A re-release of a 2001 set by Sub Rosa, this is a historical document in many respects. Institute of Sonology 1959-1969 is a collection of early experiments in electronic music, composed in the late ’50s and the ’60s in Ultrecht, Holland. The institute was set up both as a place to experiment with sound and to house the results in a permanent library. The results, as evident on this disc, were a mixed bag but still essential.
The collection includes music by famed Dutch electronic composers such as Dick Raaymakers (“Piano-Forte”) and Ton Bruyel (“Reflexen”), six in all. The most effective are “Chants de Maldoror” by Rainer Riehn and Gottfried Michael Koenig, whose “Funktion Orange” anticipates many streams of future electronic music. All six pieces, in fact, pre-figure drone, minimalism, futurism and dark ambient.
The work preserved on Institute of Sonology 1959-1969, as well as other work documented and stored at the institute, serve as a cauldron of ideas borne out with only the flimsiest of nets for protection. Yes, early electronic music had mentors — Edgar Varese, Luigi Russolo, Cage — but here you can see risk in action, even if that risk is to hit on a note or pulse and work that one phrase for all it is worth. Every song contains a hundred others and zeroes in on a sound you can make your own; this is a set by six artists who did just that with the barest of sounds.