- You don’t play the ANS synthesizer (Russia, 1938) with a keyboard. Instead you etch images onto glass sheets covered in black putty and feed them into a machine that shines light through the etchings, trigging a wide range of tones.
- I am slightly horrified and fascinated by the This Exists channel on YouTube. For a starter, here’s a survey of the history of Scientology music.
- Terrorizer: Heavy Metal Is Gay: Why we need to tackle our homophobia.
Archive for the ‘Esoterica’ Category
Why do we listen to our favourite music over and over again? Because repeated sounds work magic in our brains. Do anything repeatedly and it is music. And even if you consciously avoid repetition, listeners in studies consistently rate the same piece with a bit of repetition inserted higher than the version without.
When presented with a new musical technology, the first question that occurs to a certain sort of mind is “what happens if I press all the buttons?” People used to do this with pianola rolls (particularly Conlon Nancarrow and his studies for player piano); now they do it with piano-sound synthesizers, controlled by hand-tweaked MIDI files. “Black” because that’s what the manuscript rendering looks like.
The current wave was started by kakakakaito1998 on YouTube; now it’s a scene. Unfortunately, much of what you hear in the result is artifacts of synthesis; it would be interesting to hear some of these on a physical player piano.
Update: Of course, some are not fans.
From NPR: So here’s Beethoven’s 9th played on 167 theremins built inside Russian dolls. Oh, and wait for the boogie, about 1:20. HT Liam Proven.
The redoubtable Vi Hart produces a brilliant half-hour video on how Schoenberg‘s twelve-tone technique works, and a few examples that demonstrate just where half the background music of the twentieth century came from. Includes discourses on the nature of art, the nature of musical shapes and the reprehensibility of present copyright laws. You will enjoy this.
Well, that was certainly a thing. I was a teenage Joy Division/New Order obsessive, and for many years I’ve found covers of them inherently hilarious. There were two legendary obscurities that could not be found in the record shops at the far edge of the world under any circumstances, and still remain so obscure you won’t even find copies on YouTube. I present for your delight the Savoy Hitler Youth Band combining “Blue Monday” with Springsteen’s “Cadillac Ranch” and the shuddering majesty of P.J. Proby’s truly remarkable take on “Love Will Tear Us Apart”. You can thank me later.
(The tracks are from an interview with David Britton of Savoy Records by Simon Sellars, one of the three greatest J.G. Ballard fans in the world and compiler of the superb Extreme Metaphors, a just-released book of Ballard interviews that pretty much everyone should read.)
So much for the argument from design. Computational biologist Bob MacCallum at Imperial College
had too much time on his hands was inspired to push back the boundaries of musical knowlege, so set up a system to generate random sinewave tones, then run it through public opinion testing at DarwinTunes. “The higher-rated loops get to have sex and make baby loops.” After three thousand generations, it even evolved a kick drum. He’s got it into Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences as “Evolution of music by public choice”.
Feel like brushing up on your Beatles, but don’t have all day to listen to all 226 recorded tracks? Ramjac has helpfully put together all the tracks playing simultaneously, sequenced in order of lengths, with the longest starting first and all 226 tunes ending together.
An earnest attempt to construct the world’s mathematically ugliest music. (Several minutes intro, then the tune.) Personally I think this fails to correctly ascertain what constitutes “ugly”: it fails to precisely jar against all human thinking. Though past attempts along those lines have resulted in works that have been hugely influential despite their superpowers of making people hate them. I was playing Metal Machine Music at work today, ‘cos it’s perfect for keeping the workplace jibber-jabber at bay.
UbuWeb is an archive of avant-garde text, music and film operating on the basis of putting up unavailable stuff and taking it down as and when asked. They don’t take donations or sponsorship and serving is donated by various universities.
And you can guess what happens: artists decide they really want to be there even if their stuff is commercially available. There’s some controversy over this, but on the whole it’s loved and accepted. And as he says, if they asked permission for everything it wouldn’t exist. Go there and download to your bandwidth cap and beyond.
And now there’s a lovely interview with the founder, New York poet Kenneth Goldsmith, who says: put up more UbuWebs and make this one irrelevant. He’s right. Why aren’t you? Why aren’t I?
WFMU is a fine New York-based “WHAT THE FUCK WAS THAT”-format public radio station. They have a blog with a fine selection of the weird goddamn shit they broadcast. And now, they have, in collaboration with a few likeminded radio stations and organisations, launched the Free Music Archive: “It’s not just free music, it’s good music.” Go forth and get downloading like a bastard.
This week, the cheap shitty MP3 player is filled with improvised noise. I have entirely too high a tolerance for this sort of thing if it’s the right genre, in this case early industrial — all those albums from the eighties released in limited editions of a few hundred for the Artist’s Shit market.
You might be suffering from Artist’s Shit if:
- you’ve bought a box set of anything ever, particularly ten or more live recordings by one band.
- you have MP3s of twenty remixes of any single song.
- you have over twenty gigabytes of MP3s you haven’t listened to yet, and if you do it’ll be once in your life and probably never again.
- you bought all the Damage Manual remix albums Martyn Atkins is pushing on eMusic.
- you bought the supar l33t everything edition of Ghosts I-IV by Nine Inch Nails.
- you have a copy of “The Laughing Gnome” for any reason other than to sell it on.
Recovery involves realising (a) you cannot buy souls on a record (b) you wouldn’t want to if you could.
Some music was much more fun to make than it will ever be to listen to. “Oh no, the Tombliboos are under the delusion they’re Miles Davis or equivalent!” You are not Miles Davis and nor are these people.
p.s.: the NWW list contains vast vistas of suction by any sane measure.
Today’s music is Bullshit 3¼, a 1970 psychedelic prog album in Hebrew (with titles in English) by Danny ben Israel. The music is deeply fucked up and smoking remarkable quantities of crack in all sorts of ways. It could be just what I needed.
Update: In lab tests, this album really, really annoys Lady Gaga-loving teenagers when you put it on as housecleaning music.
A pile of tapes by Delia Derbyshire — that’s Miss Blind Lemon Radiophonic Workshop herself — have shown up retrieved from her attic. Proper electronic music, from back when you needed to build the damn thing before you played it — “I think she got a bit disheartened and a bit bored with it all when the synthesizer came along and it all became a little too easy.” The tapes are being prepared for wider release.
Dion McGregor was the most prolific somniloquist in recorded history. A somniloquist, or voluble dreamer, is a person that talks during their sleep. Dion is unique due to the way in which he sleep-talked. Rather than mumbling random incoherent words like most sleep-talkers, Dion narrated his dreams eloquently at a conversational tone, making them an incredible and surreal experience for the listener.
Through the 1950s, Dion McGregor’s roommate Mike Barr got up at seven o’clock every morning and taped Dion’s surreal narrations; in March 1963 he passed on 150 tapes of material to Nancy Green, who in turn played them to her husband Jules L. Green. Struck by the surreal yet coherent nature of the material, Green sold the idea to Decca of releasing the material as an album; and in 1964 Decca released The Dream World Of Dion McGregor (He Talks In His Sleep).