gordon mumma

# 1,437

Sonic Arts Union Electric Sound (1972)

Someone on the Whitehouse list said that this once belonged to Steven Stapleton / Nurse With Wound and ended up in William Bennett’s hands as he sampled “Purposeful Lady Slow Afternoon” for Dedicated To Peter Kurten’s “Ripper Territory” (1981). That alone had me curious. Recorded in 1972, Electric Sound is experimental sounds in electronic music’s youth compared to the genre’s conception in the late Fifties and early Sixties. It’s a four-track four-artist compilation recorded at the Rose Art Museum in Brandeis University by Alvin Lucier, Robert Ashley, David Behrman, and Gordon Mumma; all who had toured and recorded together from 1966-1976. Electric Sound would be a means of either exploring electronic sounds and boundaries through experimentation or replicating them. For an l.p. created in 1972, I found everything produced to be fascinating compared to the sounds and progress made today.

For starters, Behrman’s “Runthrough” could easily be seen where Whitehouse was influenced to create its’ alarming high-frequency sounds for their earlier releases. Here, Behrman had a different vision using low-cost circuitry to run sound generators and modulators along with flashlights in tandem to create sound. With a set-up of four or eight speakers surrounding performers and listeners with all or zero experience at all turning knobs and flipping switches, Behrman favored location and output, writing off direction and dictated composition; all in hopes of finding the right moment of harmony through simultaneous frequencies. We also have something quite unusual and startling: Ashley’s “Purposeful Lady Slow Afternoon”, a very odd listen for its time. It opened The Wolfman Motorcity Revue, a theater-work for amplified voice and tape. Here is Cynthia Liddell up-front and center detailing an account of oral sex at an early Seventie’s dance club, her swirling sequence of events detailing eating, chewing, and sucking through the linguistic use of the mouth, teeth, and saliva authenticated with hard syllables, words, and the clicks that the mouth creates. There are also three back-up female vocalists. Where are they? Contributing to an altogether low queasy hum that keeps it going no matter how stretched out “Purposeful…” is. But that’s not all.

Lucier’s “Vespers” is his admiration to bats and the replication of their sounds in their closed environment. Lucier chose to perform “Vespers” in the dark with other performers whom were supplied with Sondol clicking devices to mimic the way bats communicate their personal location and sense nearby objects for flight. Gordon Mumma’s “Hornpipe” resulted in horns connecting to small console boxes that alter the acoustics and resonances of their sound and wavelengths in some sort of a game to balance and unbalance the circuits once again through action-reaction. Yes, Electric Sounds gets your full attention. Forty-five minutes constructed minimally with no unnecessary noise so that one would absolutely focus on the entire piece, if not, the entire record with no interruption of mind. Hearing this, you could wonder how these four sound artists created their works (providing you’re going in blind) and help pave the way for today’s experimenters.

An original vinyl pressing is more expensive than its’ disc reprint or 2014’s Earle Brown Contemporary Sound Series Vol. 5 which includes the whole Electric Sound as one of three works in the boxset. The sounds are more available than ever. Again, decide on just having it or having the original kinesthetic.

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CABARET VOLTAIRE

De la pop musique expérimentale : c’est ce que Cabaret Voltaire pense produire cira 1979. Une musique à la modernité d’ailleurs demeurée intacte, dont le discours se réfère à son patronyme, hérité du café zurichois où Tristan Tzara se réunissait avec les dadaïstes. Chez Cabaret Voltaire, comme chez Nurse With Wound ou Throbbing Gristle, tout du moins au cours de leur première période où Stephen Mallinder et Richard H. Kirk sévissent aux côtés du génial Chris Watson, la production sonore ne provient pas d’un jeu traditionnel sur les instruments dont les punks, quelque soit leur salutaire amateurisme, utilisaient encore les codes. En entretien, les membres du groupe ont alors confié le peu d’intérêt qu’ils voyaient à phraser sur une guitare – en gros : à en tirer des notes… Magnétophone multipistes et table de mixage les intéressent déjà bien plus, tant ceux-ci incarnent des vecteurs d’autonomie potentielle non négligeables en pleine vogue « do it yourself », slogan auquel ils souscrivent évidemment. Pareille méthode incarne aussi, pour eux, une forme de résistance subtile face à l’industrie du disque et aux diktats qu’impose la culture rock dominante. En concert comme sur Live YMCA, à une époque où Cabaret Voltaire avait pourtant réalisé l’excellent « Nag Nag Nag » au son plus communément garage, le groupe ose toutes les audaces, produisant une musique littéralement extraterrestre, d’une densité massive constamment distordue et bouillonnante. Les instruments n’y sont plus que des générateurs de sons noyés dans quelque infernal maelstrom, ce qui rapproche alors Cabaret Voltaire, fervent défenseur des collages sonores et du cut-up, des live electronics de Gordon Mumma et David Tudor à la fin des années 1960. Comme chez Whitehouse, la référence à l’écrivain J.G. Ballard parait également évidente. Moins anarchiques, les événements prendront, avec le départ de Chris Watson, une tournure dansante ancrée dans le rythme, mais sachant quand même ménager de notables ouvertures à l’expérimentation. Une expérimentation cependant moins radicale, plus orientée vers la culture populaire et les dance floors, même si en 1985 l’album The Arm Of The Lord, produit par Some Bizarre, renouera avec un certain avant-gardisme à force de climats oppressants dissonants.

Listed: Christian Mirande

Sometimes the sounds tell the story, and that’s how it is with Christian Mirande. The Pennsylvania native began releasing recordings in 2015 and so far has some gigs at noise shows, four cassettes and one CDR, Trying To Remember A House (Glistening Examples), to his name. The latter is an evocation in sound of fading places that invited this assessment from Dusted reviewer Lucas Schleicher; “Mirande’s music introduces an eerie beauty to the encroachment of new technology and new buildings on old land, cultivated or otherwise.”

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“…we were invited to the Autumn Festival in Paris and Joan was there, I think she was singing with Philip Glass Ensemble. And I said to the other guys, ‘well if Joan La Barbara’s here, why don’t we include her in our concert.’ So she did…a piece of mine, which she sang against some sine wave oscillators. She did a piece of Bob (Ashley)’s and from then on I think that changed her mind…because she was simply a performer at that time, and then she decided to be a composer too. So I’ve known her for many many years”

Alvin Lucier on his long friendship with Joan La Barbara