Archive for the ‘Sound’ Category

Smells Like Teen Spirit

April 5, 2013


April 4, 2013

“It is a convenient coincidence (some might say too convenient) that the three events informing the structure of this book – Pierre Schaeffer’s initial events with musique concrete, John Cage’s first silent composition, and Muddy Waters’s pioneering electric recordings – all occurred in the same year: 1948.” (xix)

“The beginning is never the beginning. Before 1948, there was 1947, and so on. Nevertheless, thought finds it useful to indicate ‘here’ or ‘there’, ‘now’ or ‘then’. The thinking of this book accordingly begins in 1948, in three different places: the Office de Radiodiffusion-Télévision Française in Paris; the Muzak Corporation in Fort Mill, South Carolina; and the Macomba Lounge in Chicago. By taking up its task and its story in these three locations, this book starts to construct a claim: that something changed as a result of what happened in these three places, in this one year. What this book proposes is that the events in Paris, Fort Mill, and Chicago were the iconic symptoms of a change in music, a change to music as it had been conceived and practiced, primarily in Europe and North America.” (3)

“Aristocrat released Waters’s 1948 single, ‘I Can’t Be Satisfied’, backed with ‘I Feel Like Going Home’, a version of a song that had made the rounds back in Coahoma County, Mississippi, and traveled north with Waters. When Son House recorded it in 1930, he called it ‘My Black Mama’. When Robert Johnson cut it in 1936, it was known as ‘Walkin’ Blues’. Waters himself recorded two versions of Alan Lomax in 1941, and at that time called the song ‘Country Blues’. ‘I Feel Like Going Home’ repeats the chord progression and most of the lyrics of these earlier renditions. Waters even retains the repetitive bent-single-note opening of the Johnson and House versions. Most of what makes the 1948 version different, most of what allows it to blaze a new trail in the expansion of American music, follows from a simple technical fact: electricity. The string bass accompaniment – provided by Ernest ‘Big’ Crawford – is still acoustic. But electricity forces the performance to adapt. Not only does Waters swap his acoustic guitar – the iconic instrument of Delta blues – for an electric guitar, but also – unlike the previous recordings, captured (sometimes literally) in the field – ‘I Feel Like Going Home’ is a modern studio recording.” (24)

Seth Kim-Cohen, In the Blink of an Ear: Toward a Non-Cochlear Sonic Art. New York: Continuum, 2009


April 3, 2013

Susanne Sundfør i Vinduet

June 27, 2012

Vinduet nummer 2, 2012 er på gaten i disse dager.

Jeg har en artikkel der om Susanne Sundførs siste plate The Silicone Veil. Tittelen er “Stemmer og strenger: Susanne Sundførs silikonslør,” og jeg forsøker å diskutere, i en mer essayistisk form, hvordan stemmer, strenger og elektronikk blander seg i hverandre og hvilket uttrykk det gir. Først single fra platen var “White Foxes.” Her er videoen:

(om mitt forrige bidrag i Vinduet her).

Merleau-Ponty og grammofonen

June 26, 2012

I forbindelse med Mads Walther-Hansens PhD-forsvar i går, der jeg var formann for bedømmelsesutvalget, har jeg blant annet repetert deler av Maurice Merleau-Pontys Phénomènologie de la perception (fra 1945). Walther-Hansens avhandlig her “The Perception of Sounds in Phonographic Space,” og Merleau-Ponty er en av teoretikerne han bruker. Muligens litt idiosynkratisk ble jeg fanget inn i jakten på gramofoner i Merleau-Pontys bok, og fant to (hvis det finnes andre vil jeg bli glad for å høre det). Den ene siterte jeg under forsvaret i går. Der beskriver Merleau-Ponty et visuelt rom, og det opptrer en grammofonspiller i naborommet. Her er sitatet (fra den engelske oversettelsen):

“When we reach the limits of the visual field, we do not pass from vision to non-vision: the gramophone playing in the next room, and not expressly seen by me, still counts in my visual field. Conversely, what we see is always in certain respects not seen: there must be hidden sides of things, and things ‘behind us’, if there is to be a ‘front’ of things, and things ‘in from of’ us, in short, perception.” (s. 323)

Det jeg synes er interessant i dette sitatet er hvordan lyden av grammofonen tilsynelatende ikke rykker Merleau-Ponty ut fra diskusjonen av et visuelt rom til fordel for et auditivt rom. Jeg tror absolutt Merleau-Ponty kan anvendes til diskusjoner av lytting og det auditive, men synes likevel det er en visuell bias i mye av det han skriver.

Det andre sitatet er mye lengre, og jeg er fortsatt ikke ferdig med å tenke på det. Her opptrer det både grammofoner, radio, og telefoner, det er stemmer og schizofrene, engler og elektrisitet. Med andre ord, mye å tenke på.

“Hallucination causes the real to disintegrate before our eyes, and puts a quasi-reality in its place, and in both these respects this phenomenon brings us back to the pre-logical bases of our knowledge and confirms what has been said about the thing and the world. The all-important point is that the patients, most of the time, discriminate between their hallucinations and their perceptions. Schizophrenics who experience tactile hallucinations of pricking or of an ‘electric current’ jump when they feel an injection of ethyl chloride or a real electric shock: ‘That time’, they say to the doctor, ‘you were the cause of it, because you are going to operate’. Another schizophrenic, who said he could see a man standing in the garden under his window, and pointed to the spot, giving a description of the man’s clothes and general bearing, was astonished when someone was actually placed in the garden at the spot in question, wearing the same clothes and in the same posture. He looked carefully, and exclaimed: ‘Yes, there is someone there, but it’s somebody else’. He would not admit to there being two men in the garden. A patient who has never entertained any doubts whatsoever about the voices which she hears, listens to similar ones played to her on the gramophone, interrupts her work, raises her head without turning round, and sees a white angel appear, as it does every time she hears her voices, but she does not count this experience among the day’s ‘voices’: for this time it is not the same thing, but a ‘direct’ voice, perhaps the doctor’s. An old woman afflicted with senile dementia, who complains of finding powder in her bed, is startled to find in reality a thin layer of toilet powder there: ‘What is this? she asks, ‘this powder is damp, the other is dry’. The subject who, in delirium tremens, takes the doctor’s hand to be a guinea pig, is immediately aware of the fact when a real guinea pig is placed in his other hand. The fact that patients so often say that someone is talking to them by telephone or radio, is to be taken precisely as expressing the morbid world is artificial, and that it lacks something needed to become ‘reality’. The voices are uncouth voices, or else voices ‘of people pretending to be uncouth’, or it may be a young man imitating an old man’s voice, or ‘as if a German were trying to talk Yiddish’. ‘It is as when a person says something to someone, but without getting as far as uttering any sound’. Do not such admissions put an end to all argument about hallucination? Since the hallucination is not a sensory content, there seems nothing for it but to regard it as a judgement, an interpretation or a belief. But although these patients do not believe in their hallucinations in the sense in which one believes in perceived objects, an intellectualist theory of hallucination is equally impossible. Alain quotes Montaigne’s words on madmen ‘who believe they see what they do not really see’. But in fact the insane do not believe they see, or, when questioned, they correct their statements on this point. A hallucination is not a judgement or a rash belief, for the same reasons which prevent it from being a sensory content: the judgement or the belief could consist only in positing the hallucination as true, and this is precisely what the patients do not do. At the level of judgement they distinguish hallucination from perception, and in any case argue against their hallucinations: rats cannot come out of the mouth and go back into the stomach. A doctor who hears voices climbs into a boat and rows towards the open sea to convince himself that no one is really talking to him. When the hallucinatory attack supervenes, the rat and the voices are still there.” (s. 389ff)


March 25, 2012

Forrige helg holdt jeg mitt innlegg om Rahsaan Roland Kirk, “The Sound of Blacknuss.” Jeg er rimelig fornøyd, men da ikke minst med retningen arbeidet tok i forberedelsene. Det kom mange elementer inn som jeg håper å få utviklet videre, og jeg håper jeg kan ha en artikkel om Kirk klar om ikke så altfor lenge. Gitt konteksten, NSU-studiekretsen “Popmodernisme,” var et av mine siktemål å diskutere mulighetene for en “sort popmodernisme,” blant annet ved hjelp av de coverversjonene Kirk spiller.

Utgangspunktet mitt var platen Blacknuss, og med siste sporet, komposisjonen som heter ”Blacknuss” som fokus.

Den åpner med Kirk som snakker:

“Now we gathered here on the universe at this time, this particular time to listen to the 36 black notes of the piano. There’s 36 black notes and 52 white notes. We don’t mean to eliminate nothin’, but we gonna just hear the black notes at this time if you don’t mind. Blackness. B-l-a-c-k-n-u-s-s.”

Og deretter kommer selve låten. Dette er altså ikke en cover, men platen bæres av coverversjoner: Bill Withers’ “Ain’t No Sunshine,” Marvin Gayes “What’s Goin’ On” og “Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)” som medley, Junior Walkers “Take Me Girl, I’m Ready,” Smokey Robinsons “My Girl” (som ble spilt inn av The Temptations), og flere. Men det er en cover jeg ikke helt fikk til å stemme. Nest siste spor på B-siden er David Gates’ “Make It with You” gitt ut av Bread på deres album On the Waters (fra 1970) – og som singel. Den passet på en måte ikke inn i Kirks insistering på “Blacknuss” (og den er altså siste låt før komposisjonen som heter “Blacknuss”). Samtidig, det finnes coverversjoner, og min antagelse er at Kirks versjon snarere skal forstås som en cover av Aretha Franklins cover – fra Live at Fillmore West (fra 1971). Hvis man antar en slik bevegelse gir track-listen på Blacknuss simpelthen mer mening. En annen ting er at Kirk’s insistering på å bokstavere “blacknuss” – B-L-A-C-K-N-U-S-S  –  i så fall også kan forstås som et ekko fra en av Aretha Franklins signatursanger, Otis Reddings “Respect,” der jo teksten nettopp er “R-E-S-P-E-C-T.” Reddings original er fra 1965, mens Franklins er fra 1967.

Og i dag er Aretha Franklin 70, så dette passer jo godt.

Queens of Disco

March 14, 2012

Det kan nesten virke som om BBC har bestemt seg for å støtte mine forelesninger dette semesteret. Ikke før har jeg fått postet The Joy of Disco finner jeg Queens of Disco. En litt annen historie enn i den andre dokumentaren, og det er fortsatt andre historier som gjerne skulle fortelles, men dette er bra.


March 13, 2012

I forberedelsene til helgens paper om Rahsaan Roland Kirk er det mengder av løse tråder. Noen er riktig gode. Som når jeg i coveret til I Talk With the Spirits (fra 1964) leser:

“Just as John Cage prepared the piano, Roland has ‘prepared’ himself. He should be looked at, not as a multi-instrumentalist, but as a Kirkophone player. There couldn’t possibly be another like him. He is ‘all music’ as much as little boys are all snips, snails, and puppy dog tails. There is music emanating from his every pore. He is a visual, as well as a musical experience. Three reed instruments, two of his own invention, hang from his neck. A whistle, a siren, a flute, a nose flute, and castanets are all attached to him in some manner. He plays all of these separately, in unison, in three-part harmony and, lately, in counterpoint to himself.”

Det er mer i disse liner notes, men denne beskrivelsen er god – og demonstrerer for meg hvordan også tekster fra albumcovers er sentrale også for en musikk- eller kulturvitenskapelig beskrivelse. Det er også vanskelig, i bakspeilet, å ikke se denne beskrivelsen som en form for, om ikke kyborg, så i det minste en form for symbiose mellom musiker og instrumenter. Der en høyere enhet oppstår. Og i tilfellet Kirk nok mer enn i så mange andre tilfeller, blant annet fordi han så mange ganger spilte tre instrumenter samtidig.


March 12, 2012

To nye plater som begge refererer til radioen i tittelen. Og de er begge gode. For det første er det Robert Glasper Experiments Black Radio (som kom for kort tid siden). Å kalle det en jazzplate er muligens sjangermessig problematisk, men jazzen er viktig som en av ingrediensene. Samtidig finnes det referanser på tvers av afrikanskamerikanske sjangere – og andre, inkludert en cover av Nirvanas “Smells Like Teen Spirit” – og det er blitt en flott plate. Personlig har jeg ikke minst sansen for broken av vocoder, men det er også noen rytmisk tighte ting som er riktig gode. Tittelsporet har fått en video, her er “Black Radio” featuring Yasiin Bey (tidligere kjent som Mos Def):

Den andre platen er Esperanza Spaldings Radio Music Society, som ikke er sluppet enda, men som streames over på NPR as we speak. Igjen er jazzen i bunn, men jeg er enig med Patrick Jarenwatt Ananon, som skriver hos NPR, at det nok kan kalles et popalbum, men i så fall med “pop” i hermetegn. Platen ble annonsert med en video for en stund siden. Her er “Black Gold” (med Algebra Blessett på gjestevokal):

Der Glasper skriver “black” i platetittelen har altså Spalding “black” innskrevet i en låt, men som videoen viser, dette er en låt, video – og implisitt plate – som tar den afrikanskamerikanske konteksten alvorlig. To plater, som begge bør sjekkes ut, og som muligens kan slås sammen som Black Radio Music Society.


March 8, 2012

Som jeg har skrevet om før skal jeg neste helg holde ett innlegg om Rahsaan Roland Kirk. I forarbeidet har jeg også sett filmen Sound??? fra 1966, regissert av Dick Fontaine.

Helt sentrale figurer i filmen er nettopp Roland Kirk og John Cage, og filmen setter disse to sammen. Nettopp dermed åpner det for en annen form for tenkning rundt Kirk, idet de estetiske sammenstillingene mellom avantgarde, jazz, etc., simpelthen må tenkes på ny. (Hele filmen kan ses på ubuweb). (Jeg har skrevet om filmen før, men den er verd å repetere i og med at jeg tenker videre).