Archive for January, 2007

“ITDE” Playlist for 1/27/07

January 31, 2007

Last Saturday was my fifth anniversary broadcast of my radio show, “It’s Too Damn Early.” I thought it would be nice to post the playlist at STARTLING MONIKER, seeing as how I haven’t done much in the way of show commentary here yet. Also, perhaps some listeners or casual blog readers will be interested to find out what sort of music I play, and why I choose the things I do.

Photography by DaveX

I started this show a little early, at about 3:30 A.M., because the people who host the show prior to mine were not still present. I’m not sure what’s been going on, but for the last few weeks, the two shows before me have been a bit squirrely– I’m getting a note from at least one of them each week, to the effect that someone didn’t show, and nobody feels like sticking around until my show begins at 4 A.M.

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“If The Devil’s In The Details Then How Many Details Can You Fit Upon A Match?”

January 25, 2007

In Nathaniel Hawthorne’s short story “The Birthmark,” Georgiana’s sole flaw (a tiny, crimson “handprint” on her cheek) was simultaneously the locus of her husband’s increasing terror, and the source of her beauty. For The Painful Leg Injuries’ sophomore release— whose title I dare not type twice for fear of a painful hand injury– it is much the same; for amongst the almost alien beauty is established a palpable sensation of unease. Yes, something is wrong, but herein lurks the fascination.

The Painful Leg Injuries

The Painful Leg Injuries, a husband-and-wife duo (and can there be any other kind outside Utah?) split the duties– Bill Byrne on computer, electronics, and field recordings; and Suzanne handling percussion and cello.

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Noise and the Tao Te Ching

January 24, 2007

As I have previously mentioned, one of the most rewarding aspects of noise art is its paradoxical nature. It is simulataneously complex (physically constructed of many competing elements), but simple (white noise, which has a flat spectrum over a broad frequency band, is sometimes used to put people to sleep!)… Much noise art aims to be shocking, but ultimately– as many long-time listeners will attest, loses this ability somewhat. Noise is and isn’t music all at once– its somehow more than a naturally occurring event, but also never totally under control, either. Often devoid of even the most basic of messages, it can still overwhelm listeners with randomness, chaos, and the inhuman quality of formlessness. The best noise plays with our innate desire to “know” and to “define” the unknown by naming it, examining it, studying its constituent parts; but it eludes us, existing in a Lovecraftian grey zone where only disembodied adjectives attempt to suffice.

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Culture Jamming

January 23, 2007

Ever since I was young, I have enjoyed tinkering with things. Until a friend hipped me to Negativland in college, I didn’t know that my pasttime of screwing around with advertisments, menus, bumper stickers, and the like actually had a name– “culture jamming.”

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77 Million Paintings by Brian Eno

January 23, 2007

A few years back, I read a short story about a woman who had passed away, leaving her husband with a sort of “documentary” of her life. The catch, though, was that the camera that had followed her for so many years– the size of a small insect– was unable to capture images concurrently, due to its small size. Instead, while filming of her life proceeded, the contents were saved randomly; resulting in unordered “scenes” of the deceased’s life available for playback at the memorial site.

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Noise Art and Perception

January 22, 2007

On my last show, I was hanging out in chat, as I often do– typing to listeners, taking requests, fielding questions, creating an additional dimension of participation for the show. Having convinced one chatter to browse over to the show’s website and actually check out the show, I was amused at his comment: “Sorry, it’s nothing but static.”

Obviously, this wasn’t the case, or this would be a rather pointless blog entry. What this fellow was hearing (and probably for the first time) was noise art. Specifically, Toshiji Mikawa, but that’s not terribly important right now. So while I got a little giggle out of his reaction, I was also troubled– “how quickly we can stop ourselves from hearing!” I wondered.

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Now, I’m fully aware that noise isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. That’s fine. What bothers me is that people have allowed themselves to be conditioned to such a point that they are unable to perceive alternate forms of music. It’s not too much of a stretch to make the hypothesis that this person wouldn’t be able to perceive the music surrounding us in the natural world either.I didn’t have time to really analyze this situation as much as I would have liked, but certainly, a number of questions came to my mind. At what aural boundary might have this listener perceived the sounds to be musical? (Considering that the simple cues of it being on a radio broadcast, and being urged to listen by the DJ himself were not enough, my suspicion is that the cues would have had to be much greater!) Would increased listening time been more helpful, or would the sounds themselves need to have been altered?

Might it have been possible to broadcast a sound so foreign it could not be heard at all?

Of course, this is the sort of extreme area of thinking that attracts me the most. For a long time, I’ve tried to find or create sounds that have no “history,” no basis in the musical past. Sounds that are not as much divorced from music, as much as they should not be yet. They’re my Lovecraft sounds, things I can’t describe without a rush of adjectives, and I enjoy hunting after them. But this… a sound that can’t be heard! Amazing!

This also brings me to one of the most fascinating aspects of noise art: Noise isn’t a place, it’s a boundary. I believe it is quite possibly the only musical genre definable by individual listeners where a single track can truly BE or NOT BE noise… so its no longer the finite sounds themselves, but the threshold and needs of the listener. In this way, noise is a very complex art form that can easily develop into serious levels of thought and question. There are the basics– If “noise” is something unwanted, does it become “music” only by virtue of it being listened to with a critical ear? Am I then “chasing” something that will constantly elude me? What is the role of a message in noise?

And the deeper questions– What is the significance of our “self” in relation to noise? Is noise art asking us to expand our ability to grasp the monolithic nature of these sounds, or abandon our will to its absurdity?

Again, is it possible to make a noise so great that it can’t be heard?

“It’s Too Damn Early” Turns 5!

January 22, 2007

I just realized this morning that, as of my next broadcast, I will have been with WDBX-FM for 5 years. Well, very close– technically, my first broadcast at WDBX was 1/30/02– but I’m the host, so I’m allowed to fudge a little.

I have to say that I’ve learned a lot in these five years. I’ve always tried to bring listeners the finest experimental music available, but I see the show in somewhat of a different light now– it is a “sketchbook” for my musical thoughts and ideas, it is a long-running work of art, it is also a changing weekly “slice of sound”. I’ve gone from obsessing over the details and successes of individual shows to realizing that the overall arc of my broadcasting is also very important.

Along the way, I’ve had a lot of fun being in contact with artists, label heads, fans, and listeners; many of whom are as excited and passionate about music as I am. I have also had the opportunity to meet a lot of fine DJs, and interesting characters. The gallery of folks that have had the odd time of following or opening for my show has also been a hoot– while part of the power of WDBX is in its diversity, there is nothing quite like the jarring effect of having an experimental show follow a hip-hop show, or be followed by old-time country! Each week, I get a big laugh thinking about the hapless children tuning in a few minutes too early for the children’s show and getting a taste of avant-garde turntable exercises, a shrieking French chorus, or power noise.

My general “mission” has also expanded somewhat. Aside from simply presenting music, I have tried to make the presentation and act of broadcasting a work of art in itself. I have tinkered with, rebuilt, and destroyed the traditional models of broadcasting at times; and I’m always looking forward to new opportunities to challenge myself and my listeners. Without sounding too far-fetched, I’m also serious about “growing” an experimental community of listeners and artists in Southern Illinois. It is taking time– but I’m confident that it will happen.

The show has been very rewarding for me. Early on, a group of supporters actually banded together to purchase a CDR burner for me, a stop-gap solution to the fact that WDBX did not have an online broadcast. Local listeners have stopped by with their albums, or just to chat about music. I’ve been interviewed in the local news a couple times, and had the chance to supply a small-town newspaper with experimental music reviews. In the past couple years, the show has grown enough to attract the attention of touring musicians. Online listenership has also been great! Since very early on, I’ve concentrated on my online listeners– even going so far as to exchange remixes of the shows themselves with some artists, doing sound art live with online listeners, fielding phone calls from as far away as Israel, and getting mail from every continent except Antarctica.

I’ve also had some really silly moments, like my faked “interview” with Bjork, where I impersonated the singer; an actual phone interview with an artist that turned into a technical nightmare– trying to hold the phone to the speaker, talk into the mic, speakerphone wailing away with feedback, etc– doing a live improvisation with a balloon, having two teams hold a ghost hunt live on-air, being shocked endlessly by microphones and touchy equipment, running a show from a boombox while the studio was being completely overhauled, being overrun by pet dogs brought into the studio, telling a drunken caller that a Merzbow track was actually a Lynyrd Skynrd side project (and having him LOVE it), and finding out that my show was somehow being simulcast on local television (whereupon I quickly replied, as any paranoid DJ would: “can you see me?!”)…

It’s been great.

Anyhow, five years is a long time. I hope you’ll join me this week for my anniversary broadcast. Feel free to call in (618-457-3691). See you then!

Highlights Tried to Make My Kid a Mule

January 16, 2007

As a parent of a school-age child, I’ve had my daughter bring home all sorts of odd corporate-related information from her school. Yesterday, I noticed a wordsearch on agriculture and conservation that had been sponsored by the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association and the National Beef Industry Development Fund. As a United States citizen, I’m not exactly sure what these Canadian organizations hope to gain. Oddly enough, the wordsearch came as part of an exercise using glue to make silly putty.

Now don’t get me wrong, I like my daughter’s school. But every so often, the corporate intrusion makes me furious. Today, my daughter brought back a form for me to sign from Highlights Magazine, of all things.

The form, which I have scanned for you to see, tells parents that by completing the form you help “earn free classroom aids from Highlights.” Now, I’m all for free classroom aids– but I’m not for the scary privacy issues on the reverse side of the form. On the opposite side, Highlights asks for the child’s name, parent’s name, address, and phone number. Additionally, you are asked to respond YES or NO about whether you would like a subscription.

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What bothers me is that the front of the slip implies that parents are to fill out the information regardless of whether they wish to subscribe. So not only does Highlights subtlely ransom parental hopes for extra educational opportunities for their children, but they use children as mules– hoofing these little Trojan horse privacy attacks into our homes. As I wrote on one such form a couple years back, I can think of many other things a school could be doing with its time than supplying Highlights with targeted mail lists.

So here’s the takeaway lesson, Highlights: GOOFUS uses vague promises of “free classroom aids” to entice parents to sign away their mailing info. GALLANT knows that it’s wrong to attach strings to a gift, and would never ask a child to be a corporate mule.

Elvis, Miracles, Microtonal Blogging, and Broken Bones

January 2, 2007

“Elvis Presley singing Hail Mary.” That’s what I saw when I just checked the recent searches that led people to my blog. And sure enough, Google has me one their 5th page of results (at the very bottom!) for this search string, go fig.

Not one to let a fellow Elvis enthusiast down– even one who forgets the actual title of the song, “Miracle of the Rosary”– I will provide a link to the Best Miracle of the Rosary Elvis Presley Website Available Today, or B.M.R.E.P.W.A.T., for short.

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And hey! Who saw Daniel Thompson’s very nifty STARTLING MONIKER mention in his ever-intriguing blog, THE JUNKDRAWER OF THOUGHT? With a bit more regularity than I have been able to muster of late, Thompson chronicles some of his deepest, weirdest thoughts and ideas– some of the old “things that make you go hmmm,” blog reviews, and odd nuggets that float around in powerful craniums. Among Thompson’s many blogs, the Junkdrawer is the wading pool. Check out his MICROTONAL COMPOSER blog when you’re ready for the deep end.Finally, let me make the standard “disappearance” apology common to bloggers. My wife shattered her ankle a couple days before Xmas, and I’ve been a bit bogged down with taking care of her and the kids. She isn’t expected to walk again for a few months at best., and can put no weight on the leg for 6 weeks. I think the Elvis boots (above) might be just the thing for avoiding such injuries in the future, eh?

My oldest is back in school tomorrow, though– so give me a few days to recover, and I’ll be back with more experimental reviews. I’m been the grateful recipient of many fine submissions lately, so my stereo will be full of interesting sounds!

Until then, take care! –DaveX