April 30, 2007

John Cage Performing Live On A 60's Game Show

Cage_Gameshow.jpgI’ve Got A Secret was a popular US game show of the 50’s and 60’s that featured a prominent personality, who would come on and tell the host a secret. A panel would then ask questions in an effort to work out what that “secret” was. In this episode from January 1960, the guest was none other than John Cage, who whispers to the host that he will perform one of his compositions, Water Walk. When the host then hears that it will be played on “instruments” that include a water pitcher, an iron pipe, a goose call, a mechanical fish, an electric mixer, five radios and a grand piano, he immediately abandons the usual format so this “magnificent demonstration” can take place. He is nonetheless concerned about the audience’s reaction, so he asks Cage if he is OK with people laughing at his performance. The great man good-naturedly replies, “Of course, I consider laughter preferable to tears."
(This priceless cultural artifact was made available by WFMU’s Station Manager Ken.)

Posted by Warren at 07:28 PM

April 29, 2007


Taqwacore.jpgIn 2002, Michael Muhammad Knight, an American Muslim convert who had grown disillusioned with orthodox Islam, wrote a book called The Taqwacores about at fictitious share flat of Muslim punks in Buffalo, New York. The book’s characters included a straight-edge Sunni with Qur’anic tattoos, a mohawked Sufi stoner, a radical feminist in a burqa with band patches, and a Sudanese Shi'ite rude boy; and together they became a cause celebre among disaffected Muslim youth. So much so that they have spawned a subculture of young American Muslim musicians who proudly identify themselves as Taqwacore. Included in this movement are groups who embrace a wide variety of styles, from the punk-lite of The Kominas to the growling Islamic-language hardcore of Al-Hawra, but all of them share a subversive take on what it means to be young and Muslim. (Other groups in the scene are Diacritical, 8-Bit, Vote Hezbollah, and Secret Trial Five.)

(Also worth checking out is this Flash-animated photoessay about Taqwacore from Pangea Magazine. Here's an mp3 of the soundtrack of that photoessay, Mohammed Was A Punk Rocker by Kourosh Poursalchi from Vote Hezbollah.)

Posted by Warren at 05:30 AM

April 27, 2007

Full Metal Village

If the trailer is anything to go by, then this is a film I can't wait to see!

For one weekend every year, the quiet rural village of Wacken in the northern German province of Schleswig-Holstein becomes the setting for a festival of metal music that attracts acts like Cannibal Corpse, Celtic Frost and Napalm Death, and pulls in crowds in excess of 50,000. Last year, South Korean director Sung-Hyung Cho went along to interview the locals and document this annual maelstrom of mayhem that descends upon their bucolic little town. The resulting documentary opened in German cinemas last week and will hopefully find its way to screens further afield very soon. (via Swen's Blog)

Posted by Warren at 04:06 AM

Hagiography Of Dear Leader

Here, set to music from the Sublime Frequencies album Radio Pyongyang, is a video contrasting the "history" and reality of the birth of the only communist dictator to produce a monster movie, Kim Jong Il. (via beans beans good for your heart)

(For more musical hagiography of Dear Leader's origins, check out this video from Rob Pongi)

Posted by Warren at 01:46 AM

Musical Stones of Skiddaw

Musical_Stones.jpgJune 11th, 1785 found my 6 first music stones at the Tip end of North end of the long tongue.

This is an entry from the journal of Peter Crosthwaite, an inveterate inventor and curator of the local museum at Keswick in the Lake District of northern England - and first devotee of the musical stones of Skiddaw. These stones, which he refers to, are pieces of hornfels from the nearby Skiddaw mountain that produced a resonant ringing tone when struck, a tone that changed in pitch depending on the size of the stone.

In all probability, Crosthwaite was not the first person to observe this phenomenon, but he was the first to think of turning it into a musical instrument. In the six months following this journal entry, he threw himself into fossicking and "tuning" his finds (by chipping away at them) until he had enough to make a sixteen note stone xylophone. This instrument then became the main attraction in Crosthwaite's museum, and he would use it to literally drum up business; banging out a tune, accompanied by his daughter and an old woman on bass drum, gongs and barrel organ, whenever a coached arrived in town.

And that's as far as it went. Crosthwaite was an ingenious eccentric, but he wasn't a terribly good self-promoter (he once let someone else take the credit for a lifeboat he invented) and an average musician at best, so for the time being, the musical stones of Skiddaw remained little more than a local curiosity.

In 1827, however, another Keswick local, Joseph Richardson, set out to change all that. A stonemason by trade, Richardson was also a gifted musician with a capacity for truly monomaniacal obsession. For 13 years, he devoted himself to building a stone xylophone with a full eight-octave range. In the process, he almost drove his family to the poor house, but his efforts were ultimately rewarded. Within a decade of its completion, Richardson's lithophone was known throughout England and he was performing musical stone recitals of Handel and Mozart for Queen Victoria.

After wowing his countrymen, he toured the continent and was all set to conquer America, when tragedy struck - his youngest son, who had blossomed into a musical stone virtuoso, contracted pneumonia and died. Richardson cancelled the tour and never played the instrument again...

It thus lay dormant until 2005 when a new generation of enthusiasts took it out of mothballs for a performance at a local arts festival. Other performances have since been organised at the University of Leeds and the 2006 Liverpool Biennial. Hopefully, these will continue and this unique instrument will once again enjoy the fame that it basked in back in the time of Joseph Richardson.

(And, if you want to hear what the stones sound like, they have a MySpace page.)

Posted by Warren at 12:14 AM

April 26, 2007


Shortwave.jpgHere’s a blog for anyone who ever had a radio cassette with shortwave bands and spent hours reveling in the sound of exotic transmissions appearing from then being ripped apart by waves of static and pulsing interference tones. Its put together by sound artist Myke Weiskopf, who lovingly records and posts these corrupted transmissions, and has even brought out an CD with some of them on it. (via Sound Scavengers)

Posted by Warren at 11:57 PM

Putting The Creepiness Back Into Theremin Playing...

Eliot.jpgAlthough he mainly plies his trade performing to children, theremin-playing mime Eliot Fintushel really should be in a David Lynch film. Watch these videos of him playing Claire de Lune and Jesu Joy while dressed in a Pierrot outfit, and you'll see why. (The latter ends with an impassioned consumption of a biscuit crucifix.) Guaranteed to add a new cast member to any coulrophobic's nightmares. More here. (via Music Thing)

Posted by Warren at 09:15 PM

April 20, 2007

Alchemy's Greatest Failed Experiment

Avedis.jpgLike many who dabbled in alchemy back in the 17th century, Avedis dreamt of one day unlocking the secret of alchemic transmutation – the art of turning base metals into gold. In 1618, this Armenian artisan who lived in Constantinople, attempted to do it with a mixture of tin, copper and silver – and basically failed. The result of his efforts was an alloy with the colour and lustre of gold, but sadly it wasn’t the genuine article. When he struck a sheet of it with a hammer, however, he discovered something almost as “valuable” as gold – it produced a rich, musical crashing sound without breaking. He had created the raw material of the modern cymbal.

Pretty soon, Avedis was forging it into large concave disks whose reputation as noisemakers eventually reached the ears of the sultan of the day. The sultan immediately recognised their potential, not as musical instruments, but as sonic weapons that could be used to create cacophony on the battlefield and scare the wits out of any enemy.

With a lucrative military contract in his hands, Avedis adopted the name “Zildjian”, an Armenian corruption of the Turkish word for “cymbal maker”, and set up shop as the sole supplier of cymbals to the Turkish military. In time, the army realised that this “sonic weapon” could also serve a more benign purpose – accenting the beat in its marching bands. Zildjian’s cymbals thus became a bona fide musical instrument and found a place in a martial style called Janissary music. (Here is a sample mp3 of that music.)

By the late 18th century, this music had moved beyond the battlefield and parade ground, and janissary bands, or mehteran, were accompanying Turkish ambassadors on trips to European courts. When the Europeans heard this exotically discordant music, they were enraptured and one of the first “world music” crazes was borne. It was a craze that was even taken up prominent composers like Mozart, who incorporated Turkish themes and previously unheard Turkish instruments into their work. One of the most popular and distinctive of these instruments was the cymbal.

By the early 19th century, this exotic newcomer had gone from being a faddish oddity to an acceptable part of the classical orchestra. Since then, it has also comfortably found its way into the percussion sections of almost all modern styles of music and very little trace of its exotic and unusual past remains.

Through of all of this the Zildjian company has kept turning out its product and has, in the process, become the oldest popular musical instrument company in the world.

Posted by Warren at 10:05 PM

Weekend Gig Suggestions: High Brow Game Music At The Town Hall & Monk Time At The Chauvel

Eminence.jpgIf you live in Sydney, you're a fan of video game music, and you like the idea of experiencing it in a symphonic setting, then you're in for a treat. In the next couple of months, not one - but two - orchestras will be in town to perform game tunes in a classical style.
The first one is Eminence, who are appearing at the Sydney Town Hall tonight and tomorrow night at 7:30pm. They'll be presenting selections from Super Mario Bros, Final Fantasy, Legend of Zelda, World of Warcraft and many more; all accompanied by videos of gameplay on a big screen. (Unfortunately, though, I don't think either of these guys will be in the orchestra.) Tickets can be bought at the door. The prices are here.

Monks.jpgIf you're more in the mood for a film and some frenetic live music from men in cassocks and tonsures, then head for the Chauvel Cinema tomorrow night. As part of the German Film Festival, they're screening a documentary about the Monks, a German-based 60's proto-punk band comprised of ex-American GIs who dressed like... well, monks. Here's a sample of one of their signature tunes, Monk Time. It's taken from the doco's website, where you can also purchase a tribute album with tracks by artists like Alec Empire, Mouse on Mars, The Gossip, The Fall, Faust, Chicks on Speed, John Spencer, Psychic TV, and the Silver Apples.
The screening starts at 8:45 pm, and afterwards there will supposedly be a band on hand to do Monks covers. And I'm promised they will have tonsures.

Posted by Warren at 05:40 PM

April 18, 2007

Best YouTube Video Ever !!!

This is what YouTube was created for... Put simply, the most astounding nine minutes of TV chat you are ever going to see. It's taken from an Atlanta Public Access TV show called "Vagina Power" hosted by Alexyss Tylor (MySpace page) and her bewildered mother. In this episode, they discuss the perils of "penis power", and Alexyss doesn't hold back, so only safe for work if you have headphones. (via WFMU and Metafilter)

Posted by Warren at 01:39 PM

April 17, 2007

African Underground: Democracy In Dakar

Dakar.jpgBack in 2000, the West African nation of Senegal witnessed something that it had not seen in the four decades of its independence – a change of government. Up until then, power had been held by the Socialist Party, which had grown increasingly moribund and corrupt as the decades passed. In the 2000 elections, it was finally defeated by the liberal Senegalese Democratic Party under Abdoulaye Wade, who specifically courted the youth vote. Along the way, he was helped immeasurably by the support of artists in the burgeoning Senegalese hip hop scene.

Back in February this year, after seven years of failed promises and concerted crackdowns on opposition (including rappers), Wade faced the voters in another election, so the hip hop label Nomadic Wax sent a camera crew to Dakar to engage in a unique form of election coverage – a series of short documentaries focusing on local hip hop and its potential role in the political scene this time around.

The results of the team’s efforts have been posted on the Calabash Music site in four parts (Here are the links for 1, 2, 3 and 4) and provided they can get the funding, it will eventually be turned into a full length documentary. As it stands, it’s an interesting profile of the pressures facing politically-vocal artists in a democratic but still authoritarian regime, and it includes some great performances, both on the street and in the studio, by local rappers.

Posted by Warren at 10:14 PM

People Try To Put Us Down: The Zimmers

This is about old people sticking it back to the society that has cast them aside…

So says Tim Samuels, a documentary maker who recently brought together 40 British senior citizens to perform this rousing version of The Who’s My Generation, which was recorded in Abbey Road Studios and has become something of a hit on YouTube. The group, which has been christened The Zimmers, includes video-blog star Peter Oakley aka Geriatric1927 and an actor who has appeared in Little Britain, but apart from that they’re all largely unknown amateurs. Despite this, they’re unfazed by the occasion and throw themselves into the material with gusto. The resulting video is a lot of fun, particularly when the 90 year old lead singer croons “Hope I die before I get old” with a straight face, but it also delivers a moment of unexpected poignancy, when one member holds up a sign that says “I’ve Not Left My Flat In Three Years” during the bass lead break… I look forward to their version of The Prodigy’s “Firestarter” (also part of their repertoire).

My Generation by The Zimmers can be purchased online as of May 21, and all proceeds will go to Age Concern.

Posted by Warren at 08:53 PM

April 15, 2007

Canine Heart Beats, Music For Bladder Operations & A Song For Diabetic Kids: Medical Mp3s From 365 Days

Medical.jpgAs many of you are probably aware, the sequel to The 365 Days Project recently passed its 100th day, and seeing as the Rummage radio segment was originally inspired by the first 365 Days Project (the segment started back in July 2003 when the Project was in full swing, and Otis Fodder was the first person I ever interviewed on air), I’ve decided to devote tomorrow’s segment to an interesting sub-genre that’s been featured in the first 100 days of 365 Days No. 2 – medical mp3s. Here’s some examples:

Canine Heart Sounds - Band 1 (Normal Heart Sounds) – From an album of 21 recordings of dogs’ heartbeats, both normal and abnormal, which was released by the EVSCO Pharmaceutical Corp. in 1970. In addition to the sounds of the hearts, we get introductory comments by Stephen Ettinger, DVM. The full set of recordings can be downloaded here.

Tableau of A Lithotomy by Marin Morais – In itself, the album that this was released on is a bizarre enough artifact – a record put out by a laxative company to help promote its products. But even without the context, this is something truly jaw-dropping – a musical description of a bladder operation by 17th century viola de gamba maestro, Marin Morais. The score for the composition, which served largely as vehicle for Morais to demonstrate his virtuosity on the viola de gamba, was accompanied by annotations that described the progress of the operation. These have been included on this recording as a faux olde English voiceover. (Link to original 365 Days post)

We’re Diabetic by Pat Morris – A catchy piece of Madness-influenced pop which was written to help diabetic kids feel more comfortable about their condition. It includes light-hearted instruction on urine testing, insulin injection, diet and exercise. (Link to original 365 Days post)

Posted by Warren at 10:46 PM

Kurdish Zorna Master Remixed By Israeli DJs

Zadik.jpgZadik Zecharia, who hails from Kurdistan but has lived in Israel since 1950, is a master of the zorna, a reed instrument which sounds like a shriller version of the bagpipes, and which Zecharia wields like a diamond-tipped drill to the skull. Here’s an mp3 of him performing a style of Kurdish dance music called chopie.

Last year, he was exposed to the world via a reissue of a 1980 recording of his music that was released on the Israeli label, Something On The Road. At the end of the record, SOTR tacked on two effects-drenched abstract remixes by local DJs, Gal Tushia and Davis Ovadia, which actually held up rather well in their own right. Perhaps inspired by this, SOTR have now released a whole album of remixes of Zecharia’s work by Israeli artists. As you might expect, some of them merely use the source material as a sampled adjunct to their current favourite beat, bass ‘n’ synth patterns. Others though, engage more directly with it and some interesting pieces result. Here’s a few of them:

Nemoi – basically just a simple repeated guitar phrase with Zecharia’s zorna overlayed as a melody. The whole, though, gels together beautifully and reminds me of Juana Molina sans vocals.

Yayehe Smon – in a moment of true inspiration, this artist contextualizes Zecharia by subtly incorporating the music into a field recording of a Middle Eastern street scene.

David Ovadia – goes in the complete opposite direction to Smon and turns Zecharia’s music into an echo chamber soundscape.

All of these remixes can be purchased as a CD from Aquarius Records, or they can be downloaded under a Creative Commons license from Miklataklim.

Posted by Warren at 01:49 AM

April 13, 2007

Drums Of Death

Death_Drums.jpgWhile we’re in Ghana, and on the subject of funeral music, here’s a far more unreconstructed traditional response to the passing of a loved one from the Ashante people of central Ghana.

I originally bought this album, back in 1997, solely on the basis of its title, Drums of Death. (Who, after all, could resist a title like that?…) Coming from the West where funerals are designed to contain and solemnise grief, I naturally expected something sombre and ponderous. What I got instead was a torrent of pounding cathartic polyrhythms that completely floored me. This was not some muted observance of a burial; this was a raucous, full-blooded celebration of a journey to another realm. To paraphrase the liner notes, death in Ashante culture marks the passing of the deceased into the company of the ancestors who the living “rely upon for advice, comfort and guidance… And so with every death, there is a party, and the family, tribe and other celebrants drum, dance, sing and socialize.”

The CD, which was produced by John Zorn, is out of print, but you can still find copies on Amazon, and I urge you to snap one up. If you need any convincing, listen to this mp3 of the third track on the album, Adva Part 1.

Posted by Warren at 11:16 PM

Por Por: Honk Honk Music From Ghana

Por_Por.jpgWhen we think about the ways in which technology reshapes traditional music, our ideas are generally influenced by how that process has unfolded in the West in the past century or so. And for us, its largely been about electricity – electrical instruments and amplification forging loud, stadium-filling rock from formerly intimate folk styles like blues and country; electronic synthesisers turning once-organic urban grooves into wholly synthetic dance music; and samplers, sequencers and multi-track recording turning everything into infinitely malleable sound sources. Thus, when “traditional music meets technology” these days, it invariably equates to an overlay of drum machines and synths, and a nice high-gloss digital recording.

But electric/electronic instruments and gadgets aren’t the only forms of “modern Western” technology that can have a ground-shifting impact on a traditional style of music; sometimes it can be something far more humble. In the case of the Por Por music of Ghana, its some of the most low-tech devices you can imagine: the squeeze-bulb vehicle horn (ala the picture at the top of this post), the pneumatic tire wheel, and the tire pump.

Por Por (which is an onomatopoeic rendering of the sound produced by squeezing said horns) is a style of music invented by truck and taxi drivers of Ghana which takes traditional music played on animal horns and bells, and renders it on vehicle horns, tire pumps, and wheel rims. (The style apparently emerged as a result of frequent breakdowns by truckers on deserted back-country roads. Fearfully of attacks by wild animals, they would honk horns and bang wrenches on tire rims “like crazy” and the sound was born.)

Over time, these improvised bangs and honks matured into the fully-developed style, often accompanied by large choirs, but performances were to restricted funerals of drivers, so Por Por remained unknown to the outside world. Until now, that is…

A month or so ago, the music was finally exposed to the world via an album called Por Por: Honk Honk Music of Ghana which you can purchased as a CD or mp3/FLAC downloads from the Smithsonian Folkways site.

To give you a taste of it, here is the song, Otsokobila, performed by the La Drivers Por Por Group.

Posted by Warren at 09:27 PM

Watch 78Man Spin Quite A Few Discs...

78Man.jpgWhen 78man decided to make his vast collection of old 78’s available online, he came up with a rather novel way of doing it – instead of just posting mp3s of the audio, he pointed a video camera at his records while they played on his gramophone/phonograph and uploaded the resulting videos to YouTube.

So far, he's done this to 378 crackly old discs which were released between the 1900’s and 1950’s. The collection encompasses most of the major styles of the time – blues, ragtime, music hall and big-band swing, just to name a few – and even includes some genuine oddities such as a recording of nightingales from the garden of cellist Beatrice Harrison (more on that in an upcoming post), a guide to dancing to "Knees Up Mother Brown", and a couple of laughing records.
(via nickyskye of metafilter)

Posted by Warren at 08:23 PM

April 12, 2007

Amateur Mad Scientists Ahoy: The Bent Festival

Tonight (LA time) is the opening of the 2007 Bent Festival, an annual three day event of workshops and performances dedicated to circuit-bending, the art of making music by short-circuiting dinky old electronic audio devices like kid’s toys, guitar effects and cheap-o keyboards. The event, which started out four years ago in Manhattan, has now turned into a bit of road show. This year it will be happening in Los Angeles (April 12th – 14th) and Minneapolis (April 19th – 21st), along with New York (April 26th – 28th). If you want get a feel for what ensues at one of these festivals, check out the YouTube link at the top of this post - it's a short doco about the 2006 Bent Festival.

If (like me) you can’t make it to any of the dates on the tour, but still want to get involved in this mad scientist world of lo-fi audio experimentation, then head for the website of Reed Ghazala, the “Father of circuit-bending”. On it, you’ll find a helpful manual to get you started, and an assortment of mp3s coaxed from some of Reed’s circuit-bent creations. Thrill to the sounds of the morpheum, aleatron, and vox insecta, then go away and make one of your own.

Posted by Warren at 07:34 PM

Respect Wordsworth... Seriously... Stop Giggling

Wordsworth.jpgIn the annals of literary landmark commemoration, there have probably been few moments as bizarre as this bicentennial reworking of Wordsworth's I Wandered Lonely As A Cloud. In an attempt to make the poem relevant to the "You Tube generation", the official tourist body of the Lakes District (whose flora inspired the poem) commissioned a "hip-hop" version of it and then enlisted the mascot of a local steamboat company, a giant red squirrel called Sam, to perform it. Oh, and the squirrel was given a new name especially for the occasion - MC Nuts... I kid you not.

Posted by Warren at 09:25 AM

April 10, 2007

My Beloved Is Engaged To Another Man... Let's Party!!

OK, time for some manic folktronic party stomp from Syria; courtesy of local superstar, Omar Souleyman. The song’s called Leh Jani, and it’s about finding out that your beloved is engaged to another man. Normally, you’d expect such subject matter to provoke some form of anguished lament; but for Souleyman, the occasion demands a thumping beat, phased-out synth noodling, and frenetic insectoid oud. All of which is fine by the fans, who form lines on the dancefloor and start discreetly pogoing in formation. Fun, fun stuff.

If you like that track (which you can download as an mp3 here), you might also enjoy Jani, an even more crazed number which was released in 1996 and became Souleyman’s first big hit. Both of these songs can also be found on Omar Souleyman: Highway To Hassake, a compilation of material culled from the 500+ cassettes (!) that he has recorded in his 10 year career. The CD is out on our favourite disorientalist label, Sublime Frequencies, and can be purchased here.

(The video itself was posted on YouTube by porest aka Mark Gergis, the man who put the compilation together. In addition to this, he’s posted a video of a performance by a Lebanese improv trio, featuring Mazen Kerbaj, the free jazz trumpeter who recorded that spontaneous duet with Israeli jets bombing Beirut. Other treats are to be found in his extensive favourites collection which includes pop and traditional music from the Middle East, Cambodia, Thailand, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Colombia and even Eritrea.)

Posted by Warren at 11:05 PM

April 08, 2007

A New Vocal Interpretation For The World's Oldest Song

Oldest_Song.jpgIn the early fifties, a broken, slightly burnt 3,200 year old clay tablet inscribed with cuneiform writing was unearthed in the Northern Syrian site of the Bronze Age Canaanite city of Ugarit. The tablet turned out to be the missing half of another fragment unearthed nearly 25 years before, and together, these tablets formed one of the most exciting finds in ancient musicology – the world’s oldest song.

The inscription on the tablets (pictured below) was divided into two halves.


The top half contained the lyrics of the song which turned out to be a heart-rending prayer addressed by an infertile woman to the moon goddess Nikkal. Here’s a sample (which unfortunately loses a little in translation):

She [Nikkal] let the married couples have children,
She let them be born to the fathers,
But the begotten will cry out, ‘She [the infertile woman] has not borne any child.’
Why have not I as a true wife borne children for you?

Interestingly enough, the lyrics are not in the language of the city where they were found, but in a language from Mesopotamia called Hurrian. It was a language that was, at that time, in serious decline, so maybe this tablet was an early attempt to preserve a dying culture undertaken either by emigrants from that culture, or the local equivalents of “world music fans”. (In either case, there may have been some bowdelerisation for local sensitivies as the goddess that the song is addressed to is a Canaanite one.)

The bottom half of the tablets contains instructions for accompanying the prayer on a lyre. Unlike the words, the translation of these “instructions” into music has been far more difficult. The instructions don’t, for instance, provided a precisely notated melody for the song, but merely the names of strings on the lyre, combinations of strings and a cryptic set of numbers. After decades of work, which have produced varying interpretations from a number of scholars; it seems that, at best, these “instructions” provide only chord progression charts, similar to the sort of thing you would find in a book on learning to play rhythm guitar. The vocal melody, however, remains something that we can only speculate on.

This is the interpretation, at least, of one of the leading experts on the tablets, Dr Theo J H Krispijn. His conclusions, however, haven’t stopped him from imagining what the lost melody of this ancient song would have sounded like. And recently, Krispijn, who is an accomplished vocalist, even gave a performance of his “version” of that melody at the Chicago Oriental Institute. The performance was captured on video and posted on the web as part of this article in the Chicago Tribune.

We’ll never know if this is what the song truly sounded like, but this version is certainly a beautiful piece which comes across as sensitive to the source material. (via Metafilter)

Posted by Warren at 03:54 PM

April 04, 2007

NMATapes: A Treasury of 80's Australian Experimental Music

Nma.jpgWhen histories of Australian music in the late 70’s and 80’s are written, attention is generally heaped on the sweaty output of the pub rock fraternity. What gets far less exposure is the experimental music scene which was, at that time, bursting out of academia and finding its feet in a (slightly) wider community, thanks to the Clifton Hill Community Music Centre in Melbourne. This venue, which ran from 1976 to 1984, was committed to presenting performances of non-commercial and experimental music and mixed media to the public, free of charge. (Also, with little or no publicity beyond word of mouth and the occasional cheap photocopied flyer.)

One of the regulars at the CHCMC was the composer and sound artist Rainer Linz who, from 1982 onwards, began documenting the scene - both at the Centre and beyond - through the NMA magazine, an annual publication that lasted until 1992. Each issue of it was accompanied by a cassette of works by the featured artists, and now the music on those cassettes has been made available in its entirety online. Not only is it a valuable record of the scene, which includes pieces by such (relatively) big names as Jon Rose, Philip Brophy, Alan Lamb and Stelarc, but each issue was themed so the entire set fits together as nice little compendium of distinct, if occasionally overlapping, episodes. (Or, maybe not so little; the total size of all the zipped issues comes to almost 550 Mb.)

Because I don’t have the benefit of Kevin-Rudd-enhanced super-broadband, I haven’t downloaded the whole thing yet, but here are a few tracks from the couple of episodes that I have managed to shift on to my cranky old hard drive:

Essendon Airport – Martial Art (one of the "poppier" tracks in the set)
Alan Lamb - Night Passages (excerpt) (environmental wire music from the master)

You can download the set, or purchase them in CD-R form, from this site.

(And if you're interested in a more detailed history of the Clifton Hill Community Music Centre, check out this essay by one of the alumni, Ernie Althoff.)

Posted by Warren at 09:39 PM


Ai-Tal.jpgIn the February edition of The Wire, there’s a 14 page spread on “concerts that shook the world”. It’s filled with breathless gig reviews of performances by a lot of the usual suspects – Ornette Colman, The Birthday Party, Big Black, Faust, The Fall, Nina Simone, Sun Ra, etc. In the midst of these modern music luminaries, however, is an appearance by a virtually unknown band at an obscure festival in Far Eastern Siberia. The festival is the Tabyk Ethno Musical Festival, which is held annually in the capital of the Sakha (Yakutian) Republic, Yakutsk; the band is Ai-Tal.

What makes this band so special? Well, judging by the one mp3 I’ve heard, the vocalist Yurii Spiridonov. Yurii is quite simply one of the most spine-chilling singers you’re ever likely to hear. He pulls you in from the outset with the sort of a gravelly bass growling that you might hear from a hibernation-deprived bear fronting a SunnO))) covers band. Then, when you’ve adjusted this, the voice rises to a blood-curdling reverb-drenched roar before settling into an extended burst of throat singing style demon chattering followed by more unearthly wailing…

Download and “enjoy”. (And, for more less gut-churning music from the Tabyk Festival, follow this link.)

Posted by Warren at 01:37 AM

Office Orchestra

Office.jpgUsing found objects as musical instruments isn’t a particularly new or unusual idea. Nonetheless, its hard not to be impressed by the range of mundane sound sources – from rulers and articulated lamps through to dentist’s drills and hair removal strips – that Sweden’s Kunliga Filharmoniska Orkestern employ in this video of an office block rendition of Dolly Parton’s Nine To Five. (via Neatorama)

Posted by Warren at 12:08 AM

April 03, 2007

Bjork's First Album

Bjork.jpgWFMU has dredged up a special treat for fans of Iceland's highest profile pop star, Björk Gudmundsdóttir - an album recorded by her when she was 12 years old. On it, she not only sings in a manner that gives early indications of the vocal histrionics that are to follow, but she plays flute (cf this tribute to Icelandic painter Johannes Kjarvel)

Musically, its mostly tragic hippie disco, but it does include a cutely clunky Icelandic language version of the Beatles' Fool On The Hill.

One for Bjork completists.

Posted by Warren at 01:26 AM

April 02, 2007

Music Of The Uighurs

Meet Abdurehim Heyit. He hails from the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region of northwestern China; is the undisputed king of a Central Asian two-stringed mega-lute called the dutar; and really should be headlining world music festivals around the globe in that dapper powder-blue suit of his.

Sadly though, his music – and that of his people, the Uighurs – has largely been overshadowed by more attention-grabbing output from the region; like the work of the Tuvan throat-singers and Uzbek songstress Yulduz Usmanova.

Being overlooked by the rest of the world, however, is something that the Uighurs have had to endure for much of their recent history. A Turkic people whose land has long been the object of Chinese expansionism, the Uighurs enjoyed brief periods of independence in the 1930s and 40s before becoming subjects of modern China in 1949. Ever since then, they have been an occupied people and there has been simmering resentment of their Beijing overlords, which finally lead to protests in the 1980s, an attempted uprising in 1990, and a violent crackdown of separatists followed by a bus bombing in the regional capital of Urumqi in 1997.

As a result of this, the Chinese authorities have kept a tight rein on any dissent. As a case in point, a prominent Uighur businesswoman, Rebiya Kadeer, who tried to send newspaper clippings about the situation in Xinjiang to her expatriate husband in the US in 1999, was imprisoned by Chinese authorities for “leaking state secrets”. She remained in custody until 2005 when she was handed over to the United States. She has since become the face of Uighur resistance to Chinese rule and in 2006 was even nominated for the Nobel Peace prize.

All of this did make it into the Western media (along with reports on the standard modern colonial practice of ethnic swamping by China) but it remained a scarcely glanced at geopolitical backgrounder; with the real public outrage at Chinese suppression of ethnic self-determination reserved for Tibet.

But maybe if the music gets out there in a big way and the world turns its gaze to their corner of the world, then more of the Uighur story and their demands for self-determination will be heard... Or maybe it will become just another source of alluring ethnic sounds…

If you want to hear more music from the region, Fausto Caceres has compiled both a collection of cheesy local pop (which includes a track from Heyit), and a collage of field recordings of folk music that is due to be released on Sublime Frequencies sometime soon.

If you want more info on the Uighur independence movement, this Wikipedia entry is an excellent source of links.

Posted by Warren at 11:44 PM