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Review: Graham Lambkin/Jason Lescalleet, “Photographs” (Erstwhile)

After amplifying their homes and magnifying the subconscious; after reshaping kitchenware into instruments and finding voices in the buzz of computer fans, distant traffic, and the crunch of dirt; after transforming the spaces around them and constructing a space-time of their own, Graham Lambkin and Jason Lescalleet finally turn the microphones on themselves. And not just on the noises they make, but on the places they grew up, on the people they’ve known, on the ideas that have driven their work, the sounds they love, and ultimately on the past and their memories. Don’t come to the show expecting self-portraits though. OnPhotographs Graham and Jason make enigmas of themselves. We get to see a shadow of them in these pictures, but everything they do and every event they capture points to a subject somewhere outside the frame.

Photographs work by suggestion. Take any photo off the Internet and start asking questions about it: Who is that in the picture? What is it that they’re standing in front of? When and where was it taken, and why from that angle? Who is behind the camera? What we see in them and what they show are inevitably unequal. The image presents the viewer with an apparent set of facts, but without context or witnesses or some personal experience bringing everything into focus, the subjects fail to take definite shape. Something is missing.

So it is with Graham Lambkin and Jason Lescalleet’s music. The apparition of familiarity presents itself to the listener by dint of the material employed: intelligible conversations, fixable locations and precise directions to them, a loop from Kiss’s “Great Expectations”—our acquaintance with sights and sounds such as these, plus the incredible artwork with family, friends, place names, and the images of Graham and Jason as children—it’s as if they’re opening a door into their personal lives, or pointing us to a keyhole through which we might spy a handful of their private thoughts. How could it be otherwise?

To answer that question it’s best to ask another one: what is it that we actually see and hear in these songs? Disc one in this two-disc set begins with “Loss,” in which a pair of anonymous voices explain what the word “loss” means to them. One of the respondents discusses the loss of their grandparents, the other describes a feeling of daily disorientation: he wakes up and is unsure of where he is despite a firm mind, familiarity with the local geography, and a copy of this year’s calendar. As he elaborates, the audio suddenly cuts out. We hear clicking, a compartment opening and shutting, as if the tape needed changing mid-sentence, and then the conversation continues.

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Review: Graham Lambkin/Jason Lescalleet, “Air Supply” (Erstwhile)

A strange spectacle murmurs unceremoniously just beneath the familiar hum of daily life. It’s filled with little dramas and peculiar collisions that sneak by unnoticed—in the empty spaces of the room, out of the corner of your eye—small bits of information slip through the senses’ fingers and fall into the subconscious where they become fodder for dreams. These unremembered fragments are a part of every environment and every observation, but would we recognize them if given a second chance? OnAir Supply, Graham Lambkin and Jason Lescalleet resurrect such mental refuse and put just such a question to the test. They may have pointed their microphones at computer vents or the back yard, but what they pulled from those sources is utterly bizarre, to the point of being completely alien.

“Because the Night” starts the show with an illusion. It’s cold outside. Someone is walking down a crunchy dirt road in heavy boots, the fabric of his thick winter coat audibly brushing against itself as he goes. He picks up an old shovel and begins digging a hole, or maybe shoveling snow. A chilly hum floats in the air, a substitute for the icy temperature outside. As he digs, a slow, warbling howl suddenly and shockingly pierces the scene. It moans, then fades, then retreats into the distance. The perspective shifts. Someone tinkers with a plastic box, presses a button, and the activity stops. There’s only that transparent blue tone in the air, and a few quiet noises beeping somewhere in the distance. Winter at the Lescalleet home in Berwick, Maine, where Air Supply was recorded, seems just a tad frightening.

Only the liner notes tells us that the album was recorded in late May of 2010. It’s unlikely there was any snow on the ground to shovel. The fabric noise could be coming from torn sheets of paper, the crunch of boots on gravel might actually be the sound of someone walking through piles of leaves, and who knows where the animal moan came from, but it doesn’t sound dubbed in. Whatever it was, it was right there, in range of the microphone.

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Review: Graham Lambkin/Jason Lescalleet, “The Breadwinner”

Imagine music resides everywhere that sound can travel. It flows from the faucet into the sink each morning, creaks out of the loose boards on the way up and down the stairs, and, incredibly, buzzes in your sweetheart’s mouth as he or she snores noisily at 3 AM on Monday morning. The difference between music and not-music then pivots on the attention and consideration different sounds receive. Record them to tape, amplify and manipulate them, or set them into new patterns and a surprising, sometimes beautiful music can emerge. That’s the music of The Breadwinner, the first album in Graham Lambkin and Jason Lescalleet’s recently completed trilogy on Erstwhile.

Recorded in 2006 and ’07 at Graham Lambkin’s home in Poughkeepsie, New York, The Breadwinner claims to be a collection of “musical settings for common environments and domestic situations.” As it turns out, the music itself was derived almost entirely from noise captured around the house. Everything from water glasses to July 4th fireworks and squeaky hinges made the cut, so the music reflects the spaces and occasions for which it is apparently intended (tongue-in-cheek or not).

But the album isn’t just the product of two guys wondering about the kitchen, living room, and bathroom with various microphones and some magnetic tape. Besides the keyboard and piano used on “Listen, the Snow is Falling” and “Lucy Song,” the duo utilize their recordings as sound sources, deriving unearthly tones and igneous rhythms from the speeding up and slowing down of the source material. If the recording process doesn’t make itself obvious in one way or another, the quality of the various sounds still point to it. On “E5150/Body Transport,” a droning, out-of-body experience slowly resolves into a steady snore, suggesting that whole piece is actually an appropriated nightly annoyance. “Two States” compares and contrasts events that must have taken place at separate times. The mix is too solid, the balance too spot on for it to have happened without some tinkering.

Graham and Jason transform every room and make every object in those rooms new, whether by manipulation or by the arrangement of contrasting noises and complimentary sounds. Solid objects like the bedroom radiator or the fire place lose their rigid form and become malleable. That in turn gives the duo the freedom to re-contextualize everything, from mumbled voices to everyday appliances.

Mundane sources such as these typically keep emotional or communicative content well in the background. What we’re supposed to do is listen to the sounds as sounds, not look for a message from the composers. After all, how could a refrigerator possibly speak to a sane person?

Perhaps unexpectedly, Lambkin and Lescalleet have left something personal in the mix, so maybe the fridge does just that: speak. First, there’s the titles, which Graham and Jason probably understand better than the audience. But there’s a Black Sabbath reference in there, and maybe one fromThe Hobbit too, and the aforementioned “Lucy Song” sticks to the ears with its bittersweet melody. The music moves through several moods, some ominous, others calming, and the reason for either isn’t always clear. But the point is that the moods are there. So where are they coming from? “Listen, the Snow is Falling” can’t help but communicate with its stunning sense of stillness and beauty, some of which is generated by the simple presence of a flickering fire. Even if the song were called “Track One,” it would convey memories, feelings, and ideas.

And memory seems to be part of what Graham and Jason are up to with these songs. They make the lowly spoon and water glass speak to sensations usually provoked by rock ‘n’ roll songs, familiar melodies, conventional rhythms, and good books. The whole microcosm of Lambkin’s house is laid bare for those curious enough to check it out. But, what about the experience of finding those noises, or the people who were around when they were made? There are obviously human noises on the record, but the figures themselves are conspicuously missing, or at least hidden. Which brings up a good question: is the breadwinner of the title the two musicians who made the record, or is it the house itself? Could it be the world at large, or is it maybe an unnameable something else?  That blank spot there between the lines, where the music echoes out from invisibly?

The Breadwinner is available on Erstwhile Records.
Sound samples available at Brainwashed.com


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The Monthly List: November’s Top 11

Here we go with the November list. Most magazines and digital publications are already publishing their favorite records of the year, or are at least setting the stage for their “best-of” list.

My year end review won’t show up until after the new year, as there are numerous releases from 2013 that I’d still like to hear, plus I’m not terribly inclined to rank things , so I’ve been doing very little calculation about what I’ve liked better. You can always look over my lists from the past months to get a sense of where my ears have been lately.

As for the records below, links to my favorite sites for reviews and information are found at the bottom of the page. You can always find good info at Brainwashed.comJust Outside, and All Music Guide, and samples are available virtually everywhere. Forced Exposure and Boomkat places are good places to go looking for the more obscure stuff.

Formats posted are the ones I own; others may be available. If you like any of the samples I link to, please buy the album. You can find numerous retailers carrying these titles at the bottom of this page.

  • Graham Labmkin/Jason Lescalleet, Photographs on ERSTWHILE (2CD)
  • Graham Labmkin/Jason Lescalleet, Air Supply on ERSTWHILE (CD)
  • Graham Labmkin/Jason Lescalleet, The Breadwinner on ERSTWHILE (CD)
  • Jason Lescalleet, This Is What I Do Vol. 1 on GLISTENING EXAMPLES (CD)
  • Kevin Drumm, Earrach on SELF-RELEASED (2CD)
  • Songs: Ohia, The Magnolia Electric Co. (10th Anniversary Deluxe Edition) on SECRETLY CANADIAN (2CD)
  • Songs: Ohia, Didn’t It Rain on SECRETLY CANADIAN (CD)
  • Magnolia Electric Co., Trials & Errors on SECRETLY CANADIAN (2LP)
  • Loren Connors, Hell’s Kitchen Park on ENABLING WORKS (LP)
  • Bob Dylan, Bringing It All Back Home on COLUMBIA (CD)
  • The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Electric Ladyland on REPRISE (CD+DVD)

 

 


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Broadcast 06: “Opening Night”

feldman_laughBelow are two links to the WZBC Archives where you can listen to my December 8th radio show, broadcast on WZBC 90.3 FM in Boston. Those links will remain active until December 22nd, at which point the show will disappear and be replaced by a new one.

There’s a whole trio of new releases represented in this broadcast (plus a fragment of a new release at the end): one from Phill Niblock, one from Graham Lambkin and Jason Lescalleet, and one from Olivia Block, whose latest album, Karren, is receiving all kinds of positive responses. “Opening Night” definitely blew me away; just a gorgeous recording and a great concept behind it. Be sure to give that a shot if you have time for nothing else.

Anyone interested in the opening Michael Pisaro piece should check this link out. In it, Michael explains a bit about what’s happening compositionally in Hearing Metal 2—the section I played is actually quite different from the bulk of the recording—you can always check out my review of that album here, which includes samples. There’s lots of good information on the Wandelweiser website as well. Pisaro is a great writer and always manages to speak very clearly about his work, despite the inherent difficulty in the subject matter. My interview with him links to several articles he’s written, plus I think he clarifies a lot of difficult concepts over the course of the discussion. You can read that here.

During the course of the show, I also mentioned an interview with James Tenney that I thought was particularly helpful for understanding his music and the influence he’s had on people like Michael Pisaro and Michael Byron. You can read that interview at New Music Box.

My next show will continue with more new music, including releases on PAN and 23Five.

Any questions, comments, or requests, please send me an email.

Thanks for listening.

Laughter: November 24th, 2013 – Hour 1 and Hour 2

  1. Michael Pisaro and Greg Stuart, “Hearing Metal 2 (Le table du silence) – I” from Hearing Metal 2 (Le table du silence) (2011) on GRAVITY WAVE
  2. Phill Niblock, “Two Lips (Dither Guitar Quartet)” from Touch Five (2013) on TOUCH
  3. Graham Lambkin/Jason Lescalleet, “Loss” from Photographs (2013) on ERSTWHILE
  4. Olivia Block, “Opening Night” from Karren (2013) on SEDIMENTAL
  5. Luc Ferrari, “Chicago, USA. October 2001. Rehearsal for a concert Harley Davidson. Texas.” from Les Anecdotiques (2004) on SUB ROSA
  6. Robin Rimbaud, “Experience” from The Garden is Full of Metal: Homage to Derek Jarman (1997) on SUB ROSA
  7. James Tenney, “Swell Piece (1967)” from Postal Pieces (2004) on NEW WORLD RECORDS — performed by The Barton Workshop
  8. Morton Feldman, “For Franz Kline” from Only – Works for Voices and Instruments (1996) on NEW ALBION — composed in 1962 – vocals by Joan La Barbara
  9. John Cage, “String Quartet in Four Parts (Quietly Flowing Along/Slowly Rocking)” from The Complete String Quartets Vol. 2 (1992) on MODE — composed 1949-50, performed by The Arditti Quartet – these are just the first two movements
  10. Burkhard Stangl, “Unfinished – Sailing (fragment)” from Unfinished. For William Turner, Painter. (2013) on TOUCH — performed by Fennesz


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Broadcast 05: “Listen, the Snow is Falling”

lescalleet_lambkin_glassBelow are two links to the WZBC Archives where you can listen to my November 24th radio show, broadcast on WZBC 90.3 FM in Boston. Those links will remain active until December 8th (I’m posting this a touch late due to the holiday), at which point the show will disappear and be replaced by a new one.

One caller compared this show to a taking warm bath. That’s a first for me. The sounds are gentler than the last couple weeks (there’s nary a jazz recording in sight), and a couple of them border on the ambient. The centerpiece is a beautiful collaboration between Graham Lambkin and Jason Lescalleet, released on Erstwhile in 2008. If you listen to just one thing from this show, make it that. And then go get their new double disc, Photographs.

Anyone put off by harsher sounds will likely appreciate the cooler colors at play throughout the entire second hour. That William Winant recording is another beautiful and hypnotizing piece of music worth seeking out. The LP is sold out at the source, but certain online retailers may still have copies. Poke around your favorite sites and maybe something will turn up. It’s also available digitally on iTunes.

For those who want a little more action and some rougher edges in their lives, the first 25 minutes or so contain some very thrilling noise from Autechre and Bernard Parmegiani, who, if you somehow missed it, passed away on November 21st. Much of his music has been reissued in the last couple of years and I encourage anyone with even an inkling of interest to go and find it. Recollection GRM provides two great starting points.

My show on the 8th will probably follow a similar format, with the second hour sticking to somewhat more accessible music. If you like what you hear here, I hope you’ll tune in then.

Any questions or requests, send me an email.

Thanks for listening.

Laughter: November 24th, 2013 – Hour 1 and Hour 2

  1. Bernard Parmegiani, “Lumiere Noire: Moins l’infini/Instant O/Premieres forces – Premieres formes” from La création du monde (1993) on INA GRM
  2. Autechre, ‎”irlite (get 0)” from Exai (2013) on WARP RECORDS
  3. Bruce Gilbert and BAW, “Beasts of the Earth” from Diluvial (2013) on TOUCH
  4. Jacob Kirkegaard, “Church” from 4 Rooms (2006) on TOUCH
  5. Graham Lambkin/Jason Lescalleet, “Listen, the Snow is Falling” from The Breadwinner (2008) on ERSTWHILE
  6. William Winant, “Trackings I” from Five American Percussion Pieces (2013) on POON VILLAGE – written by Michael Byron, 1976
  7. Luciano Cilio, “Primo Quadro “Della Conoscenza da Dialoghi dal presente” from Dell’Universo Assente (2013) on DIE SCHACHTEL
  8. Franca Sacchi, “Arpa Eolia” from EN (2011) on DIE SCHACHTEL – piece written and performed 1970
  9. Labradford, “Twenty” from fixed::context (2000) on KRANKY


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The Monthly List: October’s Top 13

the_shining_tommyA much delayed October listing, and an abbreviated one, which will probably be the norm from now on. I’m focusing more on writing reviews, with three finished and waiting to be published, three more in the works, and hopefully some interviews too.

Links to my favorite sites for reviews and information are found at the bottom of the page. You can always find good info at Brainwashed.com, Just Outside, and All Music Guide, and samples are available virtually everywhere. Forced Exposure and Boomkat places are good places to go looking for the more obscure stuff.

From now on I’ll only link to the labels here, and put more effort into making shorter posts about my favorite records throughout the month.

As always, formats posted are the ones I own. Others may be available. If you like any of the samples I link to, please buy the album. You can find numerous retailers carrying these titles at the bottom of this page.

  • FKA Twigs, EP2 on YOUNG TURKS (LP)
  • Antoine Beuger/Michael Pisaro, This Place/Is Love on ERSTWHILE (CD)
  • Annette Krebs/Taku Unami, Motubachii on ERSTWHILE (CD)
  • Graham Lambkin/Jason Lescalleet, The Breadwinner on ERSTWHILE (CD)
  • Various Artists, Weary Engine Blues: A Tribute to Jason Molina on GRAVEFACE (2CD)
  • Joe McPhee, Nation Time on ATAVISTIC (CD)
  • Evan Parker & Joe McPhee, What/If/They Both Could Fly on RUNE GRAMMOFON (CD)
  • Albert Ayler, Nuits de la Fondation Maeght 1970 on WATER (CD)
  • The Stranger, Watching Dead Empires in Decay on MODERN LOVE (CD)
  • Jessika Kenney & Eyvind Kang, The Face of the Earth  on IDEOLOGIC ORGAN (LP)
  • Moniek Darge, Sounds of Sacred Places on KYE (CD)
  • Graham Lambkin, Abersayne/Attersaye on KYE (7″)
  • Kevin Drumm, Humid Weather on SELF-RELEASED (CD)


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The Shadow Ring: Live at O’Brien’s Pub ’97

detail from Graham Lambkins Untitled, 2009

detail from Graham Lambkin’s Untitled (2009)

Graham Lambkin recently posted a complete soundboard recording of The Shadow Ring’s final concert to the Kye Youtube channel. The show took place at O’Brien’s Pub in Allston, Massachusetts on 27 September 1997.  This is the only complete Shadow Ring bootleg I’ve run across anywhere, though I don’t spend much time searching torrents.

A couple of short live videos have been posted by Graham in the past.

The sound quality for this recording (taken right from the mixing console) is top notch—the kind of thing Kye could have released officially and charged for, but here it is for free. Make sure to say thanks in the video comments:


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Broadcast 01: September 15th, 2013

from a photograph by Clifton Church - the top of Gasson Hall at Boston College

from a photograph by Clifton Church – the top of Gasson Hall at Boston College

Below is a link to the WZBC Archives where you can listen to my September 15th radio show broadcast on WZBC 90.3 FM. This link will remain active until September 29th, at which point the audio will disappear and a new show with new music will take its place. I will not be uploading MP3s.

Besides a few technical goofs on my part, everything went smoothly. Finding a way to present some of the longer pieces of music in a two hour slot is one of the challenges I’ll have to think more about, because using short excerpts just wasn’t good enough, especially with recordings like Asleep, Street, Pipes, Tones. I’ll either have to plan exactly which segments I want to use in advance (and stick to them, no matter the duration), or I’ll have to select shorter pieces better suited to radio programming. The show will be a little better organized next time.

Links to labels are provided in the playlist.  Any questions or requests, send me an email. Much of this music is still in print and available from the stores, shops, and distributors listed at the bottom of this page.

Thanks for listening.

Laughter: September 15th, 2013 – Hour 1 and Hour 2

  1. Autechre ‎, “Pen Expers” from Confield (2001) on WARP
  2. Helm, “Silencer” from Silencer EP (2013) on PAN
  3. Bruce Gilbert and BAW, “Rest/Reflection” from Diluvial (2013) on TOUCH
  4. David Sylvian, “Manafon” from Manafon (2009) on SAMADHI SOUND
  5. Tod Dockstader, “Water Music” from Dockstader: Quatermass (1992) on STARKLAND
  6. Philippe Lamy, “Une Autre Couche” from Drop Diary (2013) on MYSTERY SEA
  7. Kevin Drumm, “Earrach A (excerpt)” from Earrach (2013) on RECREATIONAL PANICK/BANDCAMP
  8. Bellows “Untitled 6” from Reelin’ (2013) on HOLIDAYS RECORDS
  9. Nmperign/Jason Lescalleet, “The Mystery Disease That Haunts My Town” from Love Me Two Times (2006) on INTRANSITIVE
  10. Howard Stelzer, “Bond Inlets 2 (excerpt)” from Bond Inlets (2008) on INTRANSITIVE
  11. Graham Lambkin, “The Currency of Dreams” from Salmon Run (2007) on KYE
  12. Michael Pisaro “Asleep, Street, Pipes, Tones (excerpt)” from Asleep, Street, Pipes, Tones (2011) on GRAVITY WAVE
  13. Keith Rowe/Günter Müller/Taku Sugimoto “Phase Two (excerpt)” from The World Turned Upside Down (2000) on ERSTWHILE


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The Monthly List: August’s Top 10

radio_towers

New music from Keith Rowe and Graham Lambkin, Rephlex, and Bruce Gilbert dominated my August listening habits, along with Recollection GRM’s excellent 2LP release of Luc Ferrari’s Presque Rien. 

I managed to write a review of Making A and both of the Electric Dance Music compilations, plus I have reviews of Helm’s Silencer 12″, COH’s Retro-2038, Kevin Drumm’s Earrach, and a series of Mystery Sea discs on the way. Two of those will  show up at Dusted Magazine if all goes as planned, my first two for that publication. I’ll keep publishing at Brainwashed.com as well, and I hope to get a series of short reviews under way, which will be exclusive to this site.

Last but not least, I’m going to return to WZBC this month with a twice monthly show of electro-acoustic, improvised, and generally experimental music. I’ll be on the air every other Sunday for two hours, starting at 6 o’clock Eastern. You can listen in Boston by tuning into 90.3 FM; or you can listen online at WZBC’s website. Just click the large red play button on the left.

Shows will be archived and available for replay for two weeks after the broadcast, at which time they will disappear forever. No permanent download links. That starts this week, Sunday the 15th. I hope you’ll tune in.

As always, formats posted are the ones I own. Others may be available. If you like any of the samples I link to, please buy the album. You can find numerous retailers carrying these titles at the bottom of this page.


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Review: Keith Rowe/Graham Lambkin, “Making A”

If Keith Rowe and Graham Lambkin haven’t produced one of the most mind-bending records of 2013, they’re at least high in the running. Making A shares its name with one of Cornelius Cardew’s Schooltime Compositions. Written in 1967, these pieces were designed to help musicians and non-musicians develop their own methods of interpretation and music-making. Continue reading


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Rowe/Lambkin/Cardew: Notes on “Making A”

detail from Treatise, page 75

detail from Treatise, page 75

I’ve listened to Keith Rowe and Graham Lambkin’s Making A a lot in the past week. The first two or three times I was unable to pay close attention to the music, so I had only a general idea about what Rowe and Lambkin were doing. That Rowe did not perform on his table-top guitar stood out among a few other thoughts: that the album was recorded shortly after a live collaboration in New York City, that Rowe and Lambkin were both aware of each other’s work prior to their performance, and that the tools used to make the album point quite strongly to Rowe’s painterly background. Besides that, I was quite sure that the album was totally improvised.

After just a couple of closer listeners I’ve changed my mind; I think there must be some hidden instruction or idea moving the music along. Certain sequences on the record repeat themselves in conspicuous ways. The editing of sounds, the cross fades, the accumulation of intensity and its subsequent release all point to an invisible but sensible order, and the track titles suggest that order. A, then B, then C, but rearranged for reasons unknown. And as Brian Olewnick points out in his review, the track times are suspicious. Two improvised pieces in a row that run exactly 15 minutes and 15 seconds? Something must be up.

cardew_making_A

Then I found the image to the left, posted to the I Hate Music boards by Erstwhile founder Jon Abbey. You can click it to get a bigger image.

“Making A” happens to be the title of a piece from Cornelius Cardew’s Schooltime CompositionsThe inspiration for Rowe and Lambkin’s track titles are right there:

“Place WET B in glass bamer.”

“Draw off two full measure of hot boiling C and pour them over the dry A in the B.”

When Keith Rowe last played in Boston, he brought with him a copy of Nature Study Notes, a collection of instructions and “rites” written by members of the Scratch Orchestra and cataloged by Cardew. Along with musicians from around the area, Rowe performed a small number of these rites, illustrating how they might be interpreted and performed by a group. Someone had made enough copies of the notes to give to everyone in the audience. The performers picked an instruction to follow secretly, the audience got to guess what they were up to. Given the number of instructions available, it was nearly impossible to guess right, but the music was great, and the reveals were entertaining and funny. One of my favorite rites reads:

Take a stupid book. A reader reads aloud from it while the rest improvise. The role of reader may wander, a) through the reader presenting the stupid book to someone else, and b) by someone wresting the stupid book from the reader. A reader may attempt to terminate proceedings by ceasing to read aloud from the stupid book.

How that translates into a performance—or a recording—is completely up in the air. The same goes for “Making A.” How would I decide what “A” is supposed to be? If “A” fits in an “A-gauge glass bamer” then why do I have a “pack of A” sitting around too? Does “B” come wet, or should I prepare that? What is a bamer anyway?

More to the point, to what extent did Keith Rowe and Graham Lambkin use this score to record their own music? At first I assumed that the recording of Making A was an extension of the Boston performance—Keith seemed to have been thinking about Cardew there, so maybe he was continuing his line of thought in New York, with Lambkin.

Now I’m doubting that. Unless Ben Ratliff of the New York Times failed to mention it (which I doubt), Rowe and company didn’t distribute any of Cardew’s work before, during, or after their January performance in New York City. Without a way to line the score and the album up, the only link I have is either historical or superficial.

I figured I could start answering at least one or two of my others questions by looking a bit more closely at how and why Cardew wrote these pieces in the first place, and how other people have performed his music. To that end, I found a few great resources I’d like to share:

The indication here is already of his moving away from music as object towards music as process, and of a concern for the problems of the performers. Cardew was one of the first Europeans to grasp not just the musical but also the social implications of the new American aesthetic.

… what [Cardew] admired was Cage’s rejection of the commodity fetishism that had invaded musical composition, for which the super-objectivity of serialism and its corollary, the preoccupation with the perfection of the ideal object, was largely to blame. What also impressed him was Cage’s liberation of the performer from the constraints of oppressive notational complexities… With him ‘indeterminacy’ was not simply another compositional technique, displacing a previously discredited one, it was a logical musical expression of his humanism: humanism is the vital thread that runs through all his musical activities, making for a continuity that overrides even the most radical stylistic changes in his work. His rejection of total serialism freed him as a composer; with his espousal of indeterminacy, creative freedom was also extended to the performer.

  • A Young Person’s Guide to Treatise. A massive resource hosted by Spiral Cage. Contains both the links I provided above, plus tons of information on Cardew’s most famous piece, links to recordings, references, and other of Cardew’s writings. Not directly related to Making A, but some of the information there regards the process of interpretation, plus it links to this animated analysis of the Treatise , which among other things combines performance history with a introductory taxonomy of the printed symbols and forms.

Of course, none of this gets me any further inside Keith’s or Graham’s head. It’s possible that Cardew’s “Making A” was just an inspiration and not a manual for the album. But still those hints of structure in the music hound me: the manipulation of field recordings, the emphasis on gesture and place, the sense that some formula is being followed, if only loosely. Am I imagining it? Would an answer change the way I think about or react to the music?

It’s a mystery beyond my ability to solve alone. But the album itself is superb, whether or not I know precisely how it is shaped.


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The Monthly List: June’s Top 9

jackson_pollock_blue_poles

Jackson Pollock’s “Blue Poles” – the cover for “Spiritual Jazz Vol. 4”

The techno fever continues this month with a killer debut from youAND:THEMACHINES, aka Martin Müller of youANDmeBehind was released in June by Ornaments Records in three formats: CD, 3LP, and hand-painted, special edition 3LP. It is only the fifth full length from Ornaments. Two of the other four were compilations put together by Luke Hess and youANDme, so this is a special occasion. Müller mixes house, dub, and various other strands of techno together.

According to this interview, he uses nothing but analog equipment to do it and prefers creating his own sounds to using samples. I can hear that in the album’s production and in the way Müller builds his songs. He emphasizes texture and density as much as club-worthy rhythms and he shies away from conspicuous melodic themes. He also matches vocal contributions to the tonal color of his instruments and tosses ambient stretches of noise between dance tracks. I like it enough to get past those goofy house vocals, which together constitute the weakest part of the album. Though I’ll admit one or two of those songs have grown on me.

I’m almost certain the hand-painted edition is already sold out (it was limited to just 333 copies) but the CD and LP can still be found online and at certain record shops around the US. So don’t puss out and download it from some blog. Go find a copy, or at least buy the MP3s.

I finally got my hands on some of the new Erstwhile titles last month too. I plan on getting reviews up as soon as possible, but my review writing has slowed down recently due to other writing projects.

About this time of year, certain records solidify as my favorites so far, but there’s been such a glut of great new records that nothing’s become concrete for me. Only a few records carried over from last month, and I can’t decide which record among the three or four I like most is “the best.” So I want bother with a mid-year list or best of.

As always, formats posted are the ones I own. Others may be available. If you like any of the samples I link to, please buy the album. You can find numerous retailers carrying these titles at the bottom of this page.