebody’s having a little trouble negotiating said door. “Walden Pond” is both liquidy and creaky with random sample and hold electronics, buzzes and burbles. “A Question of Principle” (in 3 Movements) begins with some bellish tones and seemingly randomly played synthetic strings and other sporadic percussion for the First Movement. Not my cup of tea at all. It’s those artificial synth strings that really leave me cold. Perhaps if more realistic strings were employed it might have come off better, but it just sounds cheesy. Second Movement dispenses with the obnoxious string ensemble and concentrates more on a clatter of electro-acoustic effects. Not bad, pretty interesting. The Third Movement brings back the obnoxious string ensemble again, much to my chagrin. The other elements of this track are engaging enough, but I can’t get past those ersatz strings. This piece is supposed to have some political-religious implications regarding Nicaragua and El Salvador, but it is a stretch to glean that from just listening without reading the text of the artist’s vision.
               “Oh You’re So Adollorable” employs some squinky electronic sounds and rumbles with an occasional repetitive vocal sample stating the obvious (“one dollar”) in the background. The temporarily electronics morph into a surreal Star Spangled Banner melody. There is another repeated vocal sample by what sounds like a chorus of Third World children upping the ante to “three dollar”. The piece sort of reminds me of Joe Byrd’s (“Field Hippies”) music, perhaps an obscure reference that only “old heads” are likely to get.
               “Petroleum Complex” is a brief but interesting piece with perhaps the most currently relevant title, but it doesn't sound very oily to me. Its juxtaposition of high, bright tonality with random percussion elements and low ominous tones seems perfectly in balance. This is classic avant-garde electronic composition. “Self Portrait” employs a number of squiggly-wiggly sounds, and further into the piece, processed voice. I am thinking now, that from a strictly audial standpoint, the theme of this CD could just as well be about a colony of alien insects as its intended subject matter. The final track, “Twin Towers” (the longest track at 10:46) begins with the solo recitation of poems by Meena Alexander that lasts for the first 3:40 of the piece. After that DiBenedetto simulates the flights and explosions of the planes crashing into the World Trade center. What follows is a surreal aftermath, occasionally punctuated by manipulated kettledrum samples (played by high school students). The piece is supposed to condense the 101 minute tragedy into 1/20th of its time frame. It makes me thankful that Gary didn’t do it in real time.
               As a whole, “Twin Towers” is an interesting, if somewhat perplexing listen. There are parts that I liked a lot, and some things I didn’t care for at all. So it goes with the avant-garde. If you love abstract electronics, especially on an intellectual level, you will probably enjoy this, and even if you don’t like all of it, there are elements that make it worthwhile.

Steve Mecca (“Chain D.L.K.”)

“Twin Towers” is Brooklyn, New York based composer and visual artist Gary DiBenedetto’s first release for the “Electroshock Records” label. Described as “sonic collages that imply political or social messages”, the liner notes include detailed descriptions of the theme of each piece.
               Based on the noise made by the door into the Gentlemen’s washroom at the State Library in Berlin, “Knock and the Door Shall be Opened” puts the continual creaking and slamming of the door at the forefront and surrounds it with a variety of electronic sounds. “Toy Store” begins with efx’d water drips which build up to a high volume cacophony of sounds that felt like a rushing crowd in an urban setting. My favorite of the set is the three part “A Question of Principle”, which DiBenedetto says is an attempt to describe the “Liberation Theology” as a vehicle for the education and subsequent massacre of the peasantry in Nicaragua and El Salvador. More detail is provided on each movement, which describes the role of the church in the revolutions, torture of peasants, and American intervention, and this is clearly his most forceful political statement on the album. The first movement is an electronic symphony accompanied by acoustic instrument produced sounds. The second movement features clattering sounds, and the third movement returns to the symphonic theme, though in this case it’s darker and more intense. “Oh, You’re so Adollarable” focuses on the dollar and its effect on the innocent. The notes point out that all of the sounds used in the piece were derived from a 54 second extract of recordings made in several Cuban tourist markets. We hear efx’d voices repeating “one dollar”, “the dollar”, etc., accompanied by a bee swarm of electronics, and I even heard the American national anthem snuck into the mix at one point. The subject of Petroleum Complex” is capitalist economic and political control over oil resources, and the resulting international conflict over these resources. This short piece combines playful clatter with ambient waves. “Self Portrait” consists of a glom of sounds, dancing and flitting about. And, finally, “Twin Towers”… surprise-surprise… focuses on the tragedy of September 11th. The piece begins with an unaccompanied reading by Meena Alexander of a poem she wrote in response to the event. When the music starts it really does sound like an attack, but quickly quiets down to an aftermath sensation and I envisioned people stumbling about in a daze. An appropriately dark and somber piece.
               “Twin Towers” is an interesting set, mostly due to the detailed explanations DiBenedetto provides. I found myself wrapped up, perhaps overly, in the subject matter, but that’s OK because the artist’s intent is clearly to marry political themes with audio art.

Spaceman33 (“Aural Innovations”)

NY composer Gary Dibenedetto presents in this CD a series of themes of “contemporary” and “electroacoustic music” inspired by specific questions that disquiet the artist and which have been the object of social attention and debate. The most tragic theme, which gives its title to the album, refers to the terrorist attempt on September 11th, 2001 against the Twin Towers in New York. Another of the themes is a criticism against insolidary attempts of governments and great lobbies and multinationals to maintain their abusive control on natural resources against the interests of underdeveloped populations. A composition in three parts, it is inspired by the theology of liberation, the subsequent political repression including the deaths of peasants in massacres and the consequences of tragedy.

Virginia Tamayo (“Amazing Sounds”)

In Gary’s early years, as a struggling musician, he worked as a carpenter and this lead to an additional interest in sculpture. His awards include a “2006 International Kinetic Art Competition”, “NJ State Council on the Arts Fellowship”, and “Guest Residencies at Peters Valley and Newark Museum”. His music has been performed and broadcast internationally, including the “International Festival of Electroacoustic Music (National Laboratory Havana, Cuba)”. He has received commissions from the “Nova Gubbio Festival” (Italy) and teaches too. “In my work, I create sonic collages, which often have political or social messages, from sounds recorded in natural and industrial environments”. Potentially controversial.

(“DWM” Music Company)



Reference to "Electroshock Records" website is obligatory in case of any usage of printed & photo materials from the site © "Electroshock Records", 2004