PEARCE: toile de jouy / Wesley Shen, hpd / leather / SHHH! Ensemble; Edana Higham, pno; Zac Pulak, perc / chain maille / TorQ Percussion Qrt / houndstooth / Barbara Pritchard, pno / silks / Cheryl Duvall, pno / velvet / TorQ Percussion Qrt / damask / Shawn Mativetsky, tabla; Shen, pno / denim / Jamie Drake, perc; Joseph Ferretti, Shen, toy pno; Daniel Morphy, perc / Centrediscs CMCCD 30322
Many decades ago, when I was still living in New Jersey, I had a temp job as a secretary in a textile plant. It took me several days to get used to the constant racket of the gigantic motor-powered looms that made the fabric they sold; imagine the sound of an old sewing machine magnified to the level of a jet plane taking off. Anyway, it gave me a lasting impression of what it was like to hear material being made.
Fast-forward to now, and we have before us the debut of a full album dedicated to the music of “Texas-based Canadian composer Monica Pearce.” After listening to it, I’m not surprised that she had to leave Canada. What shocks me is that Texas hasn’t kicked her out as well.
Not trying to be too cruel, but this has to be the crappiest “classical” music I’ve heard in a long time, and believe me, folks, I turn down a LOT of bad contemporary music for review. While I admit that Pearce has done a bang-up job, in piece after piece on this CD, of imitating the noisy grind of the power looms in a textile factory, two questions immediately pop into mind. #1: Is it well-written or in any way worth listening to? and #2: Why was it recorded and released on a commercial CD that, I would think, Centrediscs hopes that people would buy? The answer to #1 is a resounding no. The answer to #2 is, either Pearce or someone else paid them some heavy bread to put this turkey on the market.
Let’s not pretend that this music has any value beyond presenting a series of tape-loop rhythmic figures that simulate a textile factory. That’s all it is. Yes, occasionally she moves the “music” up or down in range, adds a few luftpausen and other little devices, but this is just background music for a film showing…a textile factory. I’m willing to bet that Pearce has either worked in one, as I did, or at least visited one a few times to get a feel for what those machines sound like.
Moreover, I don’t see any point in her giving these pieces different names. Does the noise in toile de jouy really sound that much different than the noise in leather, chain maille, houndstooth, silks, velvet, damask or denim? Aside from the fact that different instruments are used, or that when the percussion ensemble is involved she makes the opening noise sound like a broken Chinese gong being assaulted, not really. This is, quite simply, crackpot music for crackpot listeners. Anyone who thinks this album is cool and downloads it to their iPhone is probably someone who worked in a textile factory and misses the noise. Some of the percussion effects in leather resemble a dinner bell being rung at a big farmhouse, but aside from that, either I’m missing the point of this crap or Pearce has no point.
I hesitate to say this because it might make some readers curious enough to go listen to it, but this is nothing more or less than a soundtrack for the messed-up mind of someone with OCD. Let me put it to you this way: had this been a physical CD instead of a download, I would have taken the disc out of my player after the first three tracks, thrown it to the floor, and smashed it to bits with the heel of my shoe. That’s how bad it really is. Seriously.
In closing, I just want to say that it’s really a shame that The Gong Show no longer exists to give someone like Pearce a chance to play this stuff or that the loony bins are closed nowadays. All I could think of when listening to this CD was the scene near the beginning of the film The Gods Must Be Crazy where a woman walks up to the female reporter and asks, “Are the voices in my head bothering you?” The textile machines in Monica Pearce’s head must indeed be a burden to her, poor dear.
—© 2022 Lynn René Bayley
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