Thursday, December 3, 2009

Eliane Radigue - Elemental II (ROSA, 2005)

At the beginning of the decade, Kasper T. Toeplitz approached Eliane Radigue in hopes that she would write an instrumental piece for him to perform live. Though this breaks somewhat from Radigue's usual mode as a composer, she accepted and presented Elemental II to him in 2003. Toeplitz performs the piece here on an electric upright bass routed directly into a Max/MSP patch. Though the shape of the piece to a degree lacks Radigue's overall careful and delicate touch, the subtle ebb and flow here is very much of Radigue's design, as is the opening subsonic rumble. Being unfamiliar with Toeplitz's previous work, it is difficult to determine how of his own musical vocabulary is present here, particularly with the degree to which processing has augmented his instrument.

Elemental II
& in .flac

Monday, November 23, 2009

Demetrio Stratos - Cantare La Voce (Cramps, 1978)

One more entry from the Nova Musicha series. Demetrio Stratos is most known for his work with seminal Italian prog band Area, but also conducted expansive vocal research in phonetics and ethnomusicology. Cantare La Voce is his second solo entry, deeply reliant on his limber vocal range and mutliphonic abilities. The opening "Investigazioni" showcases Stratos employing both diplophony and triplophy, though it's alleged that he could even produce four simultaneous voices. For Stratos, maximizing the voice's potential, freeing it of all natural restraint, had political and psychological implications. Elsewhere on the album, Stratos layers his voice work in ways reminiscent of tape music, though rest assured it all originated from his chest and throat.

Cantare La Voce

Monday, November 9, 2009

Miguel Angel Coria - En Rouge Et Noir (Cramps, 1976)

A baffling prepared piano vignette by way of Cramps' Nova Musica series, pounded out by an otherwise unheard of maestro by the name of Miguel Angel Coria. Not quite sure how Coria has rigged his piano, but it almost sounds as though a rake head was laid inside. Alternately sparse and frantic, Coria varies between dizzying sweeps and runs, stumpy chords, and a repetitious hand-and-peck typist approach. Progressively, the vibes grow weirder, as what are either tape treatment or ghost tones emerge and Coria's playing becomes less and less frequent. Comes as a whole or in easily rearranged pieces.

En Rouge et Noir

Mixed Band Philanthropist - The Man Who Mistook A Real Woman For His Muse And Acted Accordingly 7" (Hypnagogia, 2003)

Might be the puritan in me, but I'm a bit bashful about offering this up. Starts off fine, just a tumbling ball of TV snippets, giggling children, and leftover cartoon effects. Then a minute and a half in--out comes the weiner jokes, and it's Benny Hill subbing for Vicki Bennett on Do or DIY. The pace is such that once they start coming, it's an outright flood. The flip side keeps up the pace, still rough and tumble but does so with a sense of decency. These two sides date back to 1983, a year or so prior initial work on The Impossible Humane.

The Man Who Mistook A Real Woman For His Muse And Acted Accordingly

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Luc Ferrari - Unheimlich Schön (Metamkine, 1993)

This 1971 piece from the late Luc Ferrari marks another contribution from an elder statesman in the Cinéma pour l’oreille collection. As with Radigue's Biogenesis, this is a piece that diverges from the path most often identified as the author's. He begins with a deep breathed refrain by Ilse Lau, "Unheimlich schön"--roughly translated as "terribly beautiful"--which repeats on, as a steady breath and an increasingly prominent room tone swamps the phrase. Fragmented echoes begin to crowd the short line, until one can hardly distinguish the voice from the echoes. The piece bears an uncanny resemblance to Robert Ashley's She Was a Visitor, so much so that it could act as Ferrari's response to that piece in mirrored form.

Unheimlich Schön

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Terry Fox - Insalata Mista cs (Edition S Press, 1982)

Sadly lacking a cover for this one, but this candid shot will surely suffice. My original plan was to share this last Thursday, as it marked one year since Mr. Fox's passing. Having missed that deadline, I see no better time than the present.

The material here gives a fine view of Fox on the run in the 1970's, as his interest in the sonic nature of spaces was just in bloom. It begins with a duet with Joseph Bueys for pipe and glass, the closing of an hour long performance where the pipe is rapped upon and aimed at windows, its echo then used to find dead spots in the panes. Once found, the pane is then broken, continuing until all panes are shattered.

Numerous samplings of Fox's long string works are featured, from springy pieces to the dense timbrel exercises most common to long string investigations. More surprising are the anomalies, like the excerpt from Fox's 1977 piece "Culvert", a warbled head scratcher if ever there was one. Another highlight is "Lunar Rambles", an audio snippet from a five part video series wherein Fox arrived unannounced at various locations in downtown NYC and conducted a brief performance on a bowed steel disc and a metal bowl.

Insalata Mista

While on the subject of film, the fine folks at Ubu recently posted the following early video work by Fox, Children's Tapes, a tight framed series of simple household experiments set on a table top.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

François Bayle - Jeîta / L'infini Du Bruit (Magison, 1999)

Always took this to be Bayle's back-to-nature work, but the line is blurry as to where natural sounds end and his transformations begin. His works often have a spaciousness to them, but here there is a genuine sense of space, of sound bouncing off walls. Part of this is due to much of the sound material--the tinkerings, gusts, droplets, and chirps--being recorded at the mouth of a cave, making the distinction between what's real and what's Bayle very confusing. The opening piece, Jeîta, was initially released in 1970 as part of the Prospective 21e Siècle series with the great silver covers. The two that follow, L'infini du bruit and Jeîta-Retour were both completed in 1999.

Jeîta / L'infini Du Bruit

Monday, September 21, 2009

Eliane Radigue - Biogenesis (Metamkine, 1996)

This 1973 piece by Eliane Radigue stands out on surface level as being very unlike her work before or after this period. The sources are essentially acoustic and a far cry from the technology she most often sought: with a stethoscope and a microphone, she recorded the heartbeats of her son, her pregnant daughter, and the rhythms of her yet to be born grandchild.It was during this time that Radigue was truly immersing herself in the ARP synth, and shortly prior to her brief sabbatical from music to further hone her interest in and devotion to Tibetan Buddhism. Though seemingly in contrast with her penchant for waveforms, the resulting pulses stir at a pace all too familiar from her electronic work. As with her ARP creations, her role here is to never interfere, merely to seek out the waves and allow them to do as they wish.


Max Neuhaus - Four Realizations of Stockhausen's Zyklus (Alga Marghen, 2004)

Perhaps the biggest regret people having regarding Max Neuhaus' life is how little of it was captured to tape. I certainly am guilty of this lament and would without a doubt leap at an opportunity to hear any uncovered remnants of the late mastermind's work. Still, there is a certain magic to his concise representation, as if there really weren't much more one could ask him to do to prove himself. In fact, I dare say you could reduce his recorded output to these recordings of Stockhausen's No. 9 Zyklus for One Percussionist and his Fontana Mix-Feed and walk away downright impressed with and even intimidated by Neuhaus. Both are powerful testaments to his mind, with Fontana Mix-Feed showing his more practical side and Zyklus giving insight into his composure under pressure.

Stockhausen composed Zyklus in 1959 to be performed in percussion competitions, with its debut realization given by Christoph Caskel the same year. The piece is built around a spiral bound score with no defined start or orientation--the performer would choose where to begin and whether to read left to right or right to left--set to end when one meets back at the beginning note. To perform it, a twenty-one piece array of percussion instruments is set up in a circle, corresponding to the same spiral that forms the score. Though intended to be performed spontaneously, the three performers at the time who had successfully played Zyklus did so by making the decisions in advance and working out their own score.

Neuhaus, being Neuhaus, took the bait and did it right. His notorious problem solving ability came into play, working out the necessary techniques, but never the actual sequence of performance. One can only be so nimble minded. He first performed the piece for his graduation recital from Manhattan School of Music. At least a year separates each of these four performances, each starting at a new point within the score, each with a pace all its own. You can hear how Neuhaus' approach and confidence in playing the Zyklus evolved over time, though in each there lies a spontaneity by far serving the piece justice. The corresponding dates and locations are as follows:
1. Wergo Records Studios, 1963
2. Carnegie Recital Hall, NYC, 1964
3. West Deursche Rundfunk Studios, Cologne, Germany, 1965
4. Columbia Records Studios, NYC, 1968


Monday, August 31, 2009

Pierre-André Arcand - Eres + 16 (Avatar / Ohm Editions, 1995)

Nine more steps through Arcand's Eres series, this time transporting his looping processes into a live setting. Beginning with the spiraling scrawl of his sounding book, he then launches into a diatribe in French that his Macchina Ricordi subsequently dices and scatteres until left with a brigade babbling "blah blah blah" in a cadence befitting of tree frogs. The adrenalizing leap onto the stage manages to elevate Arcand's sound processes, revealing a grit and immediacy not always felt in the first seven pieces. With the macchina in tow, he conjures a swirling storm of chuckles and a dizzying blitz of unidentifiable reeds. Arcand delves into throat works that would no doubt delight Henri Chopin, guttural to the point that one finds bubbles in the belly.

Eres + 16

Francois Bayle - Erosphère (INA-GRM, 1990)

Easy to get confused here, as this is not Bayle's 1982 Erosphère LP (which it so happens the fine folks at Mutant Sounds posted here), but instead the flagship voyage collecting Bayle's complete works onto cd. Rather than feature Erosphère in its entirety, it contains one fourth of the original album, the 1978 piece Toupie Dans Le Ciel along with another piece from 1978 titled Tremblement De Terre Très Doux.

Tremblement De Terre Très Doux captures one of Bayle's long standing fascinations, the soundings of metal objects, here largely a metal marble and chimes of some sort. These sounds travel in and out of the foreground, sometimes submerged in flittering manipulation and other times unadorned. Bayle juxtaposes real and artificial space in a seamless fashion, his sounds unfolding at a energetic but serene pace. Toupie Dans Le Ciel builds sparse melodies from a succession of swelling figures, and atop that steadily vibrating upper figures are laid. With only minor variation, these two elements float the five movements with a depth and pulse that stunningly anticipates Wolfgang Voigt's Gas at its most gentle stride.


Friday, August 28, 2009

Jonty Harrison - Articles Indéfinis (Empreintes DIGITALes, 1996)

These early glimpses into the sound works of UK-based composer Jonty Harrison showcase his longstanding playfulness with sound and form. Harrison is a champion of listening inside sounds, enabling him the rare ability to transform without dampening the integrity of his sources. The eleven suites of … et ainsi de suite… explore a vast sonic space at the center of which lies the chime and clatter of a pair of wine glasses. Similar explorations on the sounds of balloons and air itself factor into subsequent recorings here. That play on the recognizable sound figures into much of Harrison's work, as the unraveling of his processes reveals a strangeness in the real that one can carry over into day-to-day listening.

Articles Indéfinis

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Aki Onda - Don't Say Anything (EWE, 2002)

A slight break in form from Onda's Cassette Memories work, at times swapping out field recorded moments for real instruments. Onda sampled or taped trumpet by Steven Bernstein, tuba by Marcus Rojas, string work from David Fiuczynski and Eyvind Kang, and the percussion of Yoichi Okabe, Yasuhiro Yoshigaki, Jyoji Sawada, and Kumiko Takara, then reconstructed, laying out the pieces in a manner similar to his other work. Onda based the overall vibe of the work on his the perceived intimacy and obsession in the photographs of French poet Pierre Louÿs, with Onda hoping the capture the transporting qualities of the photos. Save for a lull in "Mellow" due largely to shockingly uninspired sound selection, the pieces unravel in a very inviting way and capture the attention. Kang's rich violin overtones on "Dance" and the percussive outburst the closes "Naked" would certainly make the highlights reel.

Don't Say Anything

Friday, July 24, 2009

Åke Hodell - Verbal Brainwash And Other Works (Fylkingen, 2000)

Madness runs rampant in the works of Åke Hodell. Hodell became interested in sound and its relations with the voice after an injury soured the fighter pilot's opinions on the military. He's most at home in a swirl of farm sounds, explosives, and the fancy footwork of an auctioneer. The text-sound pieces here, dating between 1963 and 1977, tout Hodell's many splendors, a bizarre middle ground of the absurd and the political without even the slightest hesitation to drive the point home a thousand times over. Hodell is deeply intimate with the exponential relation between how many times something is repeated and how hilarious it can be. And he's managed to transpose that to how impacting and poignant an idea can become. Only he knew what separated these text-sound works from his radioplays, but there is an undeniably theatrical thread to each piece. Only he could think to tell the history of the great 20th century wars through the sounds of its ammunitions.

The trouble that Hodell brews within his works is best viewed through his eyes. One need turn only to his notes on "Mr Smith In Rhodesia" to truly grasp that this is a man in a world all his own:

My composition Mr Smith in Rhodesia was written during the late fall of 1969 and was recorded in the beginning of March 1970, at EMS (Electroacoustic Music Studio) and at the Swedish Radio. We needed five black children around 11-12 years of age for the recording, but this turned out to be impossible. Therefore, we contacted the English school in Stockholm and found five white children of the same age group. They were to read some simple texts in genuine Oxford English; this was important because black children in English-speaking African schools were indoctrinated through the use of Oxford English and its built-in political values, not least in relation to the colonial belief in the justification of the apartheid system.

The children came to the Swedish Radio one afternoon. Under the guidance of an Englishman, they recorded the texts on tape. So that they wouldn´t be bored in the studio, we gave them lemonade and biscuits. They were of course also paid for their work. Imagine our surprise a few weeks later when we found out about the scandal caused by this recording. When they returned home, the children told their unknowing parents that they had been a part of a composition which was directed against Prime Minister Ian Smith´s white dictatorship in Rhodesia. The parents were shocked, turning first to the British Embassy in Stockholm, then to English newspapers and the BBC.

The Daily Telegraph put the news on its front page, where a creative reporter was allowed to write the article. The five children, whose age had now sunk to 6-7 years old, were bribed by candy and later tricked into appearing in an anti-American opera at the Modern Museum in Stockholm. At the end of the opera, they were placed in front of a wall and forced to say, "Mr Smith is a murderer." The reporter neglected to mention that the children also said, "Mr Smith is our friend and father", "Mr Smith gives us food and clothing" etc.

The Swedish tabloids reported the scandal in large headlines. The British Embassy protested to the Swedish Broadcasting Corporation (SR), after which SR´s program director at the time, Nils-Olof Franzén, explained in an interview that the recording would be destroyed, which it was. Fylkingen, which was co-producer of the recording, was not satisfied, and financed a new recording in England involving children whose parents were quite positive towards the political content of the piece. This is the version which was presented at Fylkingen´s and the Swedish Radio´s festival at the Modern Museum in April 1970. In spite of this new recording, the piece had since then been banned from transmission on the Swedish Radio, but from this performance on, the ban was lifted.

It wasn't until I played this on the radio only to have the girl taking over for me storm away muttering "This is driving me crazy that I realized how deeply I adore this man.

Brainwash and
Other Works

Monday, July 20, 2009

Pierre Bastien - Eggs Air Sister Steel (In-Poly-Sons, 1996)

Here in one fell swoop, Pierre Bastien pays tribute to Charles Ray, Thelonius Monk, and Brian Eno. While I think there is a misconception as to what extent his Mechanium orchestra are involved in his works, there is no denying that Bastien's ear for song is unlike any other. In keeping with the title's plan on Raymond Queneau's Exercises in Style, Bastien offers thirteen variations on a basic theme with aid from the Mechanium and several musicians on piano, accordion, strings, and percussion. Where the mechanized instruments are what people hone in on with Bastien, his knack for pairing eastern and western instruments into imaginative song forms is certainly worth equal attention.

Eggs Air Sister Steel

Laurent Pernice - Humus - Musiques Immobiles 5-15 (Monochrome Vision, 2004)

French composer Laurent Pernice recorded these ten pieces in Marseille between 1999 and 2001. He began each with a simple process, toying with an instrument until he arrived at some sound or approach that stepped beyond that instrument's usual parameters. Passages from these experiments are then looped and processed, creating undulating masses that lie on the brink of stasis. Though Pernice begins primarily with acoustic sources, the outcome sounds unmistakably electronic. The pieces that incorporate dips into extremely low frequencies are particularly effective, carrying an energy less present in many of these hovering works.

Humus - Musiques Immobiles

Christine Groult - L'Heure Alors S'Incline (Metamkine, 1993)

A favorite from the Cinéma pour l’oreille series here, realized by GRM alum Christine Groult in 1991 as an homage to Luigi Nono, who had passed shortly prior. Groult has great pacing and dynamics throughout, building at first from what seems to be softly blown flute with an emphasis on the breath. As momentum builds, the softness of the breath sounds fall to a much rougher texture. Over the course of nearly nineteen minutes, Groult shifts from gentle to abrasive to deep and glacial, closing with an almost pastoral passage. Each development is done with a carefully executed fluidity that works more to draw the listener in than send the piece bursting outward.

L'Heure Alors S'Incline...

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Mirror - Pedestrian / Nocturne 7" (Three Poplars, 2000)

The second release on Heemann and Chalk's Three Poplars label bears the distinct honor of being the sole Mirror 7" (to my knowledge at least). What more, the A side "Pedestrian" features Chalk engaged in straight guitar passages, guiding the track with mbira-like loping figures. Underneath there still lies that current of atmosphere supplied by Heemann's synth work. On the B side, "Nocturne" is filled with sustained tones the likes of which populate their longer sides. Often the use of near stasis sounds has the effect of disorienting the listener to the lapse of time. Where this is usually sought during longer works, Heemann and Chalk use it here to widen the impact of a shorter piece as the mass shifts from an initial rumble into slightly higher registers.

Pedestrian / Nocturne

Friday, June 19, 2009

Joe Colley - Project for an LP (Edition ..., 2004)

A fun act of chance operations provides the fodder for both an installation and recording project by Sacramento-based Joe Colley. Beginning with two identical mini discs, populated with ten brief noise fragments, five extended blocks of sound, and five silences of varying length, Colley set the players to random and fed their signals into another recorder, with each player occupying its own stereo channel. This recording became the source for an installation, wherein three turntables equipped with a test press of the minidisc recordings were each situated amidst a pair of oscillating fans. The fans act on the turntables in two ways: they push the tone arm to and fro, resulting in an additional level of randomization of the material and more prominently in the scraping of the stylus across the LP surface; additionally, the tone arm amplifies the fan motors, resulting in an all-pervading hum. Two recordings of the installation were made, one by Eric La Casa as he wandered around the room, undoubtedly inflicting his own mode of hearing on the document, and another by Colley himself, sitting back and presumably basking in his decision-less freedom.

Project for an LP

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Pierre-André Arcand - Eres + 7 (Avatar / OHM Editions, 1992)

These are the first in three installments from Quebecois sound artist Pierre-André Arcand's Eres series, the flagship expedition for two of his self-made instruments. Primary vehicle here is his Macchina Ricordi, a modified recorder that accomodates both the tape loops and simultaneous overdubbing that enable his impromptu modernization of Revue OU lineage sound poetry. Sometimes added to this are tones produced by his sounding book, a small metal box played by scribbling on its surface with a microphone heard most prominently on the beginning two pieces. These frantic washes provide a sound bed for Arcand to lay his guttural ululations, which become alternately scattered and hypnotic via the macchina ricordi's capabilities. In addition to voice, Arcard unleashes the macchine on what most likely is a violin, dicing the scrapes with anything but a precise cut.

Eres + 7

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Ora - Morgendämmerung 10" (Die Stadt, 2004)

Though originally conceived as a project by Andrew Chalk and Darren Tate, for these recordings Ora is the latter incarnation of Tate and Colin Potter--the same duo who later became Monos. Assisting them on "The Sun Sheds a Golden Tear" are Lol Coxhill and Daisuke Suzuki. The piece is built from recordings of a storm, expanding the sonic artifacts of wind and rain into a densely murky sound mass on top of which eerie but gentle tones emerge. The second piece, "The Impregnable", is built from a more monolithic mass, augmented by delay-swept time distortions and growing progressively more harsh. Both of these 1997 recordings were originally featured on their 1999 cd-r New Movements in G, but excluded from the two Ora retrospective cds.


Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Gilles Gobeil - La Mécanique des Ruptures (Empreintes DIGITALes, 1994)

Gilles Gobeil's first collection of recordings covers a range of his electro-acoustic material dating between 1985 and 1993. Despite the broad time frame, the pieces are bound together by Gobeil's magnetic draw to bursts of sound, frequently of an industrial source or the Ferrari-esque door slam. His sonic events first present themselves as little windows into a scene, until some element leaps through the glass and leaving the prior sounds in a spiral of shards. This approach certainly makes for an action heavy listening experience, something that might exhaust some though I prefer work like to veer a little on the side of mania. A few pieces feature Suzanne Binet-Audet performing on an early electronic instrument called the ondes martenot, similar in sound though not construction to the theremin.

La Mécanique des Ruptures

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Keith Berry - The Ear That Was Sold to a Fish (Crouton, 2005)

The Ear That Was Sold... is one of a handful of texturally intricate releases that British sound artist Keith Berry has issued either of his own name or as Brown Bunny. Delicate and deliberate in pace and seemingly low on events, the nine pieces here unravel in much the same way as stray notions do when one is on the brink of sleep. The body of each piece here is filled by a drifting drone mass underneath which a gentle rustle of incidental events occurs. Each of the nine is constructed with a rare level of patience and concentration, resulting in a rather subtle but interconnected whole. The disc was issued in a small box containing several blue flower petals, revealing a refreshing fragrance upon its opening.

The Ear That Was Sold to a Fish

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Hands To - Nahza (Manifold, 1996)

Hands To was an early project of Jeph Jerman, occurring roughly alongside his participation in City of Worms. At its most embryonic state, the recordings were sampler and tape based, though as Jerman's interest in the acoustic interactions of objects manifested itself, so too did Hands To drift in that direction. Nahza came during that latter stage, built from a string of recordings made in various environments where man-made objects interact with one another at the hands of Jerman. Though the actual objects used remain unidentified, the sounds seem to be the result of friction and striking and tend to convey sources of metal and stone. The recordings were made with a significant gain level, allowing the sonorous nature of the environment in which they were made become a part of the listening experience.


Friday, May 8, 2009

Philip Corner - Playing with the Elements (Edition Lebeer-Hossmann, 1985)

Something slightly out of character here from Philip Corner, whose non-instrumental works tend more often toward explorations of metal objects, these find Corner either in nature boy mode or in the lab/kitchen. The first was recorded by Bill Fontana, with whom Corner has frequently collaborated, and features an upclose rendering of several rocks being rubbed together along with Corner's breath as he guides the rocks along. Certain works from Akio Suzuki comes to mind, as well as more recent interests by Jeph Jerman among others. The two recordings that follow deal with applying heat to objects. The first captures boiling water, with the proximity of the microphone creating a rather immersive sound environment that steadies as a rolling boil is reached. The final is of the heating of stone to make terra cotta and is far more gentle a listen. Corner issued these recordings in a decorative box that also featured a small cloth bag containing several stones, a card insert, and the scores to these works.

Playing with the Elements

Monday, May 4, 2009

Bill Fontana - Australian Sound Sculptures (Edition Block, 1988)

Another document of the always innovative Bill Fontana, here presenting in reverse chronological order two works from his formative recording experiences in Australia. The first is an installment in his Acoustical Views series of pieces, similar in many ways to Landscape Sculpture with Fog Horns in its pooling of eight locations into one. Inherent to these works is a notion that consistently appears in Fontana's work, that of "hearing as far as you can see." The second piece, recorded in 1976, marked the point when Fontana's interests shifted toward this eight channel aural perspective. These recordings of Kirribilli Wharf in Sydney are built with eight microphones inserted into cylindrical holes in the whart, producing percussive sounds as the waves close the openings. Fontana then replayed this recordings in various settings around Sydney, several years later playing them as part of an exhibition at the Whitney.

Australian Sound Sculptures

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Pierre Schaeffer / Pierre Henry - L'Œuvre Musicale (INA-GRM/EMF, 1998)

The three discs collected here cover the bulk of Pierre Schaeffer's concrète works, beginning with his pre-tape days when he composed using multiple turntables mixing sound effects recordings direct to lathe. The earliest recordings here were created in 1948 during Schaeffer's days as radio engineer for Radiodiffusion Française and are built from sounds ranging from locomotives and whirligigs to pots, pans, piano, and percussion. Each of those collages eventually made their way onto the air. His Suite pour 14 instruments is an amalgam of orchestral sounds rendered far beyond their original context. Where these early works clearly function as experiments for Schaeffer, once Pierre Henry joins in as his assistant, the music takes on both a playfulness and a refinement of detail that eventually became landmarks of the French approach to musique concrète. The processes became increasingly laborious, and those who once flocked to Schaeffer's studio to work in this new medium became disillusioned by the demand and patience that the work required. Schaeffer and Henry worked together for eight years amassing a daunting sound library, some of which never fully materializing. Included here is an Henry work from 1988, created in homage to Schaeffer using fragments of their Orpheus 51 and 53. Though Schaeffer retired from music in 1960, he returned to sound studies in the late 1970s, eventually revisiting some early works. Those too are collected here, and the bridge in time is event as Schaeffer breathes new life into his early techniques while also incorporating a more defined sound. Included as well are the results of Schaeffer's studies of psycho-acoustics, presented here as the two part Le Trièdre Fertile.

Disc One: Les Incunables 1948-1979
Disc Two: Les Œuvres Communes 1950-1953 & 1988
Disc Three: Les Révisions 1948-1979 / Les Œuvres Postérieures 1957-1959 & 1975-1979

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Steve Roden & Brandon LaBelle - The House Was Quiet And The World Was Calm (Meme, 1999)

The House Was Quiet And The World Was Calm is the first of several collaborations between Roden and LaBelle that include another cd and co-editing the excellent sound art anthology Site of Sound. The album, released by the lost but not forgotten Meme label, is among the strongest either has been involved in, and very much a synergistic merging of their aesthetics. These in studio improvisations are culled from indoor sounds that Roden procured and outdoor sounds that LaBelle sought on hands and knees. LaBelle's contributions are entomologically inclined, capturing the minutiae of water bugs, spiders, and ants in macro-amplified glory. Roden coaxes waves from a variety of ways, gently scraping the insides of a bowl, steadily tapping a small gong. This merging of inside and out then is in perfect keeping with the album's title, sharing its name with the following poem by Wallace Stevens:

The House Was Quiet and the World Was Calm

The house was quiet and the world was calm.
The reader became the book; and summer night
Was like the conscious being of the book.
The house was quiet and the world was calm.
The words were spoken as if there was no book,
Except that the reader leaned above the page,
Wanted to lean, wanted much most to be
The scholar to whom the book is true, to whom
The summer night is like a perfection of thought.
The house was quiet because it had to be.
The quiet was part of the meaning, part of the mind:
The access of perfection to the page.
And the world was calm. The truth in a calm world,
In which there is no other meaning, itself
Is calm, itself is summer and night, itself
Is the reader leaning late and reading there.

-- Wallace Stevens

The House Was Quiet And The World Was Calm

Steve Lacy - Straws (Cramps, 1977; 1997)

Straws finds the magnificent late saxophonist Steve Lacy in a variety of semi-solo scenarios, each paying tribute to people and musicians dear to him. He opens with an homage to Art Tatum built around a theme from Vincent Youmans' "Get Happy" that quickly spirals as Lacy is often wont to do. There is but one more outright solo piece, loosely a ballad for his dear Irene. The remaining pieces find Lacy in interesting territory, a pair of sax-celeste duets and two pieces where Lacy plays along to prepared tape recordings. The celeste pieces are fascinating in the sonic space that the celeste leaves for Lacy's sax, this floating bed of sound that ties up the higher ranges. The first tape piece is culled from recordings of three clarinetists and two saxophonists testing reeds, the second Lacy hesitantly calls a "poème sonore", built from construction sounds and several layers of improvised saxophone. Unfortunately, these recordings come from the 1997 reissue of the album, and as such the piece "Feline" appears in a curiously truncated form that preserves the intertwined ascensions of sax and celeste but omit Lacy's solo.


Noise Maker's Fifes - Soundscapes Of The Inner Eye (NMT Productions, 1995)

The first of several cd releases, following a slew of cassettes, from the Belgian duo of Geert Feytons and Timo van Luijk finds them in what for Noise Maker's Fifes is familiar territory: eerily dense soundscapes built from collages field sounds and a mix of home made and traditional instruments that hover in the sonic area like an airborne toxic event. Though typically of fluctuating dimensions, these recordings from 1992-3 feature only the founding pair, just before the group broadened into the transmedia conglomerate that stands as their legacy. Each vignette unravels gradually into delicate drifts of environmental blur and rustles and screeches, rarely tethered to rhythm for a feel more akin to drifting in and out of consciousness. Knowing that they only got better, it's tough to shake how incredibly good they are here.

Soundscapes of the Inner Eye

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Denis Dufour - Dix Portraits / Douze Mélodies Acousmatiques (Motus, 1997)

A pair of mid 80's pieces here from INA-GRM associate Denis Dufour each finds him paying tribute in some way to fellow composers. The first (though titularly the second) is done in response to Michel Chion's Dix Études de Musique Concréte, a loose play on melodies constructed from acoustmatic elements, be they the tumbling of resonant objects, a child's song, or the head or tail end of various instruments. His Dix Portraits, each dedicated to one of his well admired peers, are drawn from a trio of synthesizers and tape and occupy a slightly more narrow sound space that the previous piece. That scaling back works to his favor, as the reduced elements bind the pieces while Dufour's sonic prowess broadens its scope.

Dix Portraits / Douze Mélodies Acousmatiques

Monday, April 20, 2009

Andrew Chalk & Brendan Walls - This Growing Clearing (Three Poplars, 2004)

While the personal tendency for Chalk collaborators will generally veer toward Christoph Heemann, there are several other pairings of his that strike a stirring note (and sometimes even a few). Here Chalk teams up with a gentleman from Australia by the name of Brendan Walls, who might be most recognized for his work with Gregg Turkington for the Golding Institute's Final Relaxation. The recordings here were presumably assembled via postal exchange and take the form of a series of rises and falls for two simultaneous sound sources. The fragility of these two pieces should come as no surprise, though it is rare for a Chalk project to veer so often into the lower registers.

This Growing Clearing

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

V/A - Sleepers (Finnadar, 1985)

Sleepers is a collection of lullabies from Ilhan Mimaroglu's Finnadar label. As such, the pieces are gentle and often hushed, with the most notable exception coming from Mimaroglu's own rhythm machine-ushered sleepsong. The other all arc is toward vocal pieces, with exceptions made for the occasional flute and clarinet. Annea Lockwood earns the award for Most Germane, with her three piece chorus providing dulcet tones of soothing, repetitive syllables of Samoan. Pauline Oliveros provides one of her always fascinating deep listening exercises with audience participation. As is often the case with these pieces, beautiful results emerge from her simple, introspective instructions: "Hum the sound of pleasure as if you were serenading your best loved with the MMM sound by adding vowels and dipthongs between the M's using any repetitions or prolongations...stay open to your own sensations and imagine gradually expanding your awareness to sensing your surroundings..." The piece is performed by the Queens College Choral Society.

A1 Doris Hays - Hush
A2 Annea Lockwood - Malolo
A3 Ilhan Mimaroglu - Sleepsong For Sleepers
A4 Daniel Goode - The Red And White Cows
B1 Tom Johnson - Lullaby
B2 Pauline Oliveros - Lullaby For Daisy Pauline
B3 Alison Knowles - Mantra For Jessie
B4 Ann Silsbee - Go Gentle


François Bayle - Camera Obscura - Espaces Inhabitables (Magison, 2000)

Camera Obscura - Espaces Inhabitables is the fourteenth entry in Magison's Cycle Bayle series, François Bayle's personal interrogation of his activities over the last four decades. The material on this disc is among his earliest works--Camera Obscura dates back to 1976 while Espaces Inhabitables from 1967 may be his first in depth work--each incorporating up-close examination of relatively fragile sounds, tinkling glass, ping pong balls, footsteps, simple instruments. Bayle performs what could be likened to sonic origami on these sounds, conscious of their fragility and intent on preserving that throughout the process of transforming them. Rarely is it discernible which sounds are synthetic or natural. His sonic processes leave a hint of realness intact, at times turning the listening of these pieces into a guessing game.

Camera Obscura - Espaces Inhabitables

Monday, April 13, 2009

Bill Fontana - Landscape Sculpture with Fog Horns (KQED, 1982)

There is a certain longing for omnipresence in Bill Fontana's soundworks. His Landscape Sculpture with Fog Horns expresses this perfectly. He places eight microphones at well chosen points around the San Francisco Bay, then broadcasts them at Fort Macon Center by the waterfront. As the fog horns call, there is a slight delay from any given microphone, thanks to the sonic displacement due to the speed of sound. From Pier 2's signal, a listener can experience all eight perspectives simultaneously, essentially creating an aural map of the bay.

Images are from

Landscape Sculpture with Fog Horns

David Maranha - Piano Suspenso (Sonoris, 1998)

Solo outing for Osso Exótico-affiliated mastermind David Maranha, or rather it's a mechanized quintet for piano with Maranha the sole living constituent. For his contribution to a Electronic Arts Performances Series in Troy, NY, Maranha with bow in hand and his four-strong fleet of motors took to the insides of a piano for some churning drone action. His motorized system maintains a delicate balance where even the slightest shift ushers in a dramatic change in timbrel activity, residing somewhere along the lines of Remko Scha's take on Lubomyr Melnyk's continuous or Charlemagne Palestine's strumming music.

Piano Suspenso

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Terry Fox - Berlino / Rallentando (Het Apollohuis/Apollo, 1988)

Two different applications of the long strings at play here. The first is a collage featuring piles of found sounds, mostly industrial actions, strung along a three piano wire tapestry. Fox has this knack for conjuring from long strings sounds that typically belong in the electronic realm, typically by giving a hard wap to slack strings, but on this he also opts for the taut and sonorous as well. The second installment features Fox manning three wires and Jan Van Riet, Paul Panhuysen, and Mario Van Horrik on either cello or doublebass. The lineup is essentially the Maciunas Ensemble with Fox pinch-hitting for Leon van Noorden. Their soundmass here could easily be mistaken for the biggest air organ known to man.

Berlino / Rallentando

Toshiya Tsunoda - O Respirar Da Paisagem (Sirr, 2003)

When Yokohama-based Toshiya Tsunoda documents sound, he does so on a microscopic level. Recognizing that at the center of any sound is vibration, he records those vibrations which don't readily or easily emit sounds. Often imploring contact microphones, his recordings often explore the Helmholtz resonances, those vibrations created as air moves into a cavity, to some extent the effect of pressure changes as air exits and returns. Where architectural acoustics might use Helmholtz resonance to minimize standing waves, Tsunoda instead exploits them and amplifies them. His recordings are presented relatively unaltered, sequenced with sudden cuts between sonic events.

O Respirar Da Paisagem divides its material between the use of contact mics and small omni-directional microphones. The sounds originate on a boundary, often between indoors and outdoors as in "Cicada and Window", documenting a dialogue between continuous cicada drone and a steady creak of window. Although the recordings present little input from Tsunoda, they are testament to his uncanny sense for setting and its sonic potential.

O Respirar Da Paisagem

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Jean-François Laporte - Mantra (Metamkine, 2000)

Another entry in the Cinéma pour l’oreille series, this one from French-Canadian Jean-François Laporte. I approached Laporte's explanation of this massively buzzing mass of sound with trepidation, but having listened nearly as many passes as he took to make the recording, I no longer question his veracity. Mantra's evolving, monolithic mass is culled from close recordings of a cooling condenser at a hockey rink. This is confirmed during the initial firing up of the compressor. As the piece progresses, Laporte travels around the compressor, documenting its components and its varied timbrel qualities. He shapes the sound in a way one might in an electronic study, using PVC tubes to sculpt the high frequencies and metal covers to add resonance for volume boost. Laporte insisted that this be done in one take, as a single breath mantra of continuous but evolving nature, and without a doubt his meticulousness and patience comes through tenfold.


Wednesday, April 8, 2009

V/A - Electronic 2000 (Philips, 1971)

Philips threw this together as a highlights reel of their subsidiary Prospective 21e Siècle's forever untouchable Electronic Panorama box, a four LP look at tape music innovators from Paris, Tokyo, Utrecht, and Warsaw. In its truncated form we find François Bayle and Bernard Parmegiani as the representatives from GRM, Toshiro Mayuzumi on Radio NHK's behalf, Luctor Ponse, Milan Stibilj, and Jos Kunst for team U of U, and Krzysztof Penderecki as the sole entry from Warsaw. Personal standouts come from Kunst, Parmegiani, and Bayle, whose rock concrète is just about perfect. Mayazumi as well gives a fine showing with his cackle fest. Certainly, this is not to say the remaining pieces are clunkers. But if you're more inclined toward the high momentum wall bouncing sorts, the aforementioned four are a fine starting point. Save the other three for your cool down.

Electronic 2000

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Roger De La Frayssenet - Kitnabudja Town (Metamkine, 1997)

Never could track down the story as to why Lionel Marchetti felt compelled to release this under the name Roger De La Krayssenet. Maybe he thought this musical essay in collage form was a drastic enough break from character that he could something of a double duty, Tony Clifton-style stunt. Something just doesn't fit. Why go through the trouble of citing your references, only to sign someone else's name and give them the grade? Especially when you turn in the same essay ten years later with a new title. Whatever the case, this scrambling of classic radioplay and concrète, ethnic musics, rock and pop hits, and previous entries in the Metamkine catalog is a head scratcher for sure and something Marchetti should have taken pride in from the get go. Perhaps Marchetti simply felt that he had already taken up his fair share of Metamkine real estate. I'm not one to speculate.

Kitnabudja Town

Fabio Fabor - Aleatoric Piano Collages (Vedette, 1970)

This one's a bizarre entry for Italian library producer Fabio Fabor. Every so often he just got the jones to get out there. Mind you, not too out there. His Aleatoric Piano Collages is fairly evenly spread amongst somewhat lazily prepared piano, inner piano workouts, and electro-acoustic treatments. His piano preparations mostly amount to a thin wire over a few notes, resulting in oddly engaging buzz. His typical electronic treatment is either a swamp of reverb or echo. The soundboard action is a bit more involved, incorporating hand dampening, rakings, and some downright cathartic haphazard banging around. There's just something fascinating to how half-hatched his ideas are, like he wants to try out these ideas he just heard about but doesn't want to damage the piano. I keep listening expecting to hear a gasp and a shriek when he plucks a string too hard.

Aleatoric Piano Collages

Monday, April 6, 2009

Michel Chion - On N'Arrête Pas Le Regret (INA-GRM, 1996)

One of Chion's more whimsical works, On N'Arrête Pas Le Regret is built from three pieces all dealing in some way with childhood. Spanning thirteen years of work, the trio of works function as an ode to his formative years and to the influences of Debussy, Bartok, and Schumann, respectively. The pieces are built on easily flowing narratives and reflect Chion's prowess with short form works. The opening "Sambas Pour Un Jour De Pluie" is built on an interlocking of synth pulse with spiraling violin glissando, with a story loosely reflecting the experiences of a small child sitting at a kitchen table unraveling underneath. "La Machine À Passer Le Temps" is purported to be Chion's first concrète piece, a steady flow of plinkings from glasses, strings, and other objects. The titular piece is classic Chion, five scenes meticulously structured but deeply immersed in his playful approach to sound. The teaming of these three pieces really cater to Chion's knack for invoking a place or idea with vivid and imaginative strokes.

On N'Arrête Pas Le Regret

Friday, April 3, 2009

Nuno Canavarro - Plux Quba (Ama Romanta, 1988; Moikai, 1998)

Portuguese composer Nuno Canavarro crafted this singular sonic vision some time in the mid-80s, though it wouldn't be too far a stretch to note its imprint in the varied electronic output from the late 90s on. He begins with a repeated tone, sliced apart more or less down the center several ways, which after a few minutes reveals itself to be a single piano note. The treatment is gentle in tone, but slightly haphazard. He never seems to cut right down the center, sometimes crinkling that note at several points before its end. And this continues throughout. There are broad expanses of tones that wouldn't be out of place on top of a thump a la Gas, though rarely is there anything remotely resembling a beat. He takes simple vocal passages and turns them inside out, always with a delicate care that is meticulous despite having no interest in preserving its original identity. Elsewhere he crafts intricate harp phrases over an undercurrent of crumbling atmospheric sound. All in all, Canavarro crafted a one-time journey into a playful and lovely sound world.

Plux Quba

Philip Corner / Alison Knowles / George Brecht - Fluxus (Wergo, 2001)

Collected here are three radioplays from three Fluxus affiliates, Philip Corner, Alison Knowles, and George Brecht. Each piece is built from a simple element and features a text recited by the author and sometimes others. Corner's piece is an homage to Erik Satie, built from a sparce two chord piano figure and a recitation that teeters along the stereo field. Knowles' piece, which she delivers along with Brecht, Hanna Higgins, and Jessica Higgins, is built from a long list of bean names on top of a bed of violin glissando and actual tossed about beans. And Brecht gives a play in four languages, derived from a Zen Buddhist text by Seng Ts'an.


Rolf Julius - Small Music

Parts of the idea behind German sound artist Rolf Julius' small music borrows from John Cage's notion of small sounds, sonic artifacts subtle enough that the listener cannot distinguish between the sounds and the environment. His installations disguise the source of the sound in various ways, often in a manner where physical aspects of the sounds reveal their source. He has buried small speakers with ash inside flower pots so that sound waves disturb the level soil, thereby visualizing the sounds. Speakers have been used to displace a spread of paint on a canvas. He has even crafted eyeglasses with speakers in place of lenses.

The four volumes of his Small Music series document the sonic aspects of these installations, thin spreads of tones and environmental sounds shifting together. The idea behind each is generally simple and verging on stasis, with the focus generally on the texture or, as Julius likes to put it, the "surface" of the sound. He often incorporates miniature buzzings, pulses, and chirps, sometimes in rapid washes that amass to one solid sound rather than thousands of tiny ones.

Rolf Julius - Small Music, Vol. 1: White-Yellow-Black (Small Music, 1994)

Rolf Julius - Small Music, Vol. 2: Klangbogen (Small Music, 1995)
Vol. 2: Klangboden

Rolf Julius - Small Music, Vol. 3: Music for a Garden (Mattress Factory, 1996)
Three matrices of predominantly electronic sound, created for a permanent outdoor installation with the garden designed by Winifred Lutz. The garden installation is featured at the Mattress Factory in Pittsburgh, PA.
Vol. 3: Music for a Garden

Rolf Julius - Small Music, Vol. 4: Tanz Für Zwei Blaue Rechtecke (Edition RZ, 1996)
Vol. 4: Tanz Für Zwei Blaue Rechtecke