Wednesday 21 October 2015

Time Machine - Roger Doyle

Time Machine - Roger Doyle
Roger Doyle Time Machine; Heresy Records
Reviewed by Robert Hugill on Oct 13 2015
Electro-acoustic music and answer-phone messages in intriguing combination

Roger Doyle is an Irish composer best known for his electro-acoustic music and this new disc Time Machine on Heresy Records combines an electro-acoustic score written and performed by Doyle with answer-phone messages. The title of the album, Time Machine refers to the fact that though the music is recent (2010 to 2011) the answer-phone messages date from 1987 to 1989.

In his introductory note, Doyle admits to saving hundreds of telephone answering machine messages, hours and hours of them dating from a period from 1987 to 1989 when he lived in a top floor flat in Merrion Square, Dublin. Taken as a whole they give a picture of bohemian life in Dublin in the 1980's and are probably an important social document. Doyle has chosen a few which would stand on their own without detailed reference to Doyle's life, and around these has written music. The two intertwine so that Doyle feels that the messages will not stand on their own, and neither will the music.

The messages are many and various, with his parents phoning to congratulate him on a commission, his son (aged 10 and 11) leaving various messages, the late Jonathan Philbin Bowman in an improvised stream of consciousness message, a message Doyle made for his grandson, well-wishers after a stay in hospital, initially rather frightening prank calls, congratulations about his score for Steven Berkoff's production of Salome and an automated message about the birth of his grandson.

Not every message is clear on the disc, the results are often simply atmospheric and as with combining music and live speech you are aware that as soon as someone talks, they pull focus away from the music. Doyle solves this by writing long introductions and interludes so that the music is very much the dominant force. Each movement has its own distinct timbre and tint, but he links them by themes and chord progressions so that the whole feels like a unified work.

Roger Doyle (born 1949) studied at the Royal Irish Academy, the Institute of Sonology in Utrecht and at the Finnish Radio Experimental Studio. He performed as a drummer with Supply Demand and Curve and Jazz Therapy, and in 1898 began his magnum opus, Babel, a 5-CD set that took ten years to compose. He founded the music-theatre company Operating Theatre with Irish actress Olwen Fouéré, producing site-specific productions. He wrote and performed for the Steven Berkoff version of the Oscar Wilde play Salome. His first opera, The Death By Fire Of Giordano Bruno will b premiered in 2016.

The CD booklet gives no clue as to the procedures Doyle used to create the music, beyond stating that it was all composed, performed and produced by Roger Doyle. What is noticeable is that electro-acoustic in this context seems to mean instrumental, there is little in the way of transfigured voices and you could imagine the music re-scored for a live instrumental ensemble.

Roger Doyle (born 1949) - Time Machine
Heresy Records LC 20865

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