Review of Alcatraz Music Hour by St Celfer

Most people like music which is simple to feel and understand. The simpler the melodies and rhythms, the nicer the sounds and the less complex the forms, the more listeners they have. But what is the opposite of the simplest music like pop, disco, country? Many people think that the hardest music to understand is Noise Wall. This is bad reasoning!

To understand a music piece means to understand the consequences of sound sequences. With this thought, Noise Wall is not difficult to understand – there are little motifs and changes to memorize.

I think that one of the hardest to understand music songs are HOhm songs composed by John M. Parker. Each of this song lasts around one hour and is full of sounds, have many changes, motifs but have almost no or have declamative melodies. The average mind can concentrate on a few minutes of music or fifteen minutes of a lecture. Here, John demands something bordering on impossible – composing an hour-long abstraction composed of several dozen musical motifs in his head!

Hohm O is the simplest to understand because a main motif is a single tone! That doesn’t mean that nothing is happening. This tone is pulsing with changeable rhythm, intensity, sometimes changing continously timbre, and even spectral character. What characterizes these albums are the fact that these sounds attract attention, are catching focus and they hypnotize.

Next songs (after Hohm OO) have more tones, sometimes fragments of melody with extended motifs but the concept is the same – John „sells” us his concentration. It give us around hour of non structural, non ordered, non mathematic, spontaneous variations about one sound art motif (this is a tip how to listening to these songs). The exception is Hohm 4, whose tones were randomly generated – I consider as a reference album – showing what is good in the concept of a man focused on creating abstract music. In every album, John tries to introduce new sound effects, new sound processing tools, or even his new instruments.

People who don’t feel abstract music and don’t understand abstract songs may think that generate an hour of sounds is an easy task but it is more difficult – these sounds have together „tell a musical story”. Even in such seemingly meaningless music there must be a message, the soul of the artist – his effort. John M. Parker would not have had a chance to compose HOhm if he had not previously been a world-class sportsman, i.e. a person whose task was exhausting daily training, requiring great concentration.

I believe that every musician, not just experimental ones, should conduct such hour-long jam sessions. Alcatraz Music Hour is not only a treasure trove of motifs and their processing, but also a path of John’s self-development, as exemplified by his wide range of music over the last twenty years.

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