Oh, the irony…

john  cage


Happy birthday, Steve Reich

One of my favorite Minimalist composers, and a pioneer of audio sampling via his sixties work with tape loops, on such pieces as It’s Gonna Rain, and Come Out, Steve Reich is recognized as one of America’s most influential living composers. Here’s some of my faves and some of his most significant works.

Come Out was my first exposure to Reich’s work, the moment of which I still remember distinctly. From wiki: “The 13-minute Come Out (1966) uses similarly manipulated recordings of a single spoken line given by Daniel Hamm, one of the falsely accused Harlem Six, who was severely injured by police.[10] The survivor, who had been beaten, punctured a bruise on his own body to convince police about his beating. The spoken line includes the phrase “to let the bruise’s blood come out to show them.” Reich rerecorded the fragment “come out to show them” on two channels, which are initially played in unison. They quickly slip out of sync; gradually the discrepancy widens and becomes a reverberation. The two voices then split into four, looped continuously, then eight, and continues splitting until the actual words are unintelligible, leaving the listener with only the speech’s rhythmic and tonal patterns. In 1999, Rolling Stone magazine dubbed Reich “The Father of Sampling” and compared his work with the parallel evolution of hip-hop culture by DJs such as Kool Herc and Grandmaster Flash.”

Another clip of the rhythmically challenging, Clapping Music, featuring the same dancers as in the Come Out clip.

And finally, a documentary from The BBC’s, The South Bank Show

Prepare for the Halloween season, with Factmag’s list of the 100 greatest Horror soundtracks

If capitalism and it’s necessary corollary, consumerism (or maybe, vice versa), can keep pushing the Xmas season further out, I say we do the same for Halloween. Halloween: it’s not just a night anymore. Star the holiday season off right and check out Factmag for a diverse list of scary scores to get you in the mood. While, as with any such list, you can gripe about omissions, inclusions (actually, I have no complaint with any inclusion here), placement, etc, it’s still a great list that covers a wide berth. As someone who watches alotta Horror, and has a particular fondness for the soundtracks, the Factmag list kept surprising me with some truly obscure. and fantastic, selections, and has prompted me to check out some more modern sounds in the field (not that I haven’t been enjoying many of the new composers/bands that have been arising, already).

Horror soundtracks are currently enjoying an unprecedented level of interest, with numerous labels (Waxwork, Death Waltz, One Way Static, and others) currently releasing these soundtracks, some reissued, but many legitimately pressed for the first time. Not only that, you have a whole new crew of musicians and composers/producers dedicated to playing these vintage sounds. Artists and bands like Umberto, Brian Reitzell, Zombi, Nightcrawler and Crypt Vapor are introducing this genre to a whole new legion of fans. It’s also tremendously gratifying to see that originators like Goblin, Fabio Frizzi and now John Carpenter (his first live performance EVER is at ATP in Iceland, 2016!!!) performing for excited fans of a wide age range.

Without further ado, here’s Factmag’s list
And interviews with the heads of the three labels mentioned above
A favorite, from a composer who I absolutely love, that I was pleasantly surprised to see included, proving the broad scope of sounds that fall into this category.

Watch composer David Rosenboom hook John and Yoko up to a biofeedback machine and process it through synths

This has gotta be one of the weirdest moments on the Mike Douglas Show. John Lennon, Yoko Ono, Chuck Berry and Mike, all seated on the floor, while David Rosenboom and partner (unknown to me), hook all but Chuck, who remains silent, up to a biofeedback processor, producing sounds then manipulated by the use of synthesizers (any info on what synths would be appreciated), as they discuss the nature of biofeedback therapy. A time piece for sure.

From the Whitney Museum of American Art’s (with whom Rosenboom has frequently worked), Rosenboom bio: “Since the 1960s David Rosenboom has explored the spontaneous evolution of musical forms, languages for improvisation, new techniques in scoring for ensembles, multi-disciplinary composition and performance, cross-cultural collaborations, performance art and literature, interactive multi-media and new instrument technologies, generative algorithmic systems, art-science research and philosophy, and extended musical interface with the human nervous system.”

A very Terry Riley-ish recording from 1975’s, Brainwave Music.

From Rosenboom’s 1980 release, Daytime Viewing, with longtime Robert Ashley collaborator, vocalist/designer/graphic artist, Jacqueline Humbert…

unfortunately I couldn’t find a clip of Rosenboom’s collaboration with Anthony Braxton.

Vintage Stockhausen performances

This video has international subtitling available, under “settings”

This does not have the benefit of subtitles, but you get to see Stockhausen performing in a Lebanese cave, AND Max Ernst is in it!

It’s Karlheinz Stockhausen’s birthday, and there’s hours of his lectures captured on tape

It’s like you’re in a class surrounded by such previous Stockhausen students as, La Monte Young, Can’s Irmin Schmidt and Holger Czukay, Jean Michel Jarre, Jon Hassell, Costin Miereanu and the scores of other influential composers/musicians to have studied under the master.

Watch documentaries on Werner Herzog, Terry Gilliam, Francis Bacon, JG Ballard, Nick Cave, Steve Reich, and John Zorn & Sonic Youth, from The South Bank Show

The long running ITV series started in the late 70’s and produced quite the collection of documentaries on fascinating figures. Get your documentary on!

Happy birthday to Charlemagne Palestine

One of the seminal practitioners of Drone composition, Charlemagne Palestine has established a strikingly singular body of work. As with other modern minimalist composers including, La Monte Young, Terry Riley, Rhys Chatham, Yoshi Wada to name a few, Palestine was a student of Pandit Pran Nath, a master of the ancient Kirana gharana tradition of Indian classical music, whose emphasis on perfect intonation and slowly building overtones of the alap section of the raga, would lay the basis for Palestine’s own compositions. Palestine has remained steadfast to those musical tenets since the late sixties, establishing himself as a force within the new generation of minimalism, leading to collaborations with Christoff Heemann, Z’ev, and the aforementioned Rhys Chatham, bringing the student/teacher relationship full circle…much like the drone, eternal.



Happy birthday to my favorite American composer, Harry Partch

Harry Partch is the very embodiment of the independent spirit. A man whose dissatisfaction with the traditional European musical 12 tone structure, led to a study of the Ancient Greek practice of “just intonation”, a tuning system in which, according to wiki, “frequencies of notes are related by ratios of small whole numbers”, with the notes in any interval being part of the same harmonic series. It’s a system that remained in wide use in the non-Western world, which given Partch’s proclivities towards the sounds of the Far East and Africa, makes perfect sense.

Not content to remain a slave to past traditions, Partch used the idea of just intonation to develop a 43 tone to the octave, microtonal scale, which he then designed and built numerous instruments with which to play it. With the benefit of a trust set up by friends and patrons, Partch was able to start his own record label, Gate 5, allowing his recordings to be purchased via mail order, starting in 1953 (Proto-DIY style!).

Given the peculiar tuning and the need for specially crafted instruments, Partch’s works were performed irregularly at best. Having spent many years of his life spent as a transient, which earned him the “America’s hobo composer” sobriquet, Partch was thankfully used to living lean, and was not so beholden to financial interest that he compromise his recordings/performances for more traditional, and therefore more commercial, avenues.

For more info on Partch’s musical theory, recordings and personal history, check here http://www.microtonal-synthesis.com/vitality.html and here for a catalog of his instruments http://www.microtonal-synthesis.com/instruments.html

Watching Partch performances is every bit as exciting as listening to them. Now prepare for an onslaught of every Partch clip that I could find.

Let’s start with this great, short news piece, showing Partch at work with a student orchestra

This is an amazing, complete, performance of Delusion of The Fury, looking not unlike a Modern Dance, Kabuki Opera