Remi Gassmann & Oskar Sala – Electronics

Remi Gassmann & Oskar Sala – Electronics LP front cover
Remi Gassmann & Oskar Sala – Electronics LP back cover
Remi Gassmann & Oskar Sala – Electronics LP side 1

After graduating from New York’s Eastman School of Music in 1931, US composer, educator and critic Remi Gassmann (1908-1982) relocated to Berlin to study with Paul Hindemith at Berlin’s Musik Hochschule, where he met fellow student Oskar Sala (1910-2002). Back in the US, Gassmann asked contemporary artist Laszlo Maholy-Nagy to create the stage design for  some of the Composer’s Concerts Gassman organized at the University of Chicago between 1942 and 1945. Gassmann wrote stage music for ballets like Billy Sunday, 1948, with costume and stage design by Alexander Calder. He first collaborated with Oskar Sala on the electronic music for the ballet Paean, 1960, with choreographer Tatjana Gsovsky. After Gassmann and Sala conceived the score for George Balanchine’s ballet Electronics in 1961, the choreographer introduced the pair to the technical team of Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds, for which they famously created the eerie bird sounds from Sala’s Mixtur-Trautonium.

♫ Electronics was premiered by the New York City Ballet in 1961, with ballerina Violette Verdy and choreography by George Balanchine. Gassmann was commissioned to create the stage music, which he recorded in Oskar Sala’s Berlin studio and is entirely played on the latter’s Mixtur-Trautonium. Divided into 11 short sequences, the music plays as a continuous exploration of the instrument’s gorgeous tonalities and goes through various moods and rhythms, from meditative to imposing, from enchanting to glorious. To these ears, it seems well suited to dance performance, but Paean, the other electronic ballet music Gassmann wrote in 1960, was not well received.

Sala’s Five Improvisations showcase both the Trautonium’s potential and the composer’s skills. Here the multi-tracking technique – well, 2 tracks on average –, creative use of reverb and virtuosity are more obvious than on Electronics, but the music retains the typical clarity and playfulness of Sala’s better known compositions. Sala’s unusual pitch system and mastering of studio technique are prominent, as well as striking sounds somewhere between Forbidden Planet and Pierre Henry’s musique concrète with electronics. This LP was Sala’s first appearance on disc.

Remi Gassmann
01 Electronics – Music to the ballet (17:31)
Oskar Sala Five Improvisations on Magnetic Tape
02 #1 (1:41)
03 #2 (1:55)
04 #3 (2:09)
05 #4 (1:39)
06 #5 (3:56)

Total time 28:51
LP released by Westminster, ref. WST 14143, USA, 1962


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15 Responses to “Remi Gassmann & Oskar Sala – Electronics”

  1. 1 newname September 29, 2011 at 7:54 am

    Looks and sounds great, Thanks a lot !!!

  2. 2 continuo September 29, 2011 at 10:43 am

    I’m sure you won’t be disappointed.

  3. 3 Twinkle II September 29, 2011 at 2:07 pm

    Yes I like this one too.

    Wish I could get twitter feeds on this blog to keep up with it – rather than having to remember to go to my browser bookmarkers every so often.

  4. 4 continuo September 29, 2011 at 5:29 pm

    Sorry for the extra-work!

  5. 5 Adam September 29, 2011 at 7:11 pm

    @ Twinkle: Have a look at the RSS feed for this blog. Different name, same functionality :)

    @ Continuo: Many thanks, once again, for putting another unsung name of electronic music (back?) on the map – at least on my one. Gassmann? Totally new to me.

    Do you happen to have some stuff by Harald Bode? German inventor of the Melochord in the early 1950s, later chief engenieer at Moog. Made some compositions, but can’t find anything on record. Would be nice.

  6. 6 continuo September 29, 2011 at 7:31 pm

    Hi, Adam. As far as I know, Bode wasn’t a composer but a technician. I suspect there were no commercial recordings of his music. However, there is a 1951 sound file of the Melochord keyboard, invented by Bode, on this page. From the article, I understand there might be some Bode film music around somewhere as well. Who knows…? Any help welcome.
    Also, this issue of Canadian electronic music magazine eContact! is entirely devoted to Bode.

  7. 7 Adam September 29, 2011 at 10:53 pm

    Thanks for the fine magazine link! I recently heard a German radio portrait of Bode and there were some audio snippents of his compositions. I figured if he ever put anything on record, you may have it ;)

  8. 8 Twinkle II September 30, 2011 at 8:46 am

    The ‘Institute for Electronic Arts (IEA) has recently released a CD: Bode Sound Project [Double CD] Harald Bode (Author), Carrier Band (Author), Andrew Deutsch (Author), James Fei (Author), Aaron Miller (Author), Scanner (Author), Steina Vasulka (Author), Stephen Vitiello (Author), Pauline Oliveros (Author) | Format: Audio CD

  9. 10 s. borges September 30, 2011 at 4:04 pm

    Love Sala! Thanks for the upload.

    You probably know this one (actually, I ask myself, what do you NOT know!), but if not, be sure to check Sala’s Subharmonische Mixturen on ErdenKlang – brilliant work by him.

    all the best, s., rio.

  10. 11 continuo September 30, 2011 at 6:44 pm

    Hi, Sergio. No, I’m not familiar with the CD you mention, but I have more Sala on LP waiting to be ripped. Thanks for your comment.

  11. 12 odinoz October 1, 2011 at 3:57 am

    Thanks for sharing great LPs here.
    As a veteran would you please shade some light on this composer: Ulli Schmidt

    I just saw a track by him on this LP:

    I want to know who he is and what are his compositions.
    Unfortunately, I don’t have the track “Discona” by him but it’s very interesting.
    Long time ago, someone was selling that LP with a sample mixed track , I heard the track and liked it a lot.

    Thank you so much.

  12. 13 continuo October 1, 2011 at 5:44 am

    Hi, Odinoz. Unfortunately, I have no idea who Ulli Schmidt is.

  13. 15 continuo October 2, 2011 at 8:33 pm

    You’re welcome.

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