Musique Nucléaire
Unit Records UTR 4125

Over the past few years a perverse fascination with computers seems to have overtaken improvised music, which is both good and bad. Electroacoustic improvisation is just as valid as spontaneous music making on any traditional instrument. But like anyone working with a computer program, the explorer who uses it has to make sure he controls the program, rather than letting it direct his conceptions.

Hervé Provini, the mastermind behind MUSIQUE NUCLÉAIRE, is sophisticated enough to avoid many of the high tech pitfalls. But there are points on this CD where it seems that the mechanical rather than the human is calling the shots.

Putting together this disc involved having a midi clavier input Provini's music into a computer. The drummer and pianist than improvised along with the artificial intelligence (AI) as it played back its version of the sounds.

In practice that often means that the underlying beat itself is strong, yet — no surprise — overly mechanical as on "Champ gravitational", "Surfusion" and "Surfusion(II)". Additionally, something like "Mass sombre (II)" makes you wonder if it's a new improvisation on the original theme or merely AI reordering the same music. Meanwhile tracks like "Percolation", "Transition de phase" and "Spin" appear —intentionally or not — to come completely from the computer's innards, with the piano notes sounding as rapid as those from Conlon Nancarrow's programmed player pianos.

Honestly, the most memorable tracks seem to be those which are the longest, allowing human interaction to be clearly identifiable among the processed beats.

Even the disc's title is enigmatic. Why nuclear music? Hasn't anything nuclear-powered become somewhat suspect after Three Mile Island and Chernobyl ? And if "nuclear" is used to appear "modern", earlier "tone scientists" Like Sun Ra and George Russell created more impressive, futuristic tone poems —without electronics — as far back as the late 1950s.

Provini must be commended for his ideas and interest in going beyond standard sounds. But if he truly wants to exhibit this concept, half a dozen longer pieces would have created a better showcase than the 22(!) miniatures here.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1: Entropie 2: Excitation moléculaire 3: Champ gravitationnel 4: Nucléosynthèse 5: Transition de phase 6: Percolation 7: Effondrement gravitationnel 8: Spin 9: Rayonnement fossile 10: Fluctuations quantiques 11: Antimatière 12: Masse sombre 13: Densité critique 14: Surfusion 15: Trou Noir Deuxième versions: 16: Champ gravitationnel 17: Nucléosynthèse 18: Percolation 19: Spin 20: Fluctuations quantiques 21: Masse sombre 22: Surfusion

Personnel: Jacques Demierre (piano and master mini-keyboard); Hervé Provini (drums and computer)