The Sound Projector fourth issue

Published July 1998 : 78pp

“The Ace of Spades Means Death”

Please note this issue has sold out.

Robin Storey – Fushitsusha – The ‘Mystery’ of Raymond Scott pt 2 – Akira Ifukube: Walking in Godzilla’s footsteps – Our Glassie Azoth interviewed – Guerilla Electronique: Richard Pinhas – A survey of Norton Records – The Fall: Disarray at Dingwalls – Pere Ubu at DisastoDrome – Suicide at the Garage – Electronicage – Cut’n’Paste – Frankenstein Symphony – Christian Marclay – Extreme Music from Japan – Happy Mail – The Phantom of Liberty – Derek Bailey and Improv – Conrad Schnitzler – Charlie Parker – Farmer’s Manual – The Art Gallery – Morphogenesis – Our Glassie Azoth – idbattery – Octal – Roni Size and Reprazent – Ennio Morricone – All Saints – Kosmische – Hasil Adkins – King Uszniewicz – Bobby Fuller Four

God has no Colour: Dub Music and Rastafarianism

AMM: Be reasonable…demand the impossible

A Dancing Cat in the midst of a red whirlpool adorns the cover, plus more astonishing images within.

Our Motto…’The Ace of Spades Means Death!’ Indeed at 78 pages thick this issue could be mistaken for a full deck of TAROT CARDS, if anyone is still unfortunate enough to use these occult devices…if you doubt this just check out the image of ‘The Old Skull’ which has wound up as page 13.

Sharp-eyed readers are advised to look out for interpretations of other Major Arcana, to wit (my personal favourites) The Devil, The Tower, The Star and The Hanged Man, all of which are singularly appropriate to this issue’s musical contents and to the state of the United Kingdom today.

Excerpt from the Shades of Darkness section…

Charlemagne Palestine
Charlemagne Palestine goes into hallucinogenic, shamanistic trances induced by his own live piano playing, wherein the stuffed Teddy Bears and other animals that he has draped around the huge grand piano start to assume their true shapes, and appear before him as Ancient Gods.

His music is his own personal spiritual key, higher than prayer perhaps, an entry point to another world beyond the material. It probably isn’t just the repetitive sounds (as in the famous two-note riff of ‘Strumming Music’) that do this, but the fact that he drives his own body to these limits of endurance. I’m sure any young UK dancer keyed into Ecstasy and 48-hour marathon workout club sessions could achieve a similar state (either through an excess of chemicals, loud noise or exhaustion – or all three in a delirious combination), but would they understand the devotional dimension?

Charlemagne’s Godbears are private voices whose presence we should not intrude on too carelessly, lest they vanish; yet if we bend an ear we might pick up the gist of their didactic sermons as they address their three-dimensional acolyte. For further suggestions in this area, I would look to chapters 7 and 14 of Darkness Visible by William Golding.

Palestine doubted if the piano alone would be capable of unleashing these powers, until he heard what a Bosendorfer grand could do. Before that connection – one that could only be made by physical contact – he supposed the answer lay in electronic music, his beloved carillons he played with his feet in church, or even simply in loud volume. Then he hit those piano keys and depressed the pedals, and learned to live in the overtones.

To my mind this is a better CD than the Italian one reviewed last issue – Godbear is almost Charlemagne’s Greatest Hits, comprising ‘Strumming Music’, ‘The Lower Depths’ and ‘Timbral Assault’, described here as ‘a re-evaluation of work from the seventies, recorded in the late eighties… Finally released in the late nineties, a long fuckin journey’. And with great sleeve art showing photos of King Teddy and Godbear. And excellent ‘room presence’ at loud volumes, so necessary for this music.

Iancu Dumitrescu
Medium II for Kontrabass solo
EDITIONS RZ 1001 SDLP 015 (1987)
An answer piece to the flip side of this disc Cogito, Medium II is an utterly compelling bassrumbling droner, simultaneously soothingly relaxing and tense enough to tear your heart right through your sternum.

Everything comes together so sublimely – an outstanding composition, an excellent performance by Fernando Grillo, a recording of utter clarity and a classical pressing. But why is this particular work so intriguing, so penetrating, the rumble on the eardrums stimulating the stirrings of some philosophical ideas in the brain?

Iancu Dumitrescu is a Romanian born composer, born in 1944 and one of the new school of that country who eschewed the vagaries of electronics or tape manipulation, to achieve the ‘spectral sound’ through using only acoustic instruments. He took this direction after about 1968, when the harsh political regime softened up a little and he had had the chance to hear the music of Weber and Schoenberg, up to that point a ‘forbidden’ activity.

Although Dumitrescu had undertaken a fairly conventional classical training at school in Bucharest, he now felt inspired to take up a more personal music and followed this course into the 1970s. It began to firm up into a theory of music called ‘Acousmatics’.

On the practical side, there was something of a lack of expensive equipment and general poverty in his home country, and few distracting influences from players skilled in the fields of say, rock or jazz music, genres which barely existed in Romania (perhaps they were too redolent of ‘freedom’). So Dumitrescu couldn’t enjoy the facilities of his contemporaries in France or Germany with their well-equipped tape studios for realising electronic or concrete compositions. But this was good for him, in a way; he reckons ‘music demands a process of introversion, isolation and introspection’.

Working with the right players is important. Dumitrescu knows his sounds only really live through their interpreters, and realises the process of scoring can be somewhat unstable. He’s been known to hear an ideal music in his dreams, the perfect sound, only to wake up heartbroken at the impossibility of scoring it. Yet the experience leaves a stamp on his psyche, something he can work with.

A player who comes under his auspices is liable to end up re-educated, taught the fundamentals of music through study of the Pythagorean monochord, the possibilities of making music with a single vibrating string. And (as with the Morricone piece below), there’s a primitive aspect which interests Dumitrescu – he wants to access the ‘region of the psyche where there are nuances of the pre-cultural’.

Medium II also demonstrates a more metaphysical dimension to his composition theory. He can build a score around a very simple biological rhythm – the act of playing, and the pause which follows it. This activity/rest quotient is a constant; it’s mirrored in another human function, the beating of the heart. As Dumitrescu contemplates, this can unfold to reveal another world of rhythm, invoking a nature system both cosmic and human.

Number systems have a part too: Dumitrescu has intuitive theories about the ‘inner structure’ of numbers (inspired by his studies of the philosophical works of Husserl), and is convinced that the pause is absolutely specific to the activity, they counter-balance in direct proportion to each other. This principle is used to arrive at a score which does indeed seem in harmony with powerful natural forces – and the method of realisation seems a lot more compassionate than Stockhausen arrogantly commanding his players to ‘play with the rhythm of the universe’.

Ennio Morricone
Totem Secondo
RCA RED SEAL RL 31650 LP (1982)
Tucked away on this LP is ‘Totem Secondo’, another little-known bassrumbling classic – it’s a fourteen minute instrumental scored for five bassoons and two double-bassoons. Is there any instrument in the orchestra that will yield up a more powerful, deep, rich and resonating bass note? Short of hiring a 25-stone rotund man with lungs made of vacuum cleaners, employing him to blow a church organ pipe like a penny whistle, I don’t think so … to hear this is to experience another strange and metaphysical ritual. It’s the dawn of language, a clutch of shaggy Neanderthal brutes sitting round the fire exchanging their flabby grunts and groans, then moving into some form of concord as they all sound together in long tones.

Any anthropologist worth his salt will subscribe to my skewed view of evolution – that in terms of sounds emerging from the human mouth, music came first, language second. Take a trip to Yucca Flats in the Totem Secondo time-machine and you’ll hear for yourself how true this is.

‘Totem Secondo’ was written in 1981; as title suggests, there’s a predecessor piece to this – ‘Totem’, scored in 1974 for the same instruments plus percussion, but not officially published.

Nonetheless a recording exists on a LP on General Records, a ‘survey’ of Morricone’s more avant-garde work between 1969 and 1974. Morricone’s always been keen to explore the possibilities afforded by minimal circumstances, and this is true to form.

With rigour and keen discipline, he limits himself to bassoons, the better to explore this ‘impasto of instrumental colours’. Sergio Miceli (sleevenote crib here) has likewise heard a ritual in these sounds, a mystique of physiology, even comparing a mid-section to to ‘the remembrance of a chorale’. He also admires the way this piece never falls into the ‘grotesque’ – presumably some philistines will hear nothing but a pack of farting gorillas and belching baboons, but leave them to their folly.

Morricone – what a deity…the distinguished career of the Italian Maestro deserves more detailed treatement than I’m capable of, but suffice it to say the soundtrack work was but one part of his oeuvre. He even blew an improvising trumpet blast or two early on in his career, with the Gruppo di Improvazione Nuova in the heady days of 1960s experimentism. Anyhow, to hear these bassoons, look for this LP which is a split with Gestazione, no less a shimmering work of holy purity…