Hello You. First and most importantly, a little reminder that this splendid event Happening2 is occurring this very evening at DIY Space For London. Hope to see you all there and then!
Secondly, I’m thrilled to be able to finally share with you one of the personal highlights of my broadcasting career to date, an interview with legendary composer, musician, ethnomusicologist, electronic music pioneer, scholar and gentleman Halim El-Dabh, broadcast on Radio 4’s The World Tonight late last week.
The term ‘Electronic Music Pioneer’ is really something of an understatement. For it was Halim himself who created ‘Wire Recorder Piece’ – almost certainly the first piece of acousmatic ‘tape music’ EVER – all the way back in 1944. This was some years before his more celebrated counterparts on the continent began their own experiments with the form and went on to develop the techniques and philosophy behind what quickly became known as musique concréte, thereby changing the course of music history as we know it and paving the way for generations of experimental composers, sound recordists, producers and DJs right up to the present day. Indeed, it requires very little effort to plot a direct course from such early experiments to The Radiophonic Workshop, White Album Beatles, hip hop, jungle and so on, right up to the modern sampledelic collages by the likes of Flying Lotus.
Born and raised in Egypt, but for many years a citizen of the United States, Halim’s remarkable career has taken him all over the world and has seen him composing, experimenting, studying and teaching for well over seven decades; including time spent at the fabled Columbia Princeton Electronic Music Centre in the 1950s and 60s, working alongside composers such as Otto Leuning and Vladimir Ussachevsky and rubbing shoulders with the likes of John Cage, Leonard Bernstein and others. Crossing Into The Electric Magnetic, a compilation of his early works from across this period is essential listening to anyone remotely interested in the history and development of electronic music, and with any justice should assure his place in the annuls of music history (and this is without having time or space here to take his equally distinguished work in the more traditional realms of orchestral and chamber music into account). But when I learned that he was about to release a brand new album of experimental electronic music at the ripe old age of 95 – well, come on, the story just writes itself from that point onwards, surely?!
Sure enough, Sanza Time, produced in collaboration with the musician Ron Slabe is out now and continues Halim’s historical approach of combining his vast collection of traditional instruments sourced from across the world with the latest computer technology, an approach that distinguished his earliest pioneering works from those of his contemporaries and that he continues to this day. Amazing to think that after such a long and fruitful career, this affable nonagenarian continues to compose, explore and discover at a time when he would surely be entitled to a well-earned retirement. ‘I have a whole big job ahead of me!’, he chuckles when I ask him what keeps him going. An incredible story still being written – and let’s hope all of us can maintain such curiosity and spirit when we reach our own ninth decades. Halim, we saltute you!
In other news, Near Mint is back from it’s summer break and ready for a new term at Resonance FM with part 1 of a Back To School Special, featuring various educational jams from children’s LPs released in the 70s and 80s – and you probably won’t be too surprised that a significant chunk of it derives from the various activities of the Children’s Television Workshop. Watch out for an opening gambit by legendary soul brother Roosevelt Franklin, a trio of tracks by the brilliant Loretta Long, and a lesson in punctuation from Rita Hayworth.
There’s even a little something from a long-running children’s programme from our own side of the pond, Play School – and it happens to be a song with a rather peculiar history. Bizarre as it may seem, the track ‘Bang On A Drum’ featured here contains a drum break that has been sampled by such musical heavyweights as Eric B & Rakim, Run DMC, NWA stalwart Eazy E and even R&B elder stateswoman Janet Jackson for her titanic 80s hit ‘Rhythm Nation’; all of which should be enough to put those of a certain age into a massive cognitively dissonant spin. While it was certainly easy in the above paragraphs to plot a line from the pioneering acousmatic experiments of Halim El-Dabh, Pierre Schaefer et al to the modern sample-heavy world of dance music and DJ culture; there’s certainly a much greater leap of the imagination involved in trying to piece together how a song aimed at pre-school children in 1970s Britain ended up leaving the cosy confines of the nursery and travelling Straight Into Compton…
Seriously, the mind boggles. Especially when it turns out that in the hands of Eazy E producer Dr. Dre, ‘Bang On A Drum’ actually ‘bangs like a mother’ as I believe the cool kids would put it. A mother that, to borrow another common phrase, neither Eazy nor sparring partner MC Ren would be allowed to ‘kiss with that mouth’. Definitely NSFW. Sorry, Humpty…
And lastly, huge thanks to Mark Vernon and his team for once again allowing Howlround to participate in the latest incarnation of at Radiophrenia, currently broadcasting on 87.9FM in the Glasgow area or online via Radiophrenia.Scot.
Our contribution was a half-hour mix of tracks from the sessions recorded for Resonance FM’s residency at East Tower, with at least half of the mix given over to alternate takes and unreleased works that either hadn’t been completed or were shelved due to the time limitations of the original live broadcast from the tower back in July. Don’t worry too much if you missed the broadcast – I’m sure this material will surface again at some point. I keep getting the feeling I ought to do something more substantial with it, but then I’ve only just recently managed to suppress the dreaded urge to keep fiddling with it all just a little bit more – and with two forthcoming releases already delivered I’m also wary of over-saturating the market!
Anyway, all that’s for me to agonise over. For now, Radiophrenia continues broadcasting until 11th Sept, with a schedule packed full of radiophonic delights, so keep listening. Amongst all the other treats on offer, do keep your ears peeled for several short works by our old Barcelona friend Nad Spiro, which I’m told will be popping up here and there. She certainly gets about, does our Rosa!
Hello You. A rather delayed post due to a busy couple of weeks of intensive plate-spinning, so lots to cram in rather hurriedly. First off, very excited to announce Howlround’s contribution to ‘The Next Station’, a new collaborative venture between field recording projects Cities And Memory and The London Sound Survey on the first ever sound map of the London Underground. Compiled over the course of several months, it’s a combination of field recordings from stations all over the network mixed with interpretations by artists, musicians and producers, numbering almost 100 in total. Our track has even had a mention on prestigious railways blog Calling All Stations!
More information on the Howlround track here and you can enjoy the full delights of the playlist, with almost 100 other remixes and reinterpretations either on The Cities And Memories site here or the Cities And Memory Audioboom page. Even more impressively, they’ve turned the whole thing into an actual London Underground Sound Map, which is a wonderful way to waste a few hours with a very attractive interface. I was honestly hoping to be able to embed said attractive interface on these equally lovely pages, but sadly it would appear that WordPress is having none of it. Frankly, WordPress is already pushing it’s luck today by embedding the above player to the left of the page while everything else is centralised, which is surely the internet equivalent of eating a sandwich with the filling poking out the bottom and is setting off all my OCD impulses. If anyone has a suggestion as to how this unfortunate situation can be resolved, I will happily send you a cash-stuffed envelope. In the meantime, take a compensatory moment to reflect on the glory of the LSS logo, which is a masterstroke of pleasing design:
In other Howlround news, there are some very exciting live developments on the horzion. First off, we’re playing Happening2 at DIY Space For London on September 1st, alongside Michael Speers, DJ Velpar and much more. Very much looking forward to taking the machines to a venue I’ve heard so many good things about! Further details can be found here or by perusing the following poster:
Even more excitingly (without meaning any disrespect to the good folk of DIY Space), I’m thrilled to be able to announce that tickets are now on sale for ‘Aural Ectoplasm‘, a unique candle-lit Howlround performance taking place inside Brompton Cemetery’s historic chapel on October 9th as part of this year’s London Month Of The Dead festival.
Tickets are £12 and include a Hendricks Gin cocktail – and I can’t think of any better way to enjoy our haunted tape loops than from within candle-lit, dome-capped, gothic splendour viewed through a gentle alcoholic fug. It’s part of an extensive programme of talks, demonstrations and performances put together by festival hosts Antique Beat and A Curious Invitation, with 20% of all ticket sales being donated to the much-needed preservation of these historic ‘gardens of sleep’, so it’s an amazing setting and a worthy cause. Could THIS be our most exotic location yet?! Stay tuned for further details.
Thanks must also go to Sound Fjord and Full Of Noises for last week’s performance at V22 Summer Club, alongside Sybella Perry and Ingrid Plum. It was a particularly auspicious occasion as our performance marked the first appearance of fellow-splicer Chris Weaver since our turn at the Delaware Road launch party last November, was conducted in near total darkness, and earned us a rather nice review from ATTN:Magazine. Read it here.
In other news, after giving us all a taster of his wares while playing alongside Howlround at Cafe Oto back in June, Sub Rosa are finally releasing the fruits of Mr. Dan Wilson‘s Radionics project. Entitled An Album Of Musical Radionic Thought Frequencies, it’s available on CD with explanatory booklet as well as download. A fascinating subject with a bizarre history, you can read Dan’s introduction to Radionics here and the CD is available from all good record shops (and probably some bad ones too).
Lastly, please take a moment to watch this beautiful video for Kemper Norton‘s equally beautiful ‘The Town’, taken from new album Toll, out now on the mighty Front And Follow label. CD and download out now – very much looking forward to getting my hands on a copy of this one!
Presenting for your approval the final set of recordings ever(?) made in BBC Television Centre’s East Tower, demolition of which is scheduled for this month and by the time you read these words may well have already started. This ‘Final Gathering’, produced as part of arts organisation White Noise‘s programme of artist residencies in the tower’s closing weeks, was produced by taking two recordings of groups of visitors arranged in the stairwell making various humming sounds and then playing several copies of these recordings together with subtle changes in pitch, attempting to create Ligeti-esque sound-clusters on a more modest scale – in fact the working title was £20.01: A Splice Odyssey. Hope you’ll approve. There’s a rather nice blog post on the White Noise website about this piece and it’s precursor ‘East Tower Dreaming’, which you can read here.
Furthermore, eagled-eared Howlround fans and/or lovers of Radio 4 might have also heard me talking about the project on flagship news programme The World Tonight last week, in which I attempt to give a brief introduction to the mysterious world of resonant frequencies. The report has subsequently been included on the Radio 4 website and promoted with the following tweet:
— BBC Radio 4 (@BBCRadio4) July 29, 2016
…Which, sure as night follows day, was accompanied by the usual amusing replies by random snipers, such as ‘Just presenters counting their money’ and ‘Saville walked these corridors’. Such concerned citizens might have their fears allayed by my informing them the project came in well under the aforementioned £20.01 budget and that I was never in any danger of being haunted by the ghost of disgraced former presenters, having never actually visited the tower in person – all the sounds were collected on my behalf by my butler and head gardener, while I stayed at home on the chase-lounge, being fed grapes while lighting expensive cigars with a collection of high-denomination bank-notes. There is, as I’ve had cause to mention before, a HUGE amount of money in experimental sound art…
Just kidding! Moving on, Resonance FM have also uploaded Howlround’s performance at their Live To Air gala evening to their Mixcloud page. Consisting of entirely new and currently unreleased material recorded especially for the event, it’s a little warts-and-all as live recordings tend to be, but worth a listen, though I’m still intending to do something more polished with the material at some future juncture.
Finally, do please join us at Full of Noises Archive Night 1 at V22 Summer Club Louise House, Forest Hill, London on Friday 12th August, where Howlround are performing alongside Helen Petts, Sybella Perry and Ingrid Plum, at an event put on by our old friends The Octopus Collective. Details can be found on the Full Of Noises website here. and tickets are available here.