Jennifer Walshe: A Late Anthology of Early Music Vol 1 review

Fri, Jul 17, 2020, 12:00





Don’t, for even the slightest moment, think that Jennifer Walshe’s anthology of early music sounds at all like what the title would lead you to expect. Think instead of the rumbles and hollowed-out spaces of the electro-acoustic sound-world. Manipulated vocal and lip sounds sometimes morph into animal calls and inchoate cries, or create the impression of voices that are trapped, strangulated, of throats ready to burst.

The album was spurred by Walshe’s years teaching the “grand tour” of western music to undergraduate students, “two millennia of music history crammed into three terms”. The composer had the machine-learning specialists of Dadabots train their neural network Sample-RNN using recordings of her voice. They generated “841 files over 40 generations of training” and she then used the files to “map the development of the network’s understanding of my voice onto the history of early western music”.

However electronic the overall experience may be, faux instrumental and choral effects do make their presence felt by the time the journey reaches the 16th century.

The album is available through Bandcamp, as a digital download and on limited edition cassette.