Review by Blair Sanderson
Philosophically inclined and fascinated by the accumulated knowledge of performers, Richard Karpen creates penetrating works for solo instruments in computer realizations that explore not only advanced technical possibilities, but go even deeper into aspects of performance practice. Touching on the concept of the noösphere -- the shared storehouse of thought that informs all art, past and present -- Karpen draws on the totality of his players' traditions, experiences, and abilities, and tailors his elaborate soundscapes to reveal their most telling characteristics and to unleash their full expressive potential. This 2004 release on Centaur features five dynamic works, four of which are duets: Solo/Tutti: Variations on an Irrational Number for amplified viola and real-time computer processing (2002), Exchange for flute and computer-realized sound (1987), Anterior View of an Interior with Reclining Trombonist: The Conservation of Energy (2003), and Life Study No. 1 for clarinet and computer-realized sound (1993); Life Study No. 5 (1996) is an example of Karpen's synthesized music without a live performer. The performances by violist Garth knox, flutist Jos Zwaanenburg, trombonist Stuart Dempster, and clarinetist William O. Smith are stunning and often disturbing in their intensity, but adventurous listeners may find this album thought-provoking and, in some powerful moments, sublime. Centaur's sound is excellent.