Friday, September 12, 2014

Shannon Leah CollisIterations, Canada, 2013

Lovely optokinetic installation by Canadian artist Shannon Collis.

View on Vimeo

Thursday, September 11, 2014

David ToopNew & Rediscovered Musical Instruments, originally published by Quartz/Mirliton Publications, London, 1974

Pictures from an unofficial reprint of David Toop’s fondamental 1974 book on British instrument builders, published on his own Quartz/Mirliton imprint and limited to 300 copies. Introducing the work of Hugh Davies (on Shozyg and Springboard), Paul Burwell, Max Eastley (on Aelophones and Hydrophones), Paul Lytton, Evan Parker (on Doppler-Phone and Giant Buzz Drone) and David Toop.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Pascalle BurtonPoems by Telephone, excerpt from a poetry performance commissioned by the 2013 Queensland Poetry Festival.

Pascalle Burton, poet, composer, zine publisher and artist from Brisbane, Australia.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Luc Ferrari (scriptwriter) – Drôle de Gamme, photo novel published in Axes Sud #8 magazine, France, 1983

Semi-autobiographical photo novel with a script by Luc Ferrari and Michel Dumont.
Photographer: Michel Vogel
Staring Luc Ferrari, Jacques (sic) Berrocal and French linguist Alain Rey, a.o.

[thanks R. for this one]

Monday, September 8, 2014

Odeya NiniVougheauxyice (Voice), CD published by pfMENTUM CD083, San Diego, CA, April 2014

The fruit of a successful Kickstarter campaign, this CD by Californian-based avantgarde composer/singer Odeya Nini (b.1982) introduces her warm voice and exploration of onomatopoeia, pre-language syllables and the kind of sounds the mouth emits before the voice. Odeya’s vocal artistry includes techniques as diverse as whistling, breathing, overtone singing, accumulation, loops, and so on. Her voice can sound radical at times but never short of a certain kindness and an enveloping, all-encompassing tone.

The first 4 tracks are characterized by an intimate, close miking recording that emphasizes the unveiling of a certain privacy yet retain a sacred dimension throughout. In the opener, a lullaby called Mi See Ti, the singer reiterates the syllables of the title with a variety of accentuations, from hushed to mezzo voice, as if adding a different meaning with each iteration. The 2nd track (Dalai) is based on pre-verbal sounds, breathing, whistling and various sotto voce utterances. The following, Everyday Cantor, a simple song performed… under the shower, confronts the singer’s sense of humor with the universal symbol of water and cleansing. In tracks #1, 3 and 5, one can hear echoes of musical cantillation melodies performed while reading the Torah, where special signs near stressed syllables, known as Trop in Yiddish and Ta’amim in Hebrew, indicate pitch and accentuation (see Cantor Arianne Brown for a primary lesson). Cantillation is one of the inspirations for Odeya’s art, others being yoga breathing technique, Central Asian throat singing, travels around the world, sounds of nature and interaction with immediate sound environment.

Starting with track #5, extraneous noises and extended technique are introduced. In fact, the entire CD follows a parallel movement from: i) simple, unaltered solo voice recordings to more complex combinations of sound sources, and ii) from the inside to the outside – indeed, in many ways, this Vougheauxyice is also a… Vougheauayage. Sorry for the pun, but this title do make one feel like playing with words and also reminds the beginning of one of these portemanteau, 100-letter words of Biblical proportions found in James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake. This would not be the only allusion to Joyce here as the booklet also mentions a “stream of consciousness improvisation with words” about track #7. But the main trend of the 2nd half of the record is definitely sound treatment and extended vocal techniques using – or based on– reverberant space (#6), outdoor field recordings (#6), live recording and loop pedal (#7), vocal accumulation, harmonics and interference beats (#8). The most striking is definitely #6 Tapestry of Synonyms, a collage of outdoor recordings including wind, animals, voices recorded around the world, as well as everyday noises – in itself a perfectly formed Musique Concrète étude a la Pierre Schaeffer. The following track (#7) exceptionally uses recognizable words delivered in a semi-conscious state and formed of multiple puns and invented words, with the loop pedal effects deliciously adding to the confusion. The closing track returns to wordless vocals with long-held notes superimposed via loop pedal to create harmonics and beats.

The very conception of Vougheauxyice (Voice) allows a progressive immersion into Odeya Nini’s sound world, which various aspects then unfold from track to track: a warm tone, archetypal sonorities, experiments with sound treatment and extended technique, inspiration from outside of the avantgarde, hints of sound therapy, etc. Most of all, this is a singer who cares for her listeners and ensures that each song is a pleasure to listen to. Less acrobatics, more depth, to make it short.

[review by continuo]

Friday, September 5, 2014

Jakub Žid, aka Jude – “Mouchy”

Jakub Žid, aka JudeMouchy, online release by Signals from Arkaim, Czech Republic, 2007

imageRecordings of flies used in Jakub Žid's puppet movie Monology Adolfa Hitlera aneb Mouchy zůstávají (or Adolf Hitler’s Monologues, or Flies remain, 2007).


Thursday, September 4, 2014

La Fête en Blanc, happening at Centre Artistique de Verdronne, near Senlis, 70kms North of Paris, France, 1970. Article by George S Whittet in Art And Artists magazine, UK, 1970

Organizers: Antoni Miralda, Joan Rabascall, Dorothée Selz, Jaime Xifra
Costume design: Paco Rabanne
Music: Eliane Radigue

“Delicate sounds of music floated along the trees” (G. S. Whittet)

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Kevin Cooley and Phillip Andrew LewisHarmony of the Spheres, exhibition at Zeitgeist Gallery, Nashville, TN, March–April 2014

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Jonathan HarveyStill (1997), for tuba and reverberation, live in Fenway Center, Boston, MA, 2013

Beth McDonald, tuba & electronics

[see also Beth’s awesome interpretation of the first movement of Vaughan Williams’ Tuba Concerto]

Beth McDonaldStill – Music for tuba and electronics,
CD released by Single Action Rider, Chicago, May 2014

On Still, US tuba player Beth McDonald's ability to interact with varied sonic environments and musical configurations is obvious, as is her remarkable capacity to produce unsuspected nuances with the instrument. While Beth plays in a variety of groups, orchestras and projects, this is her first solo disc proper, based on 3 premieres by young US composers, plus a series of improvisations and an interpretation of Jonathan Harvey's Still.

On the opening track, by composer Neal Markowski, the tuba inserts itself gracefully on top of the cello and accordion’s long held notes, the musicians trying to interfere as little as possible with each other’s fragile, magical offering. Later on, Markowski contributes subdued, Morse code-like electronic sounds, wary not to break the miraculous equilibrium of the piece – on a side note, Markowski and McDonald have an instrumental rock duo titled Korean Jeans. The result of several improvising sessions, Caroline Park's untitled triptych is a kind of accretive, abstract playground for instrumentists and computer sound treatment. While guitar, tuba and sound effects somewhat battle against each other in the first 2 parts, in the final section, titled One, sounds congeal into a more unified coda [on Park, see previous cassette review]. In Hindsight, Ariane Miyasaki adds inconspicuous electronic interjections and spoken word movie excerpts to the tuba’s noble, soft meanderings. As a result of the composer’s self-effacing (or Zen-related) strategy, the piece is an opportunity for the tuba player to demonstrate the instrument’s possibilities in a semi-improvised, colloquial mode.

Admittedly, I don’t fully understand the process behind Vanessa Wheeler’s piece Significant Transits. Superficially it sounds like a tuba solo, with discrete sound effects and montage, some high-pitched notes (presumably computer processed) and some ghost sounds, like in Boulez’ Dialogue de l’Ombre Double. It’s a reconstruction of some sorts, yet a beautiful, artificial tuba solo, to put it this way. The CD closes with Still by Jonathan Harvey (1939–2012), a piece for tuba and reverberation written in 1997, apparently Beth McDonald’s pièce de resistance in performance, as several online videos testify. In this piece, the super-long reverb required by the score re-deploys the tuba’s muted sounds into a floating, self-sufficient vessel accumulating energy on the go. The entire performance is based on original vs. reverbered sound duality, as well as harmonics and interference beats generated between the two and between 2 different kinds of reverb parameters. Not surprisingly considering the composer’s interest in Buddhist philosophy, there’s a spiritual substrata in Still, and the piece can be heard as a long meditation on otherworldly matters. Regardless, this sublime, elevating music won’t leave anyone untouched.

As much as Beth seems to crave collaborations of all sorts, I wish she’d let her beautiful tuba speak for itself in a solo disc recorded on her own and the use of sound effects and re-recording. I can’t claim to be that familiar with the solo tuba recorded history, but I doubt the instrument got a release as monumental as, for instance, Paul Rutherford’s two masterpieces for solo trombone, The Gentle Harm of the Bourgeoisie (1976) and Neuph (1978). Beth McDonald has the talent to raise to this challenge.

[review by continuo]

Monday, September 1, 2014

New Zealand Electronic Music – 3xLP box set, Kiwi Records, Wellington, New Zealand, 1975

Photos from box set artwork and booklet.

Friday, August 29, 2014

The World of Music: Quarterly Journal of the International Institute for Comparative Music Studies and Documentation (Vol. XVII. No. 4), published by B. Schott’s Söhne, Mainz, Germany, January 1, 1975

The World of Music was published in 3 languages since 1959 to the present. Contributors have included Swiss ethnomusicologist Hugo Zemp or French electronic music composer Jean-Claude Éloy. The issue above was coordinated by Alain Daniélou.
Thursday, August 28, 2014

Demetra EnglezouAudioReactor, 2011

3D graphics commissioned by the Iannis Xenakis Memoriam International Conference, European University of Cyprus, 2011. From the Escuchas Visuales: Una Experienca Sinestética online exhibition organized by Espacio Byte, Argentina. Watch HD full screen here.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Dirk Huelstrunk Müüü, CD-R, 33 hand numbered and signed copies, released by Atemwerft, ref. AM#001, Augsburg, Germany, February 2014

This is an age where Sound Poetry is taught in art schools the world over and is very much in danger of commodification – in the Marxist sense of unsalable things becoming salable. Some might even question whether there’s anything left to create in sound poetry that hasn’t been done in the past 100 years. But I think what sound poetry does to language is still very much needed today – exposing the fragility of the human voice, the little failures, occasional stuttering, etc. Because the computer apparently makes all the music we need, we tend to overlook the value of human performance, whereas to really engage with the basic constituents of the human voice, to challenge the meaning of words and the pertinence of human language are as valid practices today as they were at the origins (Dada, the Futurists, etc). The fact is, several of my favorite 2014 releases are sound poetry efforts of various kinds. This one is among the best.

Limited to 33 hand numbered and signed copies, the first edition of Müüü is the inaugural release on the newly launched Atemwerft imprint, a sound poetry label run by Martyn Schmidt in Augsburg, Germany. Dirk Huelstrunk (born 1964, based in Frankfurt am Main) is a German curator, lecturer, visual poet and sound poet with several full length CDs on Gruenrekorder. Huelstrunk creates un-dogmatic, modern sound poetry not afraid of a little help from technology.

In fact, it would be easier to describe this wonderful disc as a collection of musique concrète tracks based on “disarticulated voices” (Allen S Weiss). A rhythm emerges from a mere breath sample, a loop from a mere coughing, … via the use of repetitive, remorseless loops, fragmented vocals, radical speed modification, choruses build from the accumulation of multiple utterances of the same word, etc, Huelstrunk elaborates abstract vocal explorations from carefully selected samples and loops. So much so that, when his voice appears untreated, it is a deliberate surprise. In all cases, the simplicity of the means employed ensures great immediacy and proximity with the vocalist. Also note that, as an album, Müüü is painstakingly constructed, leading you from abstraction to intelligible speech, from noise to language, from a personal to a collective dimension (cf. bonus track).

[reviewed by continuo]

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The Social Life of the Record, issue #2: Metal Ideas
44-pages zine published by Paraguay Press, Paris, Spring 2014

Felicia von ZweigbergkThe Masters of Elevator Music
Pieter KockAcid Trax
Janine ArminTurned Out It Was A False Down
Ärkan NordinUneasy Listening
+ comes with Felicia von Zweigbergk's C60 cassette Metal Ideas.

Published by Paraguay Press, the imprint of Paris art gallery and bookstore Castillo/Corales, the second issue of The Social Life… collects 4 articles on music by contemporary artists and curators (I blogged about #1 here). Felicia von Zweigbergk's article is a nice meditation on the origins, philosophy and continuance of the ubiquitous background music known as Muzak that wouldn't have been out of place on Andrea Juno and Vic Vale’s Incredibly Strange Music (1994). Pieter Kock (aka Dutch DJ Peacock) contributes a collection of reminiscences and little known facts about Chicago’s Acid House sound – Kock edited the Persona ethnic music compilation coming with Özlem Altin’s The Primitive Mentality zine in 2007 (see previous post). In Turned Out It Was A False Down, her short essay on Denis Diderot’s Rameau’s Nephew, the book that inspired Michael Snow’s 1974 film, Janine Armin argues that Diderot might be the first art critic. By Uneasy Listening, Ärkan Nordin means horror movie soundtracks and their origin in 20th century contemporary music (Schônberg, Penderecki, etc). Discussing dissonance and atonality found in some of these movies, Nordin concludes that “the key element of horror music is to make the listener lose foothold”.

Not everything is perfect in this neatly designed zine, especially the aimless, amateur-ish electric guitar meanderings of the cassette, but I think The Social Life of the Record is on to something when giving contemporary artists and curators an opportunity to elaborate on music from their own perspective.