Alfredo Costa Monteiro
CD (E174)

A multi-channel composition for electric organ,
commissioned by L’ull Cec for The Game of
Life Foundation
’s spatialisation sound system
(consisting of 192 speakers and 12 subwoofers,
using the Wave Field Synthesis technique).
Performed on 20 June 2012 at Fabra i Coats,
Barcelona. This recording is the stereo version.

See also
Out of print

Edition of 200 copies


This disc contains a 40-minute stereo version of
a somewhat inclement multi-channel composition
designed to work at full effect in its proper context:
that is, a spatialisation generated by a large number
of speakers and subwoofers employing the Wave
Field Synthesis technique during the playback.

Perhaps Costa Monteiro’s [least] ‘human’ release to
date, Insula is defined by constricting clusters in the
overacute range, massive unresolved drones at times
conveying an almost dictatorial disposition, and only
distant remnants of the primary source. No escape
whatsoever towards even the slightest hint of de-
compression as the music retains its uncomfortably
glacial behaviour.

The overall unfriendliness should not detract from
the work’s value, securely set on the same high
standards to which the composer has grown us used
to. In recent years, Costa Monteiro seems to have
studied John Duncan and Iannis Xenakis quite a lot:
the vibrating physicalness suggests imageries between
celestial and nuclear, striking apexes and quieter
sections finely mingled. In spite of a lack of commonly
intended harmoniousness — I’m referring to untrained
ears, needless to say — one enjoys the plasticity of
the resonating structures and the incisiveness of
the processed organ’s upper partials. A state of
imperturbable vigilance — enhanced by frequencies
whose richness is proportional to their severity —
is ultimately reached.

Beyond the hypocrisy of elite radicalism tinged with
unthreatening sounds, solely focusing on the implicit
meanings – and, why not, the quiet menaces – of
emissions that do not necessarily look for an approval,
Insula represents a brave attempt to express some-
thing less predictable than usual in the overcrowded
area of today’s psychoacoustic investigation.

Massimo Ricci at Touching Extremes

Originally created as a multi-channel spatialised
composition heard through no fewer than 192
speakers and 12 subwoofers, the piece has evidently
lost none of its broad scope in this stereo reduction.
Monteiro’s language is indefatigably synthetic, his
palette of sounds raw, from which he forms tight bands
and clouds of beating frequencies, sometimes eye-
wateringly astringent. Unlike so many composers of
electronic music, Monteiro allows his material plenty
of time to speak, which in turn gives the listener time
to scrutinise their qualities in considerable detail. This
adds conviction to the steady evolution that Insula
undergoes, passing from insect-like pitches to industrial
drones and noise, from upfront and personal dynamic
affrontery to subdued middle-distance time-biding.
Monteiro describes the work as one for electric organ,
and that point of origin becomes much more apparent
in the second half, where austere chords penetrate the
shimmering and bring it into focus, and later hovering
in an uncanny sequence of wavering lines. But noise
regularly punctures whatever certainties pitch seems
to offer, initially in a squalling harsh wall, and finally
in a low throbbing band of something indefinable.

Simon Cummings at 5:4