Almost 35 years ago, Wendy Carlos’s Switched-On Bach album first came out. It’s hard to know exactly why this particular combination of Baroque music and synthesizers became such a popular phenomenon, but to me it seems inextricably connected to a certain optimism about the future. But as society became more concerned with earthly things, the fashion for space age classical synth covers faded. Now they seem a bit like majestic old ruins, simultaneous evidence of great talent and great folly.
For Iron Composer, an aural takeoff on the famed Japanese television cooking show, five finalist composers were each assigned a different form of audience participation as a “secret ingredient” and then were given a studio, an ensemble (a brass trio of double bell trumpet, horn, and trombone), and only five hours to compose a new work.
When you visit Kenneth Kirschner’s über-minimalist single-page website, you get a clearer sense of how central the free distribution of his work is to him. No program notes are offered, no composer bio included. Just select a track and experience the music. “I think, being an experimental composer, it’s about encouraging a listener to take risks.”
Every year since 2005, E. J. Decker has produced Heart of Jazz, an assemblage of thirty to forty jazz singers and instrumentalists who get together to honor the memory of those lost in the tragic collapse of the World Trade Center towers on September 11, 2001. Until now, no documentation has existed for these performances. [Video content included.]
Sculptor Richard Serra condemned Stockhausen’s infamous remarks on the September 11 attacks for what he saw as “the aestheticization of terror.” But violence and terror are already thoroughly aestheticized–in music, movies, books, television, video games, and so on. After the fact, others have come to find a kernel of meaning in Stockhausen’s oddly detached musings.
Born and raised in Austin, Travis Weller came up playing violin and listening to all sorts of music, eventually gravitating to sounds and instruments that were well outside the norm. We’ve talked about composition, performance, and curation, but I’d never taken the time to speak with him about the instruments he builds. To remedy that, we sat down and talked about three of his creations: The Owl, The Skiffs, and The Steel Bells.
The potential to link sound to food, scent, and the tactile sensations of the mouth creates an entirely new field of sensory interplay, which may be harnessed to a wide range of expressive ends. Approaches include theatrical narrative structures that might tell a story, spatial or landscape meditations that might resemble a sound installation, and ritual events such as a Passover Seder or a wedding ceremony.
Weekly composing homework? Yes, please. For anyone intrigued by the sonic ideas this type of exercise can generate, your spelunking down the Disquiet Junto rabbit hole is sure to be rewarded. Even for those who don’t want to wade in and create music themselves, with 88 projects already completed, the curious listener has a cavernous library to select from.