Excerpts from Reviews of the Music of Stephen Travis Pope



This is deep electroacoustic music. (composer Robert Scott Thompson)

Leur Songe de la Paix (Their Dream of Peace) is rivetting! (author Tom Lane)

[Gates Still Open] is a tour de force! (composer Brigitte Robindoré)

"As [Ritual and Memory] demonstrates, he has sustained a long and successful career as a composer and music technologist. Yet what arises to the surface from beneath all the technology, all the musical prosody, all the compositional algorithms and experimentalism, is Mr. Pope’s spiritually informed humanity. He says, 'Listening deeply to music can be a powerfully mystical experience.' He knows whereof he speaks." (composer Gareth Loy and founding editor John Snell in Computer Music Journal)

"The composer consistently finds compelling ways of adapting and combining media and tools to his compositional aims" and "projects a fluid and engaging rhythmic and harmonic sense" (Gareth Loy and John Snell in Computer Music Journal)

I am consistently drawn in to explore this sound and feeling world [of Kombination XI]. The sense of structure is strongly evident at both micro- and macro-levels. This sense of utter structure permeating the work, and a refined setting of the poetry are main components contributing to this ritualistic character. This piece works both as music and as ritual. (composer Craig Harris in Leonardo)

"Wonderfully resonant bell-like sounds ring with a vibrant acoustic quality somewhat reminiscent of the tamboura or the drone strings of a sitar. The music moves spatially in a playful manner, somewhat like African Mbira playing" (Gareth Loy and John Snell in Computer Music Journal)

[Ritual and Memory] is great all-around -- good compositions, good sound, good mix, good comments, good packaging [] I am really surprised how much this music is timeless, even after almost 30 years, I still have the same pleasure to listen to it! (composer Didier Roncin)

[In All Gates are Open,] "the sonic landscape is pristine" (Gareth Loy and John Snell in Computer Music Journal)

[Bat out of Hell] works well. The piece seems to learn its behavior from itself, the melodic/rhythmic material organically evolving like a good improviser. [...] It was nice to have it as a relief to [...] (composer Larry Austin in Perspectives of New Music)

Stephen Pope's mesmerizing Bat out of Hell dealt with the details of a purposefully limited sound palette, making the most of small differences in a highly idiosyncratic and intriguing manner. The primary interest of this sculpted two-movement piece lay in the gentle contours and contrasts of pitch and rhythm. [...] There is a wealth of subtle variety in the timbres. Bat out of Hell invited the listener's close attention and in return offered an intimate pas de deux. (composer Ira Mowitz in Computer Music Journal)

The poem's image of staring into a river on a cold winter night convincingly permeated the quiet, haunting mood of the work [Kombination XI]. [...] The drone runs continuously, and it is fascinating to follow its course as it is absorbed, overpowered and varied throughout the piece. [...] The drone and the vocal sounds create a consistent sound world that skillfully unifies a wide array of techniques, ranging from a tapestry of chatty syllables to percussive rapid-fire consonants. (composer Todd Winkler in Computer Music Journal)

"Such accessible works are actually quite difficult to make convincing, but Mr. Pope’s imagination for movement and dance easily carries the listener along." (Gareth Loy and John Snell in Computer Music Journal)

[Kombination XI] is a setting of a German poem by Helmut Heisenbuettel. Having lived in Hamburg myself (where the poem takes place), I can empathize very strongly with the imagery of isolation and alienation in the text that attracted Pope. Two voices, male and female, comprise virtually all of the sound material for the work, although it is only from the male voice that the text as a whole is recognizable. The female voice, through more extreme application of processing, fragmentation, and exploitation of particular phonemes, is used to create an ingenious sonic "bed" in which the male recitation lies. Pope makes a virtue of the (potentially objectionable) timbral artifacts produced by what I assume to be a phase vocoder; these artifacts provide both a strong unifying component to the work as well as a reinforcement of the emotional undercurrent of the text. Kombination XI is a compelling exploration of the mutagenesis of poetry into music. It is a serious work which merits close listening. (composer Rick Bidlack in Array)

[Ritual and Memory, a] "breathtakingly broad swath of musical aesthetics and music technology" (Gareth Loy and John Snell in Computer Music Journal)

What's nice here [in Kombination XI] is that Pope isn't so much interested in the concept of processed voices, but in what the processing actually does to the sound. [...] Pope transcends the "sound as product demonstration" and creates quite a nice atmosphere that is similar to the work of John Duncan or even the features of Nono's late-60s tape work. Texturally rich--something lacking in the world of computer music--and programmatically intriguing, [Kombination XI] stands out as the sure winner on these two CDs. (composer Jim O'Rourke in Your Flesh)

[Stephen Travis Pope, stp@HeavenEverywhere.com]