Last week, it sort of hit me how much I like Robert Ashley’s work, so this week I figured I’d play a lot more of it. I’m starting with his newest– on Lovely Music– a double-CD called “Now Eleanor’s Idea.” There are a lot of interesting ideas running through it, like the unexpected connections between people and objects, and the equally strange directions life can take when these connections are allowed to develop naturally.
I’m really enjoying the discs, at least in part due to Ashley’s fairly bold assumption that listeners will be able to follow along with Now Eleanor, who makes a slow and fragmented transition to speaking Spanish. Oddly enough, it works– I think listeners will be able to “touch” the edge of Now Eleanor’s striking metamorphosis to a voice of the people by feeling a smaller version of such change mirrored in themselves.
“The sounds of these voices– and the sounds of her own voice in response– evoke in her those kinds of feeling that are almost without a name. Deeper than the words that science uses, deeper than, “I have been here before.” Is it possible to find a part of yourself that you did not know was “lost?” Is it possible to discover that you are someone other than who you think you are?” –from Act III, Questions and Answers
Such amazing work!
I could do a ham-fisted “speaking of amazing…” transition here, but I’ll just mention that it was a possibility instead. That way, you won’t associate Backporch Revolution with bad puns when I begin talking about this fine label’s latest release in the next sentence. The disc being subjected to so much hyperbole is none other than “Fermata,” by Murmur, a sonic exploration of the inside of a fermentation tank, way back in mid-2005. Naturally, it’s a droning wonder, and probably more than a little painful to actually record. From my experience, the standing waves created in a highly reverberant space are uncomfortable at best– but these fellows are of stronger stuff than I, having dragged a harmonium AND and e-bow into the tank as proof. There’s other instruments as well, but none which I imagine being quite so suited to producing abdomen-quaking sound in an enclosed space than these!
This week’s developing theme seems to be “physicality.” In some way, all of this music carries a strong physical element to it– from Now Eleanor’s tranformation and subsequent ability to speak fluent Spanish; to Murmur’s use of physical space as a partner in creating sound; to My Fun’s “Sonorine” album, which presents field recordings of a half-familiar world just beyond our own.
I love it when themes like this develop naturally. Of course, now that I’ve noticed it, the challenge will be selecting the next recording…
Aha, the next one ended up being my own! I had forgotten all about having brought this cassette with me until I started considering “physicality.” But it definitely fits– the recording was made with a long wire attached to a piano soundboard, and threaded amongst the piano strings. To the wire, I affixed a contact microphone, in order to pick up every vibration. What follows are a series of small improvisations: on the wire itself, on the piano, on the soundboard, and the disassembly of the system.
Robert Ashley — Now Eleanor’s Idea; Act II, The Miracle of Cars
Robert Ashley — Now Eleanor’s Idea; Act III, Questions and Answers
Robert Ashley — Now Eleanor’s Idea; Act IV, The Song
Murmur — Discovery of Mother Voidness
My Fun — Musik-Postkarten
My Fun — Radiant
My Fun — Signal Drift
My Fun — Setting Fires
My Fun — Phonopostal
DaveX — Long Wire and Piano #2
Chris Burns, Nicolas Caloia, John Heward — Presence 1
Chris Burns, Nicolas Caloia, John Heward — Presence 2
Chris Burns, Nicolas Caloia, John Heward — Presence 3
Chris Burns, Nicolas Caloia, John Heward — Presence 4
Chris Burns, Nicolas Caloia, John Heward — Presence 5