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Maximizing the Audience
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  • Wim Mertens' first album after dropping the group name Soft Verdict, the double-disc Maximizing the Audience consists of the music for Jan Fabre's play The Power of Theatrical Madness, which premiered in Venice, Italy, on June 11, 1984. This is Mertens' first foray into extended compositional forms; the pieces on earlier Soft Verdict records had been between two and nine minutes in length, but aside from the four-and-a-half-minute "The Fosse" and the 12-minute title track, all the pieces on Maximizing the Audience are close to 20 minutes long. Either the length or the music's function as a theatrical background makes these five pieces some of the most traditionally minimalist music of Mertens' career. For example, "Circles," featuring a single soprano saxophone over a bed of overdubbed interlocking clarinets, is pure process music in the tradition of early Steve Reich. "Whisper Me" is similar in compositional style, but its more traditional chamber music orchestration -- cello, viola, French horn, and piano -- gives the piece an entirely different texture. Mertens reaches back to earlier Soft Verdict compositions on Maximizing the Audience. "Lir," which like "The Fosse" takes its name from one of Ezra Pound's Cantos, is a piece for two pianos that incorporates the 1982 composition "Gentleman of Leisure" for one of its sections. Similarly, the title track quotes extensively from 1983's "Inergys." The results sound less like self-plagiarism than evidence of a desire to revisit earlier work with the added compositional complexity evinced throughout Maximizing the Audience. ~ Stewart Mason
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