David  Behrman

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MR in www.paristransatlantic.com, July 2005

Sam Behrman (David's father) and English "soldier-poet" Siegfried Sassoon were long-distance friends, a fact duly celebrated in the first CD of this double set. "My Dear Siegfried" (which I politely suggest should first be approached through headphones while carefully reading the texts) is a six-movement document of some of the most dramatic moments and intense recollections by two profound thinkers, under the guise of reciprocal letters or vivid remembrances of childhood's inner discoveries. On the exquisite "My Father's Grocery Store", religion-inspired repression, a sense of guilt and prize fighting all obey a lucid compositional logic where Ralph Samuelson's shakuhachi and Peter Zummo's gorgeous trombone inflections complement Behrman's computerized systematisations and the readings by Thomas Buckner, Eric Barsness and Maria Ludovici, resulting in a beautifully controlled anarchy – one of this composer's trademarks. The scary menace of the drones underlining the most anguished sections of "Letter from S.N.Behrman" and "Letter from Siegfried Sassoon", a one-week-span exchange of ideas and anxious fears dating from the beginning of World War II, along with the masterful use of dark and light seems to represent a parallel population of spirits and primordial man-machines who (if they had only thought it appropriate) might have influenced the choices of the powers that be, yet preferred to remain imprisoned in their own immobile precariousness, leaving humans to their fate. The evocative character of this important composition never detracts from its penetrating deliquescence.

The second disc presents five tracks ranging from 1969's "A New Team Takes Over", a tape piece using snippets of speech by members of the Nixon Administration, to 2002's "Viewfinder", a sound installation where a sensor linked to a camera changes pitches and colours emitted by homemade synthesizers according to movements detected in the room. Homemades are also the source for the static minimalism of 1972's "Pools Of Phase Locked Loops", a corpulent mass of electronic sound that recalls Charlemagne Palestine's work with oscillators. While "Touch Tones" (1979) is little more than an experiment with a computer and voltage controlled filters, this disc's real masterpiece is "QSRL", a startling tone poem from 1998 that finds Jon Gibson's sensual saxophone playing waiting games with wonderful shifting harmonies that are typical Behrman – think "Leapday Night". The oblique sweetness of Behrman's music has always been its driving force and these two fine discs confirm his unblemished greatness.—MR