Berlin Head Metal by Matthew Goodheart


Matthew Goodheart | Berlin Head Metal
Infrequent Seams (DL)

Broken into quadrants Berlin Head Metal (I through IV) is all about percussion, reverb, and ample space at first. Bay Area improvisational composer, installation artist and pianist Matthew Goodheart creates, with great depth, a ritualistic environment of drone and unknown. This comes off like some sort of cosmic/abstract Gamelan – vibrating with the glow of a gong, and lots of malleted instruments/objects made of metal and/or glass, like a gigantic mobile of chimes. It’s quite mesmerizing.

In actuality, the piece is “a large-scale, four movement binaural sound work. Every moment in the piece has its foundation in an electroacoustic technique called “reembodied sound.” This technique focuses on the use of surface transducers, or “sound exciters” – coneless speakers designed to attach to objects and project sound directly in them, thereby turning these objects into a kind of speaker themselves“. This is one installation that I would love to be sitting smack dab in the center of, absorbing the directional sounds in the round. The first three movements are composed with more than 1000 samples that Goodheart borrowed from the American Academy in Berlin (various gongs and a bell plate). One can definitely appreciate the play on “metal head” as this creeps into your consciousness throughout parts one and two.


Berlin Head Metal III takes a slightly different tact, offering more rhythm and more reserved mystery than the previous works. Here I most definitely hear the incision of certain Gamelan traditions in the way in which the metal is struck and treated. Goodheart takes breathy pauses which aid and abet the mood. This has the essence of animated clock innards springing forth towards the middle of the piece, deep within its sparse hollows.

Lastly Berlin Head Metal IV was recomposed from a site-specific sound installation using Tuscan cymbals (Tepidarium del Roster, a 19th Century glass building in Florence). It’s refreshing to hear a pianist’s take on an instrument that offers such lucidity and weightlessness. This last piece is quite ambient, and has a sense of trepidation, and it the album’s most enigmatic. The occasional bird-like call is a unique flourish here as well. This could easily be played on an entire sleep cycle-long loop and your brain would come to rather refreshed. In the end the composer has generated an intense, tingling sleeper.

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