Artist: Jonathan Hughes + Various Artists
Album: Fluidities

Released: August 2004
Label: Foundry

For composers exploring indeterminacy in music, the compositional process is no doubt fascinating, but often rough going for the audience. The intellectual process of rolling dice or randomizing numbers in order to create a chance arrangement of notes or tones brings forth groundbreaking new music as often as it does headaches in listeners. The collection Fluidities explores aspects of randomness as a compositional tool, and enjoys consistently pleasing results. Jonathan Hughes has designed this double disc set to provide a distribution of uses and outcomes. Each CD includes 11 six minute tracks with a common tonal center, half of which were authored by Hughes, and the other half by ambient luminaries including: M Bentley, Ian Boddy, Tetsu Inoue, Saul Stokes. Perhaps some or all of the artists involved here have used indeterminacy as part of their creative process, but this concept is most obvious during the playback and consumption of this release. At its most basic, Fluidities can be played straight through and enjoyed like a normal collection of quality ambient music; each track standing on its own as a complete realization of electro-acoustic minimalism. But for a deeper experience, Hughes suggests playing the discs simultaneously. Two CD players will be necessary, preferably each with a shuffle mode. The many possible configurations include using two different hi-fi systems in two different rooms or floors of your house, or mixing the discs together through one stereo, utilizing the decks' shuffle and repeat modes to create an orderless continuous playlist. The results are surprisingly congruous and range from the amorphous - as in montages of generic chaos - to the harmonic - an intelligently designed, seemingly pre-planned sonic convergence. As mentioned before, artists do often use indeterminacy in their compositional process, with the results recorded and accessed again and again in the listening to of the recorded output. Over time, a sense of familiarity can build up, as can a sense of beginning, middle and end of each piece. This is achieved less readily with Fluidities as the music flows continuously like a non-lineal collage, haphazardly drifting through (potentially) many hundreds of hours of unique, non-repeating ambient soundscapes. Fluidities can also be thought of as a series of virtual collaborations. For example, spinning track 6 from disc 1 ("Hostile Phone" by Suzanne Brokesch) concurrently with track 11 from disc 2 ("Indelible Ink" by Interstitial) will yield a new and unnamed piece credited to this duo, who may have yet to actually meet. Describing Fulidities does involve an amount of intellectual heavy lifting, but this album speaks with more than just a vocabulary of formulas. Randomness may be its unique feature, but we must be reminded that there is no such thing as disconnected parts, only complex structure.

- STAR'S END/Chuck van Zyl   19 August 2004