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Islands in the Stream
Album: 15 Jun 1994
By: Nick Peck


Composer/Keyboardist Nick Peck used Kyma to produce "Prelude," the first track of his album Islands in the Stream. If you were to ignore the high-quality, digital audio production values, you would swear that "Prelude" came straight out of one of the classical electronic music studios of the 1950s, even down to the accompanying graphic score. Delightfully raucous layers of granulated noise bands, bursts of random-frequency wavelet blips, a low C minor third played with a nice buzzy waveform (or is it processed piano?), backwards-envelope bells, bursts of crowd noise, and an overall formal structure based on gestures or sound objects rather than notes characterize this first track, described as "opening the door to Riverworld." Peck is not afraid to use silence or short, stacatto gestures, giving the piece a fresh, original sound.

Discussion (Descriptions, reviews, discussion):

The album is arranged as a sonic progression through an imaginery mindscape called Riverworld, with the tracks arranged in a continuous, attacca "stream" alternating between tracks evoking different aspects of the stream and tracks that seem to represent "islands" or locations in the stream. The composer invites us to experiment with listening to the CD in the linear order he has chosen or, by shuffling the tracks on the CD, to create our own paths through the Riverworld.

The liner notes are extensive, providing essential background on the composer's intentions, complete equipment lists (fun for the tech-boffins in the audience) and even includes a graphic score for "Prelude." (Although I must confess to have had a difficult time following the score and would have appreciated some hints on making a one-to-one relationship between each icon and the sound object it represents). In the liner notes, Peck writes that the music on Islands represents for him a continuum from the rational to the creative, from totally structured to abstract and nonlinear. The equipment lists read like an encyclopedic compendium of every tool currently available in electro-acoustic music production, ranging from FM synths, samplers, to hybrid synths, to signal processors, DSP software, and to older analog synths and the even older high technology of a Steinway baby grand piano.

Islands in the Stream was performed, recorded and produced by Nick Peck and recorded at Perceptive Productions in Mill Valley California and the San Francisco State University Electronic Music Studio in San Francisco.

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