Mar 252010

In the first hours of Spring, Listening Salon 010 opened with its established prandial preliminaries.  Simple and delicious home cooking proved the best approach for this first Listening Salon in a year, especially with 1/3 of guests traveling hundreds of miles for the event.  Come on in, dinner’s in the oven.  Delicious mac and cheese accompanied by a simple tossed salad dressed with M.B.’s secret homemade garlic and lemon vinaigrette, which she whipped up on the spot.  We had wines from all over the world and, later on, Dee’s brownies hit the spot (and vanished without a crumb remaining!) complemented by single-origin Colombian coffee from Peet’s, piping hot out of the French press.

The weather was a perfect Vernal Equinox, and we sat outside enjoying each other’s company and laughter, stories from the past year, and the air around us that smelled of Spring.

Back inside—after a mesmerizing group discussion about monogrammed adult-sized onesie pyjamas and super-hero underwear—Ms M. honored the significance of the changing seasons with her collection of recordings.  Each had a connection in her mind with Spring.  Recountings of out-of-body experiences and discussions around emerging theories in molecular biology and genetics are not unheard of during Listening Salons.

Jane Siberry — “Begat Begat”
Chanticleer — “in time of” (music, Steven Sametz; words, e.e. cummings)
Ghazal — “Pari Mahal”

M.B.  offered three recordings that, to me, all seemed to have to do with being in the magic of a given moment.  It began with a simple piece played in honor of a new and dear friend, continued with a spoken word track inspired by an earlier impromptu reading of a haiku by Basho, and rounded out with a chance selection by hitting shuffle on her portable juke box.

Dixie Chicks — “Lullaby”
Van Morrison — “Coney Island”
Antônio Carlos Jobim — “Favela”

Allissa B. told us about a Sunday morning ritual from childhood: her parents would always listen to records at that time of the week, and the recordings she heard then continue to mean something special to her.  This led to her first selection, while her second selection was completely spontaneous and dedicated to Mr Dobson, a.k.a. “that man sitting right over there”.

The Guess Who — “Runnin’ Down The Street”
Wilco — “I’m Always In Love”

Denise Anderson began by sharing two John Cage pieces.  In her words, “[Cage] talked about removing the ego from the whole artistic process,” and Ms Anderson observed that this approach was something from which many contemporary composers could learn.  I was astonished not only by how accessible these pieces were, but also by how arresting i found them.  We talked after listening about how Cage is appreciated more for his ideas than the aesthetic results of his theories put into practice by himself.  (By others it’s often a different matter.)  “Dance” is an early work and the crackly sound of the old recording itself was part of what made it so beautiful.  The Adams piece brought a wonderful energy into the room, and there was unanimous appreciation of and affection for the Stereolab track, which simultaneously delivered fun and a tone of melancholy.

John Cage — “Dance”
John Cage — “Aquila Imperiale” (feat. Sylvano Bussotti)
John Adams — “Short Ride In A Fast Machine” (perf. City Of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra/Sir Simon Rattle)
Stereolab — “Slow Fast Hazel”

A demonstration of found sound was how i began my group of recordings—not a sound that was found and then recorded, but rather a sound that was recorded and then found.  “This Book Was Written” is the lone audio note left for me to discover when i purchased a used (“almost new”) digital dictaphone, an aural peek into a moment in a stranger’s life.

Kemp Harris’s song “Ruthie’s” followed—my favorite version of this Harris original, off his recent (and superb) album Edenton.  Yma Sumac was celebrating her 50th birthday the day i was born, and i feel there is a connection between us left to discover.  I played the only recording of her that i own, from the Hal Willner collection of Disney covers.  She died in late 2008.  The final track was offered in memory of Kate McGarrigle, who died in early 2010.  It was the first recording of the McGarrigle sisters i can remember hearing.  I still can’t believe she’s gone.

Anonymous poet — “This Book Was Written”
Kemp Harris — “Ruthie’s” (Edenton version)
Yma Sumac — “I Wonder”
Kate & Anna McGarrigle w/ the Chieftains — “Il Est Né / Ca Berger”

Derek Dobson abandoned his original idea of what he was going to play and gave us six tracks of unique beauty, all of which are in heavy rotation on his portable juke box these days.  Most of this set represented music fairly new to Dee, but a highlight was when Dee played a scratch recording of himself improvising with a borrowed electric guitar rig.  As a drummer, he uses rhythm and echo in this “workout” to explore harmonic relationships on an instrument that isn’t his first.  Listening Salon 010 became the first time anyone else has heard it.

Sigur Rós — “Untitled 3” (from ( ))
Derek Dobson — “Dee’s Digital Delay Workout, December 2004” (excerpt)
Peter Gabriel — Of These, Hope
Peter Gabriel — Lazarus Raised
Peter Gabriel — Of These, Hope (Reprise)

The final three tracks come from Peter Gabriel’s soundtrack to The Last Temptation of Christ.

Thanks to all my fellow listeners for yet another enriching evening together.  The sounds were all engaging.  It was a beautiful night that dipped into the morning, and the craic was very good indeed.

Mar 082010

Ms M. brought this to my attention, saying, “Some cool samplage possibilities here, I bet.”

Books and other writings now in the public domain read by all sorts of folks—surely not those seeking profit—resulting in a growing catalog of free audiobooks, available in various levels of fidelity.

LibriVox: Acoustical liberation of books in the public domain

I started with Thomas Chapais’s Chronicles of Canada Volume 6 – The Great Intendant : A Chronicle of Jean Talon in Canada 1665-1672.

I moved on rather willy-nilly to Chapter 6, Book 1 of Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ, by Lew Wallace (1827 – 1905).  Chapter 1’s male reader has a sort of Appalachian accent.  Chapter 6 features a young female reader with a semi-thick French accent:

In Solomon’s day there was great traffic at the locality, shared in by traders from Egypt and the rich dealers from Tyre and Sidon. Nearly three thousand years have passed, and yet a kind of commerce clings to the spot. A pilgrim wanting a pin or a pistol, a cucumber or a camel, a house or a horse, a loan or a lentil, a date or a dragoman, a melon or a man, a dove or a donkey, has only to inquire for the article at the Joppa Gate.

Many years since childhood, i still get giddy at the notion of story time.  LibriVox promises to provide endless journeys of shared voices and shared imagination.

Enjoy!  I intend to!

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