Album: FB01
Author: Ingvar Loco Nordin
Publication: sonoloco
Date: 5/27/2006

Frank H. Rothkamm is a New York composer, performer and computer programmer; the founder of Flux Records, designed for avant-tech styles.

The title of the CD is explained by the name of Yamaha?s first digital synthesizer module; the FB01, released in 1986.

Let me quote some of Frank Rothkamm?s information about the Yamaha FB01 in the CD booklet:

It looks like a car stereo, as there is no keyboard and only 8 pushbuttons. A small backlit LCD display with orange type is the only indication that the module is on. All of the FB01?s supercomputing power can only be accessed via highly compacted bit-masked system-exclusive MIDI-data [?]
The synthesizer implements a form of Chowning Frequency Modulation synthesis [?]
The FB01?s Digital-to-Analog converters are 10-bit YM3012. These are the major part of a very particular digital sound: quantization is audible, as well as the residual noise of the synthesis itself [?]
The FB01?s exhaustive MIDI implementation allows the real-time change of almost all sound parameters without audible artifacts [?]

As to the background of the music on this CD, Rothkamm, before going into the language of a mathematician, explains:

In the summer of 2002 I began to envision music without reference to popular or underground culture [?]. I thought of this new music as being completely synthesized with no imitational reference to anything in the empirical world. It should also be created directly to a recording medium with no reference to preconceived forms and with nothing but intuition and transcendental ideas that in turn were to be axiomatic during execution in time and space. Furthermore, it should be played pianistically with absolute freedom from sine waves on upwards [?] and its polyphony should multi-tracked from only one electronic source [?]. So I went back to the origins of purely electronic [?] as put forth by the Cologne school. This most abstract, and in many ways most primitive form of electronic music, should form the basis upon which I would apply my theories on random processes that I have been formulating since 1988 in the computer language Forth [?]
The foundation is ancient technology; to take it beyond its furthest reaches; to become more primitive than its most primitive and to become more complex than its most complex, so that its most complex becomes primitive and its most primitive complex [?]

It?s refreshing to hear these old sound worlds in new contexts ? or perhaps these old contexts in freshly altered sound worlds. I can?t quite make up my mind if it?s the form or the content that is old. In a way Rothkamm has traveled through time and brought back something from the Cologne studio in the 1950s, and he plays by the electronic and artistic rules of the 1950s, as it is done with 21st century awareness. Bright and clever, this is!

You don?t have to understand Rothkamm?s theoretical reasoning. It?s enough to listen, and if you?ve had any experience of, say? early Stockhausen (very early Stockhausen), Gottfried Michael Koenig, Herbert Eimert, Michael Obst, or, for that matter, Americans like Morton Subotnick or John Chowning, you're all set.
Chowning is mentioned in Rothkamm?s presentation, and maybe Chowning?s 1970s and 80s, and 1950s? Stockhausen are the ones I think of first, in connection with Rothkamm, even though this is not completely fair to him, and simply an approximation to get you on track.

However, there?s so very much more in the way and fashion that Rothkamm executes his ideas, his sounds ? his music: so much more! He displays an intricate web of relentless richness of expression and modulation that you wouldn?t think possible with the restricted means he?s allowed himself. These are the elements talking; the elementaries exchanging nuances ? not the colors, but the chemical constituencies of colors ? sparkling!

These sounds are the spectra of emissions of light touching upon the face of the Star Maker ? motions through space, aural tonalities of molecule structures; songs of minerals.

Frank Rothkamm?s music is a complex, fluid choreography through mind and awareness.

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