Utopian Turtletop. Monsieur Croche's Bête Noire. Contact: turtletop [at] hotmail [dot] com

Wednesday, March 02, 2005


Having posted recently about sound collage and fade-outs -- they’re both about the materiality of recording.

I wrote that I came to collage via Rauschenberg & Cage, but that’s not quite right. It may have been Picasso and Duchamp. Freshman year, I joined a band in the dorm, a synth-pop-noise-rock band. Played only 2 shows with them, even though I really liked the music and 3 of the 4 other guys -- personality conflict with the 5th persuaded me to leave. One show was our 5-piece doing electronic improv to silent surrealist films from the ‘20s and ‘30s in the dorm -- a really exciting gig. The other show was an actual set, mostly of songs and instrumentals, all original, with one noise improv with pre-recorded material that the lead guitarist, a really talented and nice guy named Phil Seiden, had put together. I don’t remember all the pre-recorded stuff, but a scratchy record of Oscar the Grouch singing “I Love Trash” was part of it. The improv was terrific to do -- I played electric bass guitar. 1982 -- a while ago.

The collage soundtrack I made, which I wrote about the other night, and this gig, were both before the era of sampling rights -- it was coming from a “fine art” background where using reproductions of other people’s stuff was old hat, had been around for decades and decades. Things are different now.

The materiality of recording -- but even scores are material, right? Wouldn’t maybe a handful of Beethoven pieces enjoy a nice fade-out on the endless Dominant-Tonic cadences? I mean, just as a change of pace. Not to displace Beethoven’s originals, but to ring changes on them. Really, Beethoven’s reluctance to finish a piece sometimes just CRIES OUT for a fade-out -- the illusion of never-endingness.

Listening to some lush gorgeous Earth Wind & Fire tune today, and hearing the fade-out, I was reminded that a recording projects a fictional acoustical space. And the fade-out not only gives the illusion of never-endingness, but it also suggests movement of the listener away from the music. The question becomes -- is the band moving away from me-the-listener, or am I moving away from the band? If I’m moving away from the band, why? If the band is moving away from me, why don’t I follow? Or maybe the band is visibly fading out as well, or rising into the heavens, like the evaporation of a dream. That must be it -- and a good song-recording gives a feeling of satedness, that I don’t mind the song’s ending.
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