Ruth Anderson & Annea Lockwood – Tête-à-tête LP + 10″
One of 2023’s most essential releases!
Over the course of a nearly 50 year romantic and creative partnership sound artist Annea Lockwood and the late pioneering electronic composer Ruth Anderson have shared space on a number of significant releases of early electronic and tape music, including Charles Amirkhanian’s trailblazing 1977 anthology of women electronic composers New Music for Electronic and Recorded Media, a 1981 split LP on Opus One, a 1997 CD for Phill Niblock’s XI imprint, and 1998’s Lesbian American Composers compilation on CRI. The couple additionally taught a course on the history of women’s music-making, at Hunter College, called Living Women, Living Music. Throughout their time together, they co-authored a number of Hearing Studies designed for people with no formal musical training, which were collected for a 2021 book publication by Open Space Music. They spent most of their private life between Crompond, NY and the house they built themselves at Flathead Lake, Montana. Although Ruth passed away in 2019, the composers’ dialogue continues today with Tête-à-tête, a collection of unreleased archival and new material spread across an LP and a single-sided 10” record.
It all began with a telephone call. In 1973, Ruth Anderson was seeking a substitute to cover a yearlong sabbatical from her position as the director of the Electronic Music Studio she had founded at Hunter College in New York City. Her friend Pauline Oliveros too was on sabbatical, but recommended Ruth call Annea Lockwood—then living in London—about the post. Already drawn to America by the work of the visionary composers with whom she would soon be labelmates on Lovely Music, Annea jumped at the opportunity and within days of meeting in person the pair were, in her words, “joyously entangled.”
Over the next nine months, while Ruth was living in Hancock, New Hampshire, the couple would speak daily by phone in between visits. Ruth recorded these phone calls and, in 1974, surprised Annea with a cassette containing “Conversations,” a private piece she composed by dexterously collaging fragments of their conversations alongside slowed and throwed snatches of old popular songs: “Yes Sir, That’s My Baby”; “Oh, You Beautiful Doll”; and “Bill Bailey.” The centerpiece of Tête-à-tête, this side of intimate musique concrète extends to its listeners a rare invitation to eavesdrop on the halcyon phenomenon of two people falling in love. Tender and playful throughout, “Conversations” comes to its zenith with a cut-up of relentless laughter of a contagious beauty that is, for once, properly convulsive.
“For Ruth” is Annea’s elegy to her life partner. In 2020, Annea returned to Hancock as well as to Ruth’s resting place at Flathead Lake to make field recordings, which she wove together with further excerpts of the couple’s 1974 conversations for a commission presented as part of the 2021 Counterflows Festival in Glasgow. A consummate field recordist, Annea imbues the simple sounds of church bells, birds, wind, and the bodies of water that permeated her time alongside Ruth with an otherworldly depth and sense of narrative akin to that of her celebrated sound maps of the Hudson, Danube, and Housatonic rivers. An oneiric, subtly tonal evocation of a meeting at the shores of existence.
The collection opens with “Resolutions,” Ruth’s last completed electronic work, from 1984. A meditation for the individual listener composed as the result of her study of Zen, it’s a rigorous, process-driven piece that charts the very slow, smooth descent of a 5th from the octave above middle C down to sub-bass frequencies. Minimalist in execution, yet powerful in effect, it glides by almost imperceptibly, with new tones arriving and hovering or levitating upwards, seemingly out of nowhere. A healing piece, it harnesses the highly focused energy of pure tones as a means to, in Ruth’s words, “further wholeness of self and unity with others.”