Wednesday, February 9, 2011
love and sincerity.
Koen from DNK kindly asked if I would play something for their Significant Music series on Monday, and the first thing I thought of was this, which I've written about elsewhere in slightly different forms...
UPDATE: I kind of just rewrote this again based on what I said last night at DNK. Now I'm done.
In 1988 I dropped out of music school. I don't know if I ever really recovered from my time there, but by 1991/1992 the wound was still fresh enough to where I was having problems making music.
I was working at the Center for Music Research because I'd had the astoundingly good fortune to be in an airplane seat next to Steven Newcomb, who was running the place while working on the initial specification for HyTime, from which the HTML that you're viewing right now has borrowed many many concepts.
Regardless of the fact that I was missing the two main requirements for the job: 1) I knew nothing about computers and 2) I couldn't type, Dr. Newcomb hired me as a "lab assistant", which meant that I kind of sat around and watched people try to use email on UNIX terminals while an army of dot-matrix printers chattered nonstop in the background.
At the CMR I met Al Nelson, who was the other lab monitor and thankfully on the same frustrated musical trajectory as I was, and together to pass the long boring hours of lab monitoring we developed a kind of game, where we would search the music library archives for the most disturbing music we could find and then play it for each other on headphones, hoping to elicit some kind of visible physical or psychological response: a shiver of revulsion; clutching your ears in pain; falling to the ground; throwing up; bleeding, etc.
After a few months of this, the game no longer functioned properly: our tolerances for extreme sound and/or concepts had gotten so high that nothing was disturbing "noise" any more: everything was music. One day Al came into the CMR lab, where I was probably accidentally deleting a MicroEMACS message that I'd just spent hours typing (but to who? who else that I knew would've been on email in 1991? The only person I can think of is Al). He had an eyebrow-wiggling look of triumph on his face, and was brandishing something formidable-looking.
Which turned out to be Dry Lungs V, a gorgeously scarily-packaged 2-CD compilation released on San Francisco's Subterranean Records. My sheltered suburban ass had never seen anything like it, and the noise tracks on there immediately and completely redefined my ideas about the useful limits of structure, texture, aggression, technique, you name it.
The sound of Masonna, Hijokaidan, Merzbow, Incapacitants, Solmania, K. K. Null, and Violent Onsen Geisha was threatening and and beautiful, but Dry Lungs was also my introduction to musique concrète via Un Drame Musical Instantane, Etant Donnes, and Helene Sage + Bernhard Vitet. It was also my first exposure to non-hiphop sampling (Carl Stone) and advanced feedback (Arcane Device), and that's not even everything.
That's Dry Lungs. In 1992/93, shortly after leaving Al and the CMR (I graduated), I found (for cheap) what has remained maybe my favorite nostalgic Osaka (I think) noise disc, Come Again II (on Kim Cascone's long-defunct Silent Records offshoot Furnace Records). This is easily on my list of Top Most Important Records Anywhere, even maybe Top 5. Actually yes Top 5. For me the track I played at DNK, Holy Screaming, remains utterly beautiful and primally transcendent...I've spent more than a few minutes rewriting this sentence to try and explain why, but trying to simplify it into something verbally describable seems to miss the point entirely.
Love and Sincerity: Holy Screaming.
More Come Again II:
Flying Testicle: Testicle Rider.
K.K. Null: Song for Shimen.
Incapacitants: Return of Black Monday.
Solmania: Gastropod GTO.
C.C.C.C.: Sweet Scanning.