Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Giacinto Scelsi - Hurqualia


"Giacinto Scelsi is one of the most extraordinary composers who have ever lived. A profound mystic, he saw the future of music as residing in a return to an atavistic state of a distant Indo-European pan-culture, and devised exact music to fulfil his ideals.

The music of Giacinto Scelsi is perhaps best described as being that of a spiritual Edgar Varese. This is merely to serve to depict a kind of sound-picture of the basic energy of Scelsi’s works. It has the elemental quality of both Varese as well as that of Tibetan Buddhist orchestral music, and likewise the attention upon Sound in-and-of-itself, yet, through Scelsi’s innate spirituality and deep commitment to Far Eastern philosophy and spirituality, it transcends the realm of mere sound, touching an area of our being left largely untouched by all other music. His music is not for those of a nervous disposition nor for the faint-hearted. It is utterly naked, raw music and totally uncompromising. He considered that all composition since Pythagoras had been in error - that composing (putting together) was a mistake. Devising new music should consist in the analysis of one note and its overtones.

Scelsi began to create massive works based on one note. Earlier in the century the Austrian mystic, occultist, and founder of the Anthroposophical movement Rudolph Steiner had described how the content of one note and its overtone series (and its "undertone" series) could be enough in the future music to provide the raw material for a composition, but Scelsi went further, exploring the microtonal deviations from the chosen note.

Increasingly his works centred around the narrower examinations of the very nature of sound itself, bearing mystical titles, quite often coming from the Vedic tradition of India, and making increasing demands on the performer, in a manner normally only met with in much of extreme Romanticism or Expressionism. Yet with the mystic's rejection of self, this music is as far from expressionism as can be".

The impact caused by the late discovery of his works was described by Belgian musicologist Harry Halbreich saying:

"A whole chapter of recent musical history must be rewritten: the second half of this century is now unthinkable without Scelsi ... He has inaugurated a completely new way of making music, hitherto unknown in the West. In the early fifties, there were few alternatives to serialism's strait jacket that did not lead back to the past. Then, toward 1960–61, came the shock of the discovery of Ligeti's Apparitions and Atmosphères. There were few people at the time who knew that Friedrich Cerha, in his orchestral cycle Spiegel, had already reached rather similar results, and nobody knew that there was a composer who had followed the same path even years before, and in a far more radical way: Giacinto Scelsi himself.”

Dutch musicologist Henk de Velde, alluding to Adorno speaking of Alban Berg, called Scelsi “the Master of the yet smaller transition,” to which Harry Halbreich added that “in fact, his music is only transition.”

Friday, 9 January 2009

Sunday, 20 July 2008

Monday, 26 May 2008


Tristan Murail (born March 11, 1947 in Le Havre, France) is a French composer associated with the "spectral" technique of composition (along with Jonathan Harvey and the late Gérard Grisey), which involves the use of the fundamental properties of sound as a basis for harmony, as well as the use of spectral analysis, FM, RM, and AM synthesis as a method of deriving polyphony.

Following early studies in economics and classical and North African Arabic, Murail studied composition with Olivier Messiaen at the Paris Conservatoire from 1967 to 1972. He taught computer music at the Paris Conservatoire and composition at IRCAM in Paris, where he assisted in the development of the Patchwork composition software. In 1973 he was a founding member of the Ensemble l'Itinéraire. Since 1997 he has been a professor of composition at Columbia University in New York City.

Monday, 18 February 2008

Keith Rowe - Prepared Guitar

"Legendary innovator, UK 'tabletop' guitarist Keith Rowe has explored the guitar as a primary source of pure sound, extending it with an array of objects and bric-a-brac, for more than 30 years. Keith Rowe is probably best known for his groundbreaking work with AMM and the SCRATCH ORCHESTRA. "Twanging ruler-shaped objects set off a cartoon style jiggling tremolo, a block of foam causes mountainous scuffling booms...A one man sound lab and dub studio formed out of a corner hardware shop.."

Alvin Lucier - I Am Sitting in a Room

I Am Sitting in a Room (1970) is one of composer Alvin Lucier's best known works, featuring Lucier recording himself narrating a text, and then playing the recording back into the room, re-recording it. The new recording is then played back and re-recorded, and this process is repeated. Since all rooms have characteristic resonance or formant frequencies (e.g. different between a large hall and a small room), the effect is that certain frequencies are emphasized as they resonate in the room, until eventually the words become unintelligible, replaced by the pure resonant harmonies and tones of the room itself. The recited text describes this process in action—it begins "I am sitting in a room, different from the one you are in now. I am recording the sound of my speaking voice," and the rationale, concluding, "I regard this activity not so much as a demonstration of a physical fact, but more as a way to smooth out any irregularities my speech might have," referring to his own stuttering. Lucier had also specified that a performance need not use his text and the performance may be recorded in any room. However, Lucier himself has recorded the piece in at least one room he did not find aesthetically acceptable.

Full text:

"I am sitting in a room different from the one you are in now. I am recording the sound of my speaking voice and I am going to play it back into the room again and again until the resonant frequencies of the room reinforce themselves so that any semblance of my speech with perhaps the exception of rhythm, is destroyed. What you will hear, then, are the natural resonant frequencies of the room articulated by speech. I regard this activity not so much as a demonstration of a physical fact, but more as a way to smooth out any irregularities my speech might have."

Friday, 7 December 2007

Yoko Ono - Why

Yoko Ono is a well known avant garde type human.

Thursday, 29 November 2007

The No Neck Blues Band - The Black Pope

“in the battered nation we have lost ourselves to hunger and spite, as birds sing false starts and motives are questioned what i have noticed is not the great divides that separate us and torn folly from foe but the callous human stations that seem to be so common these days. there is too much sense ringing in the ears of donkeys, there is not enough worship to constitute our divinity, there are many people thinking of hidden gods with vendettas and murky pasts, and if the battered nation is seeming lame and broken then all hope can not be lost. there are still dreamers amongst us, there are still great untold riches to rags stories, men who have lost it all with pride, way out glass eaters, performers and mentalists free on bail, there are still those who are happiest in the shadows, men and women who know each other by their smells and cadences. they exist without time, they have given it all up for a riddle and a ride, the masters of the stringless banjo, human pigeons whose lives are lived in the sand and rain, the bums who play Bach on tin cans when no one is looking . these are them and i have known them since they were boys, I have seen them play on rooftops and highways, always funeral music and minstrel parlor drones that celebrate air and spirits. they do not give up and continue to play every day, here in the battered nation...” — Harmony Korine 09.04.05

Sunday, 25 November 2007

BBC Radiophonic Workshop - Alchemists of Sound Parts 1-7

"The BBC Radiophonic Workshop was set-up to satisfy the growing demand in the late 1950s for "radiophonic" sounds from a group of producers and studio managers at the BBC, including Desmond Briscoe and Daphne Oram. For some time there had been much interest in producing innovative music and sounds to go with the pioneering programming of the era, in particular the dramatic output of the BBC Third Programme. Often the sounds required for the atmosphere that programme makers wished to create were unavailable or non-existent through traditional sources and so some, such as the musically trained Oram, would look to new techniques to produce effects and music for their pieces. Much of this interest drew them to musique concrète and tape manipulation techniques, since using these methods could allow them to create soundscapes suitable for the growing range of unconventional programming". - Wikipedia

Scott Walker - Jesse

There are a lot of ‘classic’ (i.e. ageing) rock groups where all is ego and restriction. The bass player only plays what he plays and hasn’t listened to anything new in two decades; the drummer is really only interested in salmon farming and collecting china pigs; the singer thinks he’s Stooges era Iggy reborn but he’s nearer Danny La Rue. Such bands continue to tour the world, but the worlds they encompass narrow to the size of a major chord or two, and the most pedestrian of lyrics ... (rock-and-roll-must-never-die).

There are a lot of ways Scott Walker might have gone and this is one of them: into showbiz purgatory, yet another bogus man trolling the world like a pale Xerox ghost of himself, before an ensemble of the best session musicians money can buy, maybe even a ‘triumphant return’ at Glastonbury, the midday sun spearing his eyes and his soul up for grabs as he drags up from absent depths the debris of a long ago hit, a song he must carry around like an overweight angel, a devil on one shoulder whispering in his ear DO IT, DO IT, cash in on the public interest, the re-issued you, all the nostalgia of a trumpet of Alpert, a ridiculously ersatz & anachronistic man child for the cameras, all the cameras …

(Begin - again! No more looking backwards…)

He never went away … but he’s back again, 63, and younger than ever before. His spirit soars.

There are a lot of ways you might introduce the stunning, the towering singularity of Scott Walker’s new work The Drift. As the critic Cynthia Ozick once said of novelist William Gaddis (three novels in thirty years): he may not have been “prolific”, but “instead he has been prodigious, gargantuan, exhaustive, subsuming fates and conditions under a hungry logic.”

Hungry logic? Oh yes: songs you feel you could almost run a finger along and come away with brick dust or splinters, traces of blood curdled sand. I won’t try and “introduce” any of the songs on The Drift or try and offer any explication of what (so far) I think might be their general drift – I think you need to feel them as I did, as a species of shock, a series of shocking headlines history forgot to give to us, delivered into your lap, the immense and beckoning blistering NOISE of it (a truly GLORIOUS, a gloriously non-pareil bank stream current of noises), but also the microscopic attention to ‘background’ detail, layer upon layer, quotations, discrete little sonic movies full of scent and chill and bruise, clue and ricochet and close-up. He more or less invents a world with each new song – the shock of which being partly that he should treat (in this whiny backwater called rock) subjects like this at all, that he should treat us with this immoderate cast: Cossacks framed in mnemonic petals, ill-fated lovers rubbing shoulders like dead moons, Elvis baying in Memphis moonlight, Mussolini hanging like something from a Francis Bacon tarot deck, songs for and from all our Black Septembers, all our German autumns, all the nines, elevens, ones, zeros in a mangle of newspeak.

There are a lot of ways he is not in a band, or handcuffed to an out-dated image of himself, which in reality means that Walker can paint any sound he likes, any combination, a Guernica of song, a Kiefer or Kitaj of song, can hire somebody to punch a side of pork or charm mosquitoes into your ear with their humid soprano or ask the orchestra to sound like Penderecki inside a dosser’s box. Why? Because no one else will. Because there are all these things he hears inside his head and after all, anything can be done in the modern recording studio, so let us start from scratch and paint a picture in the air: a dream, say, of the veldt at night where the locust chorus suddenly stops and the air sounds like threnody itself and cold lightning shoots across the sky like a whore exhaling crack and the death-coin Flugelman glides from hut to hut his midnight greeting like an infected kiss …

And there are a lot of ways that The Drift may not be to your taste, certainly – it is full on, unrelenting, quicksilver, it is intense and Baroque and more Cubistic in its multiple perspectives than we are used to in most popular song; but you cannot, you MUST not dismiss the attempt, the artistic nerve and insanely singular vision needed to undertake such a thing in the current climate.

There are a lot of things Walker may be attempting across the 70 minutes of The Drift and one of them may be this: working out ways to SOUND OUT the present moment’s shame and recess and emptiness, the lingering sense of disappointment and of accounts left unsettled. How to make this (into) sound, how to make it echo in the dialogue that needs to be carried on beyond the end of this or that world, how to sing songs for the dead that won’t shame the dead further, how to address all the mass graves – grave in the sky and grave in our hearts - how to make a sound from all this insane tragedy and bad blood and sly disappearance, how to do this without betraying the dead, how to end and how to begin again but most of all: how to sing the ends of man, whilst at the same time starting the heart of Song again, singing this world anew, precisely because things don’t end, they linger on in the atmosphere, in history’s sudden draughts and secret rivers and thermal drifts, so many voices in the hidden air, so many whispering ghosts, so many … bad ends.

There are a lot of self-proclaimedly ‘experimental’ artists clamouring for our attention, but who else gives us so much space in song, yet still a recognisable song, one marked by sex and pity and perplexity and rage, all the while keeping his ego to a bare minimum. Who else allows so many other voices - unlikely, unmoored, unmourned voices - into his song? Who else gives us language back as such a shock and surprise, as here, in the incredible risk and wager and CRISIS of The Drift, hear how sweeps and heaps of gory or holy or horrific confusion and reflection and fall are rendered with so precise and unfaltering and unique an ear eye and throat, by this man alone, out of time, our first and last and best recording angel, the last Modernist left standing, the only one left alive, Scott 2006.

No more time.
End here, end now.

And - then?

And then? Start to listen all over again …

Ian Penman 2.2.06

Sunday, 18 November 2007

Captain Beefheart - Lick my decals off, baby (advertisement)

Sun Ra - Pink Elephants

Sun Ra Arkestra - Retrospect (1990)

Sun Ra (Born Herman Poole Blount; legal name Le Sony'r Ra;[1] born May 22, 1914 in Birmingham, Alabama, died May 30, 1993 in Birmingham, Alabama) was an innovative jazz composer, bandleader, piano and synthesizer player, poet and philosopher known for his "cosmic philosophy", musical compositions and performances.
He abandoned his birth name and took on the name and persona of Sun Ra (Ra being the ancient Egyptian god of the Sun). Claiming that he was of the "Angel Race" and not from Earth, but from Saturn, Ra developed a complicated persona of "cosmic" philosophies and lyrical poetry that made him a pioneer of Afrofuturism as he preached "awareness" and peace above all.
He led The Arkestra (a deliberate mis-spelling of "orchestra"), an ensemble with an ever-changing lineup and name (it was also called "The Solar Myth Arkestra," the "Blue Universe Arkestra," "The Jet Set Omniverse Arkestra," and many other permutations; Ra asserted that the ever-changing name of his ensemble reflected the ever-changing nature of his music.)
A prolific recording artist and frequent live performer, Sun Ra's music ranged from keyboard solos to big bands of 30-odd musicians; his music touched on virtually the entire history of jazz, from ragtime to swing music, from bebop to free jazz; he was also a pioneer of electronic music, space music[2] and free improvisation, and was one of the first musicians, regardless of genre, to make extensive use of electronic keyboards.

Thursday, 8 November 2007

Christian Marclay

Christian Marclay (born 1955) is a visual artist and composer based in New York.

Marclay's work explores connections between sound, photography, video, and film. A pioneer of using gramaphone records and turntables as musical instruments to create sound collage, critic Thom Jurek describes Marclay as perhaps the "unwitting inventor of turntablism."[1] His own use of turntables and records, beginning in the mid-1970s, was developed independently of hip hop's use of the instrument, and though not well-known to mainstream audiences, Marclay has nonetheless been described as "the most influential [turntable] figure outside hip hop."

Marclay studied at the Massachusetts College of Art, and was notably interested in Joseph Beuys and the Fluxus movement of the 1960s and '70's.

Drawn to the energy of punk rock, Marclay began creating songs, singing to music on pre-recorded backing tapes. Unable to recruit a drummer for his 1979 performances with guitarist Kurt Henry, Marclay used the regular rhythms of a skipping LP record as a percussion instrument. These duos with Henry might be the first time a musician used records and turntables as interactive, improvising musical instruments

Marclay sometimes manipulates or damages records to produce continuous loops and skips, and has said he generally prefers inexpensive used records purchased at thrift shops, as of 1998, never having paid more than US$1 for a record[6], as opposed to other turntablists who often seek out specific recordings. Marclay has occasionally cut and re-joined different LP records; when played on a turntable, these re-assembled records will combine snippets of different music in quick succession along with clicks or pops from the seams, and when the original LPs were made of differently-colored vinyl, the reassembled LPs can themselves be objects d'art.

Some of Marclay's musical pieces are carefully recorded and edited plunderphonics-style; he is also active in free improvisation. He was filmed performing a duo with erikM for the documentary Scratch. His scene didn't make the final cut, but is included on the DVD extras.

Thom Jurek writes "many intellectuals have made wild pronouncements about Marclay and his art — and it is art, make no mistake — writing all sorts of blather about how he strips the adult century bare by his cutting up of vinyl records and pasting them together with parts from other vinyl records, they never seem to mention that these sound collages of his are charming, very human, and quite often intentionally hilarious".

Bernard Parmegiani / Piotr Kamler - Chronopolis

Bernard Parmegiani (Paris, France, 1927) started off as a sound engineer for French television (ORTF later known as RTF). Originally a mime during the four years studies at Lecoq & Decroux school, he joined the Groupe de recherches musicales (GRM) in 1959 for a two years master class. His first major work (Violostries) is composed in 1962 for a choregraphy performed for Théâtre Contemporain d’Amiens directed by Jacques-Albert Cartier.

Pierre Schaeffer gave him the direction the Musique-Image departement at ORTF. He composed during that period for numerous film directors, such as R. Lapoujade, P. Foldès, P. Kamler, V. Borowczyck, P. Kast, J. Baratier or P. Kassovitz. He furthermore extended his musical researches in the field of video-art after a journey through the US. He directed three musical videos when he returned: L’Œil écoute (1973), Jeux d’artifices (1979) for the research departement of ORTF, plus L’Écran transparent (1973) in Köln (Germany) at West Deutsche Rundfunk (WDR) during his residency.

His interests goes also live: he interacted during the seventies with jazz practitioners for improv sessions with french jazz fellows J.-L. Chautemps, B. Vitet or M. Portal. He went in London to perform live with The Third Ear Band.

He realized numerous jingles & soundbites for public radio stations (France-Culture or France-Musique), public television service (Antenne 2) or airport (Aéroport de Roissy).

During his entire career, he finally realized music for stage (dance & theater), screen or media (radio & television alike). But he remains focused on electroacoustic music (or acousmatic music as defined by GRM long-time director François Bayle) conceived to be played back for the best rendition on the acousmonium broadcasting system developped by Groupe de recherches musicales (GRM).

Merzbow - Minus Zero

Merzbow (メルツバウ) is an extreme experimental music project created in Tokyo in 1979 under the direction of musician Masami Akita (秋田昌美) and is recognized as being one of the earliest projects in what has become known as the 'Japanese noise scene'. Highly prolific, Merzbow has released a plethora of CDs, LPs and cassettes since 1979.

Masami Akita was born in Tokyo in 1956. He listened to psychedelic music, progressive rock and later free jazz in his youth, all of which have influenced his music. Later he went to Tamagawa University to study art. It was there that he learned of Kurt Schwitters' Merz, or art made from rubbish, including Schwitters' Merzbau, or "Merz building". This is the source of the name Merzbow.

Nurse With Wound - I've Plummed This Whole Neighborhood

Nurse With Wound or NWW is the main recording vehicle of British musician Steven Stapleton. NWW was originally a band, formed in 1978 by Stapleton, John Fothergill and Heman Pathak.

Their early recordings, all made quickly, were heavily influenced by free improvisation and Krautrock and were generally considered industrial music, despite the objections of the group.

By 1981, only Stapleton was left from the original trio and he now regards 1982's Homotopy to Marie, as being the first proper Nurse With Wound release. There are now over 30 full length NWW titles. Stapleton's fondness for dada, surrealism and absurdist humor are demonstrated in much of NWW's output, which, though it draws directly on nearly every musical genre imaginable (from cabaret music to nursery rhymes to John Cage to The Beach Boys to krautrock to pop music to ambient music) retains a distinctive and recognizable aura. Musique concrete may be the most prominent touchstone, due to Stapleton's frequent – and often humorous – use of creative tape loops and editing. This aesthetic is fully represented in the artwork that features on the album covers, virtually all of which is created by Stapleton, mostly under the pseudonym "Babs Santini".