Electronic Music

Edwin Roxburgh: At the Still Point of the Turning World (1976)

This piece for solo oboe and tape delay system starts with a series of overblown notes, sharpening the pitch and creating additional harmonics.  The delay system is used to record and play back the sounds through speakers.  This starts off sounding like echoes, but builds up in intensity and the ‘real’ sound can no longer be distinguished from the recording.  A few minutes into the piece the sounds start to be electronically modified, creating strange effects that sound like something from a sci-fi movie.  At this point the sounds become very far removed from the ‘natural’ sound of an oboe.  I found much of this piece quite unpleasant to listen to, as the interactions create dissonances and also harsh, abrasive sounds.  Towards the climax at the end it sounds like many oboes playing (or rather screeching) together at the same time, before fading out into a single pure note.  This piece does not satisfy my personal definition of music as I can identify neither melody, rhythm nor harmony at any point.

Side note: I have previously discovered a really interesting piece for recorder by Ziegenmeyer which also uses delay electronics – notes are on my listening log here.  I much prefer the Ziegenmeyer piece which feels more like ‘music’ to me than the very abstract soundscape of the Roxburgh piece.


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