ASAC Videos: Pump Organ and No Mule

Thanks to Eric Hardiman for shooting and posting videos from Saturday’s Albany Sonic Arts Collective show.

This is the premiere of a soon-to-be-titled work built around the idea of treating a fader box as a set of pump organ pedals, rather than simple position sensors. Using Cycling ’74’s Max I can control the organ sounds with a variety of gestures: “pumping” the faders makes the sounds louder, rhythmic motion creates harmonics, sudden and abrupt changes add distortion and bite. The samples that appear at 5:30 are from a 2010 recording session with choreographer Jill Sigman (previous story here).

(Start at 1:32 to skip the embarrassing banter and the hopeless yet obligatory banjo tuning…)

“No Mule” is another brand-new tune. The rhythmic chopping effect is a kind of slow-motion walk through a live sample of the banjo. I add a few more live samples beginning at about 4:00 and get into full-on Steve Reich mode by 6:00.

Connecting Connections

I’m a long-time reader of Kyle Gann’s Postclassic, so a bit surprised that I don’t point more often to¬† the gems he posts. I couldn’t pass up his latest entry, though, since it pulls together so many figures of contemporary music and finds connections between them. Case in point is this quote about James Tenney:

Someday there will be a book on James Tenney, who studied with Varese, befriended Ruggles, argued with Partch, made psychedelic eletcronic music with Mort Subotnick, played in the ensembles of Steve Reich and Phil Glass, taught alongside Harold Budd, and taught Peter Garland, Larry Polansky, John Luther Adams, and Michael Byron, among many others. Tenney is a line wandering through American musical history, drawing a variety of unexpected connections. The people most central to American music, those who can’t be pulled out of the fabric without it unraveling, are not always the household names.

I can’t wait for that book on James Tenney; if we’re lucky Kyle will write it. Speaking of Kyle’s writings, he’s currently working on a book about Robert Ashley–another one of those wandering lines–who he quotes:

“The only thing that’s interesting to me right now is that, up to me and a couple of other guys, music had always been about the eventfulness: like, when things happened, and if they happened, whether they would be a surprise, or an enjoyment, or something like that… It’s about eventfulness. And I was never interested in eventfulness. I was only interested in sound. I mean, just literally, sound in the Morton Feldman sense…. There’s a quality in music that is outside of time, that is not related to time. And that has always fascinated me… That’s sort of what I’m all about, from the first until the most recent. A lot of people are back into eventfulness. But it’s very boring. Eventfulness is really boring.”

I find Ashley’s ‘eventfulness’ formulation to be useful. I’ve often thought of my music’s tendency toward uneventfulness (here here and here, for example) as related to landscape, particularly landscape painting or photography. My interest in field recordings and soundscapes both grows from that predilection and informs it.

RIP Bo Diddley

Go on Bo Diddley! Gone.

I picked up the double album reissue of “Bo Diddley / Go Bo Diddley” a few years ago and I’ve been playing it regularly ever since. Everybody talks about his beat, but what about that strange rhythm section of maracas and tomtoms and no cymbals? Bo Diddley had the weirdness and he knew how to make it work. The NYTimes reports he was one of the first guitarists to use a stomp box to get that wobbly tremolo effect.

I’ve also been playing Bo Diddley recently because of a kind of revisionist listening. Where once I heard iconic 50’s rock and roll, now I hear echoes and flutters from Henry Flynt and Reich’s Four Organs and excise that beat from your mind (if you can) and what’s left resembles some Alvin Lucier modulation+reverb dream.

Gone Bo Diddley! Go on.