June 23, 2005

The Remarkable Talents Of Livestock Auctioneers

I’ve always been in awe of livestock auctioneers. These guys reel off machine-gun-speed streams of syllables that seem barely comprehensible to the untrained ear, and through them, they manage an entire marketplace of feverish commercial activity… In the case of truly exceptional practitioners like Stenson Clontz, they can even turn the whole process into an almost musical display of vocal dexterity.

The Clontz recording (1985), along with other memorable performances by Steve Liptay (1976) and Cecil Ward (1964), are currently hosted on the WFMU blog site. If you want more, you can find a wide array of samples on the World Livestock Auctioneer Championship site (where you can also purchase videos and CDs). (via WFMU's Beware Of The Blog)

Posted by Warren at 11:19 PM

June 20, 2005

Siberian Throat-Singing Rockers Tackle Joy Division And Motorhead

Yat_Kha.jpgYat Kha are band from the small southern Siberian republic of Tuva who have gained widespread international notoriety for their unique fusion of Central Asian folk, Western rock, and the breathtaking throat-singing styles of their homeland. (For the uninitiated, throat-singing is form of vocal exertion which allows the human voice to produce and combine two or more tones at the same time. The results of this are overtones which can vary in pitch from high keening whistles to deep buzzing drones.) And that notoriety is hopefully set to expand with their latest release, an album of covers. The collection includes songs by Led Zeppelin, Hank Williams, Kraftwerk, Captain Beefheart, Bob Marley, The Rolling Stones… and these two, which are up in mp3 format on their websiteLove Will Tear Us Apart by Joy Division, and Motorhead’s Orgasmatron. Download them now and marvel at some of the most preternaturally deep vocals you will ever hear.

And, of course, if you like what you hear, you can purchase the album there. (Thanks to the WFMU blog for alerting me to the arrival of this release.)

Posted by Warren at 12:56 AM

June 16, 2005

Tape Decks, Tape Loops, Tape Bags & Flags


For someone like me, who once dabbled in DIY audio electronics – but never got beyond building shitty theremins and distortion units, and mounting them in Chinese takeaway containers – this is a thing of rare beauty. It’s one third of a cassette DJ set-up (not pictured is the other cassette deck and a mixer) built by Russian tinkerer extraordinare, DJ Aptem (that’s a direct transliteration from Cyrillic; apparently DJ Artyom is more phonetically correct). As you can see, it not only has EQ knobs, but a motor-off switch, a jog-dial, and fairly sophisticated collection of pitch-shifting controls. Audio samples of this set-up in action can be downloaded from DJ Aptem/Artyom’s website, and there is a photo of him in action on flickr.

loop_orchestra.gifLike DJ Aptem/Artyom, Loop Orchestra rely on looped audio tape as the sole source for their music; but, in their case, there are no cleverly-modded gadgets trying to emulate modern DJ rigs. Everything is the product of a mixer and five middle-aged men threading tape loops over the spools of reel-to-reel tape machines; carefully layering them to produce hypnotically repetitive soundscapes. For the past twenty years, they have been plying their trade on the Sydney underground music scene; emerging to do a gig once or twice a year. In that time, they have released only 3 albums. The most recent one is Not Overtly Orchestal which can be purchased through Amazon. If you want to hear some of the Loopies’ work, they have Real Audio samples on their web site.

sonic_fabric.gifFinally, word has reached Rummage that Alyce Santoro wants your cast-off cassettes “especially vintage mix tapes, experimental stuff, homemade recordings of local sounds, rants, raves, chants, folk and indigenous musics, stuff that maybe you've been hesitant to part with”… And what will become of your old tapes if you send them off to her? They’ll be passed on to a women’s co-operative in Nepal who will weave them into reams of fabric that will be used make shoulder bags, thangkas, and banners that you can purchase from her website. And the best thing about these pieces is that they will retain the sounds recorded on the source tapes, so if you can pull the tape-head out of an old cassette player and wire it up so it still works, you’ll be able to “play” them. (For more information about Alyce and her cassette-tape fabric creations, visit this earlier posting.)

Posted by Warren at 11:39 PM

June 09, 2005

Every Beethoven Symphony, Yours To Download - God Bless The Beeb!

Beethoven.jpgIn a landmark moment in the dissemination of high culture, BBC Radio 3 will be broadcasting every Beethoven symphony over the next month – starting with 1 to 5 this week, then completing the set with 6,7,8 and 9 in three weeks time – and, as soon as they are aired, they will be posting mp3s of them on their website so anyone the world over can download them. It’s a wonderful gesture, but don’t delay if you want to take advantage of it – each symphony will only be up for a week from their time of airing. This means you have less than a week to snaffle up the first five, which were aired on Monday & Tuesday. (via Boing Boing)

Posted by Warren at 12:32 AM

June 07, 2005

Rock Jack: A Three-Year Old Child, a Karaoke Machine, and A Trash Rawk Band

Rock_Jack.jpgThere are no doubt a lot of waywardly talented kids like three year old Ezra Lux, who – if you put them in front of a children’s karaoke machine mike – would turn into seriously rocking kindergarten punk banshees. But, for the most part , they’re just humoured in the hope that they’ll one day “grow out of it”. Ezra, however, has a parent in the San Francisco music scene who has not only encouraged him to kick out the jams, he’s put a together a band who provide solid punk-metal backing to Ezra’s shouted-out rants about toilet usage and Darth Vader. The result is Jack Rock, whose first self-released CD has just found its way on to the shelves at Aquarius Records (if you want a copy, they do mail order). If you want a taste of the Jack Rock post-toddler-core sound, check out the samples on MySpace music.

Posted by Warren at 10:40 PM

Peter Jackson's Cabinet Of MIDI Clunkiness

Peter_Jackson.jpgWhen you’re the cashed-up auteur behind the Lord Of The Rings trilogy and you’ve got a spare $100,000 lying around, what do spend it on? How about a cabinet containing a banjo, guitar, bass, drum kit, piano, accordion, and 24-pipe organ; all controlled by a MIDI-triggering touch screen and optimised to churn out a chirpily mechanical version of A Day In The Life?

This is what Peter Jackson just splurged his money on. Apparently, it was an Xmas gift for his wife, and one can only hope that she’s more impressed with it than he is. (Check out this video where he gives a prompted thumbs up then spends the rest of the time with his back to the camera while the attending rep’s smile fades…) Maybe, he should’ve invested in one of the company’s slick-looking calliope wagons instead. (via Music Thing)

Posted by Warren at 09:54 PM

Sex, Drugs And Rock'N'Roll... Courtesy Of PCL LinkDump

pcl_linkdump.jpgFor the better part of the last year, PCL Linkdump has been one of the great one-stop link filter sites for all your middle-brow art, interesting music, retro-style archaeology, and general pop-culture needs. Since April, its also been regaling us with a series of weekly mp3 postings; thematically divided into a month each of sex, drugs and rock’n’roll. These have now been compiled into one neat little downloadable net release, complete with accompanying cover art.

Included in the collection is one woman’s cheesy ode to her vibrator; a Swedish version of Je táime (with mild operatic aspirations); a rather disconcerting recording of male coital grunting; some raunchy under-the-counter rhythm’n’blues; the classic jazz-era drug standards– Reefer Man by Cab Calloway, and Who Put The Benzedrine In Mrs Murphy’s Ovaltine by Harry The Hipster; a midnight Southern revival rant from Jerry “I’m Goin’ To Hell For Playin’ The Devil’s Music” Lee Lewis… And much more besides.

But hasten with the right-clicking – the collection will only be up till the end of this week.

(FOOTNOTE: To anyone who’s perturbed by the sudden disappearance of past comments on this site; my apologies. Because of the ongoing failure of MT-Blacklist to hold back the tide of comment spam, I’ve switched over to Haloscan. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to take any of the old comments with me.)

Posted by Warren at 08:50 PM

June 03, 2005

In Space No One Can Hear You... Over The Din

In popular culture, space is often presented as a silent realm (eg that famous tag line from the Alien movie posters). And certainly to us, with our limited Earth-bound sense of hearing, it would “sound” that way. But to someone with the right sort of ears, space would be a very noisy place indeed; one filled with whistling planets, roaring particulate space winds, and basso profundo black holes that emit some of the deepest tones in the universe.

Luckily, through the instruments of deep space exploration and radio telescopy, we have acquired these “ears” and, in recent years, the extraterrestrial sound world they have opened up has become readily available on the web. Two of the more notable online repositories for these sounds from space are those curated by Stephen McGreevy and Don Gurnett.

Aurora.jpgMcGreevy’s site is the more lo-tech, Earth-bound of the two, and focuses on sounds from the Earth’s own magnetosphere, which he records using a VLF radio receiver that he has been carting around to isolated locales like Northern Manitoba and the Mojave Desert. Technically speaking, a lot of his more recent recording are not “space sounds” as they record sonic phenomena produced by atmospheric events like lightning strikes, but his earlier recordings concentrate on the sounds produced by the aurora borealis, which is itself a product of the solar winds bombarding Earth’s atmosphere.

Voyager.jpgIn contrast, Don Gurnett's archives are devoted primarily to sounds from deep space probes such Cassini and the Voyagers. Included in his archive are sounds emanating from Jupiter, Saturn, and probably the most significant extraterrestrial field recording of recent times – the sound of Voyager 1 crossing the termination shock. The termination shock occurs at a place far out in space where the stream of solar particles emanating from the sun are brought to a standstill by the buffeting of interstellar winds. So effectively, it is the sound of Voyager leaving our solar system. Unfortunately, its only six seconds long and fairly unspectacular, but still pretty monumental stuff.

Posted by Warren at 02:15 AM