How anti-social is Pat Muchmore?

Anti-Social Music: Fracture: The Music of Pat Muchmore

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Pat Muchmore swirls together electronic drones, howling overblown horns and heavy metal guitars, and asks that more genteel instruments, like strings, flute and accordion, try to keep up. It’s sonically liberated music and owes more than a little to Muchmore’s scholarly interest in Nine Inch Nails (on whom he has written a doctoral thesis). It’s not a unique effect – one can hear the Canadian Constellation label in the middle distance, for example – and it connects with a long history (think Penderecki via Laibach) of bringing acoustic classical instruments into the realm of industrial and/or noise music, an aesthetic with which NIN’s Trent Reznor has some sympathy.

Muchmore calls this style ‘punk-classical’. The pull between those two opposing genres creates the most interesting tension when it tips over to the classical side of that balance – in his Second String Quartet, for example, or the trio for piano and two cellos p@1i/\/\p$35+ β:}{:brokenAphorisms_7–11. This is when I like Muchmore’s music best, when the aggressive, ‘anti-social’ side is a hidden substratum trying to break through, rather than an over-riding idiom. (Hidden layers are themes of his titles, too: p@1i/\/\p$35+ is a typographical disguise for palimpsest.) This is the case with several other pieces on this disc, in which noise elements are squeezed around a more classical gestural vocabulary: the punk side of things is restrained by the classical form (see the tasteful shapeliness of the flute solo in II al-Gharaniq:}{:Fracture IV, for example), whereas the reverse strategy allows the classical to become liberated.

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