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The Barnum Museum

by Barry Schrader

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In his works, the bustling electro-acoustic master Barry Schrader continues a traditional line that goes from the romantic to the heart of the twentieth century. The vision of being able to use sound as a musical substance as precisely as harmonies and melodies has characterized his work for years. It is fully realized in “The Barnum Museum” : abstract-monumental blocks of sound form recognizable motifs, baroque fantasies mix with industrial rhythms, dreamy ambience dissolves in a fantastic auditorium - shortly before his 70th birthday, Schrader gained absolute control over his material.
— Tobias Fischer - ONSTAGE Musiktipps aus dem Netz

"The Romanesque and Gothic Entranceways" begins with the same grandiose style of sonic overload that was typical of the art rock group Emerson Lake & Palmer before dialing the dynamics back to the world of the more subdued modern classical. The shifting of meter and dynamics is seamless and adds great depth and character to this most engaging recording. "The Caged Griffin" is the improvisational equivalent of a cerebral narrative of your own choosing. An intense organic pulse is developing throughout the piece as Schrader is perhaps taking the electronic/ambient stylistic genres into uncharted territory. While the form and functionality of western improvised music is perhaps laying the ground work, Schrader is a visionary for where his electronic impulses may take him on his next conceptualized journey. Much in the same fashion as the better art rock groups of the mid 1970s and early 80s the journey is left to the listener. Barry Schrader is simply the equivalent of a triple A travel agent, he puts the package together but how you spend your time is left totally in your own hands and mind. A fascinating release!
— Critical Jazz

"The Barnum Museum" invites you to feel as though you’re being taken on a sonic journey to some unusual spaces filled with unusual creatures. This sense of the strange (what the Russian writer Viktor Shklovsky would have called ostranenie) is achieved by Schrader with subtle means, through his employment of detunings, glissandi, spatial movement, conflicting rhythmic patterns, and the like. Overall, this compact disc provides us with an evocative listening experience. The dimensions and contents of a virtual world are described in sound. It is a tour de force of electroacoustic know-how by a master and pioneer in the field.
- Ross Feller
— Computer Music Journal

Schrader's pièce de résistance in this strange menagerie is the phantasmagorical 16+ minute piece de “The Chamber of False Things,” which is comprised of 'Porphyry Figurines from Atlantis,' 'Golden Cups from El Dorado,' and 'Water from the Fountain of Youth.' Whatever there was previously, there is even more of it in here. The minor three chord theme from the beginning is reprised; there is more descent and opening into vast space; toots of a calliope; dark and ominous drones; a march-like percussive section on hollow wood; glittering fairy dust falling from above; more swirling arpeggios, culminating in a crescendo of the great pipe organ again. Awesome! Words fail in these descriptions as this is something that you just have to hear. I don't know whether Schrader succeeded in capturing the flavor of Millhauser's short story, but he did succeed in making a most enigmatic and intriguing soundscape. “The Barnum Museum” should appeal to steampunk aficionados too. I'm giving this album five stars not only because I because I think that it's an amazing work, but also because it's intriguing to enough to warrant multiple plays, and I don't see how it could be any better.
— Chain D.L.K.

We've been listening to the musical creations of Barry Schrader for quite some time now. Schrader composes music for electronics, dance, film, video, mixed media, live/electro-acoustic music combinations, and real-time computer performance...and his music has been presented and performed in many countries around the globe. "The Barnum Museum" features eight lengthy recordings from this critically-acclaimed composer. These pieces could be described as modern classical, ambient, or experimental...but they also sound very much at times like the soundtrack to a bizarre science fiction film. Schrader seems to be driven by the pure desire to create...never letting boundaries get in the way of his boundless creative expression. Plenty of cool sounds here that would make Wendy Carlos proud. Our favorite tracks include "The Romanesque and Gothic Entranceways," "The Subterranean Levels," "The Homunculus In A Jar," and "The Chamber of False Things." This man never lets his fans down. His music is always spellbinding and unique. A wild mental audio ride. Top pick.
— Baby Sue


released July 25, 2012


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Barry Schrader Los Angeles, California

Schrader's compositions for electronics, dance, film, video, mixed media, live/electro-acoustic music combinations, and real- time computer performance have been presented throughout the world. In 2014, he was given the SEAMUS Lifetime Achievement Award. He was a member of the Composition Faculty of the CalArts School of Music from 1971 to 2016. His web site is <barryschrader.com>. ... more

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