Gunner Møller Pedersen – Stoned (1974 / 2017)
The history of the movement of avant-garde electronic music which sprang into existence at the end of the 1940’s, stretching across what remained of the 20th Century, is far more complex than is often recognized. While recent efforts, with a swell of interest, have rescued countless artists and their works from the shadows, the attention has largely focused on artifacts from France and the United States. There are obvious reasons for this. Both countries were early advocates of this form, producing a great many of its most compelling and revolutionary works, but to limit the attention within such a narrow view obscures the true intent and character of what this movement attempted to achieve.
Avant-garde electronic music was rarely radical for the sake of it. It sprang from the idealism of High-Modernism – a movement which set out to join each of the arts with ideas from the social and political left, harnessing technological innovation. Rather than simply capitalizing on new sounds and approaches activated by emerging technologies, as is often historically implied, it was seen as a means to liberate the composer and listener alike. Synthesis, electronics, and magnetic tape freed the composer from the constraints of the orchestra, placing an unfathomably broad range of sound at the fingertips, but crucially, the choice to work with them was not politically benign. The orchestra and ensemble had long been bound to the elitism of class, endemic within Classical music at large. To move away from its sonic signifiers and architectures was decisive. To work with a pallet of sounds that a broad range of listeners where already familiar with – those reflecting a changing world and every day life, was equally so.
Of all the attributes of historic avant-garde electronic music, among the most overlooked is how wide reaching it actually was. When those early artists in France and the Untied States began, they sought to create a new universal language for the future. It was intended to sweep the globe and be adopted by all. For a handful of decades, it almost was, with countless artists, in every corner of the globe, taking up the cause.
While incredible archival work has been done over the last ten years, we still fail to achieve a fully accurate vision of the former contexts of avant-garde electronic music. To miss how wide reaching it was, avoids the true character of its meaning, hopes, and intent – its profound utopian optimism for the arts, and its belief in its effect on society as a whole. Beyond its remarkable sounds, this is why the reissue of Gunner Møller Pedersen’s Stoned, originally privately issued in 1974, is such an important event. Not only is it an incredibly important work of art, but it is bound to spirit of its era – an image of its ideals, while activating a developed image of its breadth.
Even for devoted fans of the 1960’s and 70’s electronic avant-garde, the Danish pioneer Gunner Møller Pedersen can be particularly obscure. Some may have encountered his electroacoustic opus Et Lydår / A Sound Year from 1979, while others may have stumbled across his 1994 creation Glasmusik / Glass Music, but few, given the LP’s astounding rarity – only having been distributed at a handful of concerts around the time of its release, have had the opportunity to hear his great work Stoned, from 1974.
Gunner Møller Pedersen was educated at the Royal Danish Music Academy, before studying with Cornelius Cardew in London. Following his return to Copenhagen, during the early 70’s he began to embark on a series of electronic, electroacoustic, and environmental / spacial experiments, setting up his own label Octopus – on which Stoned was initially released in a tiny edition, and Octopus Studio, for film score composition and spatial electronic music. Stoned is Pedersen’s solo recording debut. A revolutionary gesture of sonic experimentation in Denmark, created to accompany a slide show oriented around sculptures by American photographer Stuart Fox. I single work stretching across two sides of the LP, it’s a decided effort in discrete minimalist constraint – playful as it is severe, a textural hybrid of synthesis and acoustic instrumentation, processed and unprocessed, stretching toward harmonic interplay which anticipates the coming movement of New Age Music and 1980’s dystopian science fiction soundtracks. At once complex and incredibly beautiful, it is unquestionably long overdue for reappraisal. An album emerging from the shadows of the past, which will sustain itself in the forefront of the minds of listeners for years to come, while operating as a crucial component in the history of the movement to which it belongs, and maintaining an image of its breadth.
This reissued with the complete support and collaboration of Pedersen, along with the support of Strøm, The Danish Composers’ Society, The Royal Danish Academy of Music and the Rhythmic Music Conservatory in Copenhagen, Frederiksberg has been carefully restored the work from the original master tapes, and is accompanied by a booklet of new liner notes by Thomas Knak. Limited to a one time pressing of 500 copies. Check it out below, and pick it up from SoundOhm or a record store near you.
Gunner Møller Pedersen – Stoned (Part 1) (1974 / 2017)
Gunner Møller Pedersen – Stoned (Part 2) (1974 / 2017)