Maryanne Amacher at the Kitchen June 20, 1977

Many composers capture sensitive electronic or concrete sounds on recording tape, but only a few manage to get them from the tape out into a performance space with equal sensitivity. Maryanne Amacher is one of them. For her May 27 concert at the Kitchen she set up her equipment in a small room rather than in the main performance space. She must have spent hours testing the acoustics, fiddling with levels, moving loudspeakers around, and such things, because as she mixed it all together for the audience, magical things happened, and most of the magic was not on the tape itself but in the playback technique.

I never did figure out exactly where the loudspeakers were. Apparently they were tucked away in closets and adjacent rooms in very special ways. It was difficult to tell exactly where any of the music was coming from, and yet each sound took on a particular spatial characteristic. One extraordinary loud buzzing seemed to be twirling around the ceiling somewhere. Other low tones seemed to roll out of one wall, or several walls. And some sounds had such a distant quality that it was hard to believe their source was even in the same building. One segment, perhaps 30 minutes long, consisted entirely of these distant sounds, often mysterious and sometimes nearly inaudible. Almost all of Amacher’s sound sources are natural rather than electronic, but she records them in unique ways so that one would never guess where or how they had been picked up. Some listeners were annoyed with her rambling remarks before and after the tapes, and it was true that her comments were neither necessary nor particularly informative. But it would be difficult to find faults in her music.