From the category archives:

Sound

Céleste Boursier-Mougenot at London’s Barbican from The Wire Magazine on Vimeo.

Video footage of musician and artist Céleste Boursier-Mougenot’s installation of electric guitars and zebra finches at London’s Barbican Curve gallery, 23 February – 23 May 2010

I’d like to hear a longer version of this, without the camera crew chasing the finches from guitar to guitar.

A proposed sequel: finches in a room full of lid-less grand pianos, with cement blocks on the damper pedals to let the strings sound. Why didn’t Henry Cowell ever get animals involved? Other than human animals, that is.

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Motorized Glass

January 6, 2010

in Music,Place,Sound

I went to see Transference last weekend, and it’s not the kind of work I’ll try to summarize in words.

The tone of the bowls is enchanting, but so is the clicking and tapping of the motors which turn them.

The piece is installed right next to the entrance, so the ebb and flow of people adds another layer to the work. Though I must say: talking loudly about your latest knitting project in the middle of a sound installation is sort of like flicking the lights off and on in the middle of a movie theater.

I feel like I’m channeling Rodney Dangerfield: “Sound gets no respect!!!”

From the second floor of the museum, it’s a quite different experience: almost all tones, and none of the tiny sounds. I prefer the first floor.

Does a sound installation count as craft? Megan Driscoll explores that question and has some great photographs of the piece.

Transference can be heard and seen at the Museum of Contemporary Craft through January 9th. (On the east side of the North Park Blocks.)

Hurry, Portlanders! (But please take your time once you get there…)

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I went to a lecture by Kenneth Goldsmith last night about UbuWeb, and it was a great reminder of the riches available there. I scribbled a few fragmentary notes.

(All quotes are 99% accurate, though I have re-ordered them a little bit.)

  • UbuWeb can be construed as the “Robin Hood” of the Avant Garde. Only a handful of artists have given explicit consent to be featured.
  • “If we had to ask permission, UbuWeb wouldn’t exist.”
  • “We don’t really fuck with economies — because there’s no economy for this stuff.” (This stuff meaning, the music of Marcel Duchamp or Jean Dubuffet, for example.)
  • “We respect legitimate economies.”
  • UbuWeb features five terabytes of work from 5,000+ artists.
  • When he was working on his collection of Warhol interviews, Goldsmith went to the offices of the Warhol foundation to get permission, and they “laughed him out of the office.” In their view, Warhol’s words are valueless.
  • “Download everything you possibly can from UbuWeb — it won’t last forever.”
  • “The outsider stuff is becoming the inside.”
  • “There’s so much stuff on UbuWeb that I don’t know what’s there.” (Editors help him by managing different sections.)
  • UbuWeb is not a democracy: The collection is “highly curated, highly selective.” Most submissions don’t make it on the site.
  • UbuWeb has a Facebook page, created by his students, but Kenneth Goldsmith was unequivocal: “I hate Facebook.”
  • “I have problems with the idea of quality in Web 2.0.” And donation buttons make him sick.
  • From time to time, he gets offers — up to US$50,000 — for the domain ubu.com, from companies who want to sell products that “help you be you!” etc. And he takes great pleasure in replying: “Fuck you: This is reserved for poetry.” (I instantly pictured an orange traffic cone with this response, embossed on a metal plate, sticking out of the top. And the entrepreneurial part of my brain thinks it would make a great embroidered fishing hat…or maybe stickers that could be placed wherever logos lurk?)
  • UbuWeb may look institutional, but “it’s made of toothpicks and tissue paper.”
  • “I’m not an art historian…there are holes…it’s a horribly-flawed fanzine…the taxonomy is atrocious…it’s an art historian’s nightmare!”
  • “We’re in the Summer of Love for the web right now, and it’s not going to last…We’re in the midst of a revolution that’s so large we don’t even recognize it.”
  • “Old hippies are the worst in the world” in terms of copyright, control, permissions and sharing. “It’s generational.”

A few gleanings from a look around the site this morning:

  • A film about Poême électronique, the collaboration between Edgard Varêse and Le Corbusier at the 1958 World’s Fair
  • John Cale — Loop (1966) (links directly to mp3)
  • Canntaireachd — “Dating back to the sixteenth century or earlier, canntaireachd developed as the art of “chanting” pibroch (piobaireachd), the classical form of Gaelic bagpipe music.”
  • They have a podcast, in collaboration with the Poetry Foundation.

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Watching Machines

September 15, 2009

in Sound,Storytelling,Video

I found the following videos of Arthur Ganson’s sculptures via a tweet from the Long Now Foundation.

I really like the way these short films unfold the structure of each sculpture through time. It gives viewers a completely different experience of them than we might have if we walked into a room with one of them. Well done.

And:

And:

As one commenter pointed out, the sound of that last one is amazing.

There are more films of Arthur Ganson’s sculptures available on the dreamingmachines YouTube channel.

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Writing about music is difficult. How many times have you read a well-written review of a concert or recording, and then still had no idea at all what to expect when hearing the music?

That’s why I find this excerpt from a Tang Dynasty poem so remarkable:

“The thick strings splattered like a rain shower,
the thin strings whispered privately like lovers,
splattering and whispering back and forth,
big pearls and small pearls dropping into a jade plate.
Smooth, the notes were skylarks chirping under flowers.
Uneven, the sound flowed like a spring under ice,
the spring water cold and strained, the strings congealing silence,
freezing to silence, till the sounds couldn’t pass, and were momentarily at rest.
Now some other hidden sorrow and dark regret arose
and at this moment silence was better than sound.
Suddenly a silver vase exploded and the water splashed out,
iron horse galloped through and swords and spears clashed.
When the tune stopped, she struck the heart of the instrument,
all four strings together, like a piece of silk tearing.
Silence then in the east boat and the west.
All I could see in the river’s heart was the autumn moon, so pale.”

From “Song of the Lute” by Bai Juyi (772-846)
Translated by Tony Barnstone and Chou Ping

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As if this free preview of their new album isn’t enough, Jónsi & Alex also offer a raw food cookbook for download. (I never thought of biting the lemon to get every last drop of juice out…)

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I’d love to hear (and see) a gaggle of these moving through a crowded space:

via Today’s BIG Thing

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“Software options proliferate extremely easily, too easily in fact, because too many options create tools that can’t ever be used intuitively. Intuitive actions confine the detail work to a dedicated part of the brain, leaving the rest of one’s mind free to respond with attention and sensitivity to the changing texture of the moment. With tools, we crave intimacy. This appetite for emotional resonance explains why users – when given a choice – prefer deep rapport over endless options. You can’t have a relationship with a device whose limits are unknown to you, because without limits it keeps becoming something else.”

– Brian Eno, Wired Magazine (January 1999)

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In a recent edition of BBC’s From Our Own Correspondent:

Even in your own language, it is difficult to catch accurately the words of a song if they are not written down in front of you, and in France, which imports most of its music from the US or UK, there is even a word for the appropriation of lyrics.

It is “yaourt”, or “to yoghurt”.

You start singing confidently… and then trail off into inarticulate “yoghurting” when your lexicon runs dry.

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Ge Wang has assembled MoPho — a mobile phone orchestra — at Stanford’s Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics (aka CCRMA).

As a fan of drones, I’m keen on the possibilities demonstrated in the ensemble piece Drone In/Drone Out. (It’s a Quicktime video, so you’ll have to click through to see it. Thanks for the link, Ge!)

More information:

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What a find!

Harper’s highlighted two versions of Monteverdi’s setting of “Voglio di vita uscir” available on YouTube.

I go for the countertenor every time:

You can hear the other version, and read the words, here.

(via @pausetowonder on Twitter)

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An amazing 41-minute concert available at NPR Music via WGBH:

Classical music has never lived in a bubble, and there’s always been a free flow of ideas intersecting so-called art music and folk music. In this concert from Boston, they all come together: The acclaimed Takacs String Quartet joins the Hungarian folk ensemble Muzsikas (with singer Marta Sebestyen) to celebrate one of Hungary’s finest, composer Bela Bartok, who was brilliant at mixing the highbrow and lowbrow in his own music.

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“We have all been annoyed by our neighbor’s asking us if that was a clarinet or an oboe, and what made that sound. When we’re guilty ourselves, we have often realized that the curiosity as to labels, the desire to identify and pigeon-hole a pleasure, had separated us from the real job of listening to the whole thing, the rich continuous music, which, itself, never stops for annotation.”

– John Cage, Listening To Music (1937)

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The interview with Arvo Pärt starts at 4:25, after a quick listen to an installation by Tommi Grönlund and a snippet of Pärt’s “Cantus in Memory of  Benjamin Britten”.

via Tim Bray

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Trans-sensual videos:

And:

From Advanced Beauty.

Curated by Universal Everything.

via Colour Lovers.

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