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herr_professor on 04/27/2010 at 10:11AM

Waves of Destruction

Let me start with a big thank you to the kind judge at Hudson County Circuit court who let me out of the trial that prevented me from last week chip music update. The check is in the mail. Looking back at the last few weeks of entries, I have noticed a certain skew toward the brutal, and the profane, and this week is going to be no exception. A few weeks back, notable chip music label Pause released arguably the landmark "Chip Music/Death Metal" record (yea, it's a genre) with Norrin Radd's "Anomaly"

The process is remarkably faithful to the specs of the NES, with one exception, all his death grunts are vocalized through the lowly NES sample channel (fans of the classic sports romp BLADES OF STEEL will know what this sounds like). The result is epic and brutal, and quite good even outside the "for a video game" handicap. Check it out above, or visit the Pause website for the files in .it format with additional songs (windows users can play these files natively in program like Winamp), or a chance to buy the music on CD.

Also some of you may remember Timeheater from a few weeks ago. He sent me his Fuck Life EP, which is some more awesome tracks from another fearsome practitioner of chip assault. And with that, we will leave it, but check back here next week when i try to find something happy to post instead. See you then!

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mwalker on 04/26/2010 at 02:00PM

music for two turntables

Marina Rosenfeld at ISSUE Project Room (4/7/10). Photo by Lori Bailey.

As part of ISSUE’s Music & Technology Month, Australian musicologist (and occasional FMA guest-blogger) Caleb Kelly curated an evening of fantastic performances to complement his talk on the use of deliberately cracked and malfunction-ed technology in music. For the concluding set of the evening, artist/composer/turntablist Marina Rosenfeld teased out a gorgeous stream of sounds into a fluid tapestry of quiet, spacious beauty --  shared below. Improvising from a rich palette of her own hand-crafted dub plates, electronics, and instructional synth samples from old educational records, Rosenfeld sculpted an alluring narrative that felt both electrifyingly spontaneous and effortlessly precise. Live, the understated physicality of her performance served as an integral layer in the evocative whole, with sounds forming and evolving with stunningly organic connectivity to the elegant gestures of her record selection and turntable manipulation.  While the recording can’t fully capture the enchanting visual dimension of Rosenfeld’s performance practice, the inseparable physicality of the sound production remains perceptibly embedded in the audio document and the mesmerizing aura remains.

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Scott_Williams on 04/26/2010 at 09:15AM

September 7, 2006: When Psychic TV Came to Play

The long-standing open relationship WFMU shares with Genesis Breyer P-Orridge just survived another milestone, as Gen and fellow ranking experimental music legend Tony Conrad joined with Psychic TV drummer Edley O’Dowd for a couple of gorgeous sets of string and percussion based improvised music on Fabio's show.  That performance, along with some words from Fabio, is now permantly branded upon the interwebs here.

Previously on WFMU, Genesis has sat for several long interviews with Fabio, once with Throbbing Gristle during their 2009 reunion tour.  And in 2006, Gen brought the PTV-3 incarnation of her hyperdelic pop group Psychic TV down for a live session.  Three songs from that session are now on the FMA here for your  downloadable pleasure. 

The day after that session, I posted what follows to WFMU's Beware of The Blog.

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jason on 04/23/2010 at 02:41PM

Excavated Shellac -- Strings LP

Excavated Shellac is an incredible resource for rare international 78rpm recordings. With each post, shellac excavator Jonathan Ward takes great care to ensure that the transfer is as clean as possible. His blog posts always go the extra mile in placing the music within a larger cultural and historical context (on the side, JW is a professional writer and researcher).

With the motto "good music is best when it's shared", JW has done just that for upwards of 100 songs that might otherwise go unheard, and we're honored to be hosting the Excavated Shellac archives here on the FMA.

For those who would prefer to hear this music on vinyl, we're in luck! Excavated Shellac has produced its first-ever LP, titled Strings, in collaboration with Dust-to-Digital's Parlorphone imprint. Strings collects fourteen previously unissued performances on various stringed instruments from around the world, including the fiddle, shamisen, charango, Paraguyan harp, Indian vina, Vietnamese moon guitar, Persian violin, and Lebanese oud,. These recordings -- made between 1920 and 1950 -- are all presented with the detailed liner notes we've come to expect from Excavated Shellac.

Anybody with an interest in historical music might already be familiar with the Dust-to-Digital catalog, which includes releases like the Ian Nagoski-curated Black Mirror: Reflections in Global Musics 1915-1955. Here's one of my favorite tracks from that compilation -- a rare performance by the Irish uilleann piper Patrick J. Touhey:

Black Mirror is available here, and you can pick up a copy of Excavated Shellac's Strings LP here. The new LP featured tracks that are not otherwise available -- not even from the Excavated Shellac blog -- but after the jump there's a fantastic mix of other stringed tunes from Jonathan Ward's archives.

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andrewcsmith on 04/23/2010 at 12:00PM

Three-Stringed: Koto / Cello / Violin

Miya Masaoka

There’s that rare time when seeming strangers move together over the course of a half-hour. Back in March I posted something about Jon Rose’s fence-playing, and Jon himself brought the FMA his mind-bender “Fringe Benefits,” which takes the violin to its logical conclusion (hint: it usually involves more strings and sometimes embedded FM radios). The set below is a trio with Miya Masaoka on koto, Alex Waterman on cello, and Jon Rose on violin.

If the violin began as a model after the human voice it was way back when the voice was all bel canto, open vowels and delicate vibrato. Now, though, the violin, like the voice in classical music, has branched out. Rose gets consonants out of his instrument: stuttering plosives, and reflexive squeaks. This trio of stringed instruments becomes a chorus, speaking in faltering unison.

Throughout this fifteen-minute segment, Masaoka, Waterman, and Rose align themselves with one another’s timbre and purpose like they’re reading from the same text, albeit with different voices and at different tempi. All contraries become complementary; these improvisers prove themselves to be not players, but listeners.

There’s a beautiful moment around 5’20” when the bottom falls out of the chaos, Rose seems paralyzed on a single note, Waterman’s cello begins heaving, and finally Masaoka’s koto comes through as a pseudo-ground, freeing Rose for a solitary moment to find a melody—without suggestion of correct form, there would be no way to get sidetracked. This is itinerant music, where any rest is defeat, and although it doesn’t seem as if any one voice is pulling the group, the trio still drifts from one sonic area to the next.

The following is the first (and best) set from their performance as part of ISSUE’s Festival of Strings.

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fabio on 04/23/2010 at 09:00AM

Tony Conrad, Edley ODowd, & Genesis Breyer P. Orridge live at WFMU

photos by Fabio

The combined accomplishments of Genesis Breyer P. Orridge and Tony Conrad are legendary and enormous, and are well-documented elsewhere.  Over the years, both artists have appeared and performed at WFMU many times.

Genesis first came by for an interview in 1988, on one of my late nightshifts in the old basement studios at Froeberg Hall, when WFMU was still part of Upsala College.  That was during the early Acid House days of Psychic TV.  (And just last year he came to the station with all of Throbbing Gristle for a long and lively chat session in the studio).

About a year after that first interview with Gen, I met Tony Conrad, and I asked Tony to come to the station for an interview not long after.  He couldn’t be there in person so we did that interview by phone, but since then he’s performed in the studio twice and we’ve done several in-studio interviews.

Though I’d been friends with both of them for many years I had never considered the possibility that Gen and Tony might work together:  to me they seemed to be  approaching their work from wildly different perspectives. But circumstances can sometimes conspire to completely blow away our cherished, previously-held notions. At the suggestion of filmmaker Marie Losier, who’s been working on two separate documentaries about both artists, a concert with Gen and Tony playing together was finally organized.

And this is more or less how these two very unique artists were brought together, along with Edley O’Dowd on percussion, for a concert at Issue Project Room in January 2009 and for the one you can access here on the Free Music Archive. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

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JoeMc on 04/22/2010 at 02:00PM

Knock on Wood

GHG in mid-knock.

Many instruments now considered "serious" instruments began life as "novelties," or the aural equivalent of a whoopie cushion. These kinds of instruments, although originally employed by comedians to punctuate gags back in vaudeville days, could and sometimes did make the transition to more dignified usage. Two examples of instruments that made this transition are the saxophone and the harmonica, both originally treated as toys, but later accorded respect by virtue of their importance to jazz and the blues.

One instrument that perhaps didn't make the transition as successfully is the xylophone. Although there was a period in jazz in the 30s and 40s when a few hardy souls made this bulky hunk of metal and wood semi-respectable (Red Norvo being the most popular of the bunch), the xylophone never did quite shed its reputation as a novelty. These days, you don't hear too many xylophones at all, probably for this reason. Modern pop strains so hard to sound tough and grown-up that the whimsical, jolly tone of the xylophone mostly sounds out of place (nice try, Gordon Gano).

There was a time, however, when the xylophone did appeal to your average record buyer, and at that time, the guy who did the most to make it popular was a fellow named George Hamilton Green. He not only sold a lot of records, but he pioneered the use of the xylophone in cartoons, a move that ironically may have damned the instrument to novelty status forever.

Here's a tune that Green recorded with one of his many groups, the All-Star Trio, that could have been the soundtrack to a cartoon. If you can, though, try to judge this happy tune on its own merits as a bright example of great xylophone playing. And then read on below for more about the xylophone and George Hamilton Green.

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lizb on 04/22/2010 at 09:00AM

Compilation Fascination

I've been hitting a few compilations pretty hard lately on the FMA, and I must say that a recent favorite has been "New Weird Australia, Volume 3." The non-profit NWA group releases a new compilation of tunes from Australian artists that can be categorized loosely as "weird" every other month, they host a weekly radio show on FBi in Sydney, and put on live music events from time to time. My latest compilation muse, "NWA, Vol. 3," was released in November of 2009.

From mellow and woozy songs fit for a dream sequence, to repetitive krautrock jams, to dainty acoustic prances, to experimental electronic hiss, drones, and moments of glitch. This album won't start any parties, but it does wonders if you're driving, in a contemplative mood, just waking up, or stuck inside on a grey day. Check out a few of my favorite tracks below.

The NWA label offers even more lovely oddities, with two more volumes of compiled songs here on the FMA, and even more goodies available to download on their website.

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katya-oddio on 04/21/2010 at 04:15PM

Frigiliana Free Jazz

detail from CD cover

This fantastic, energetic concert of free jazz was performed by the Breuss Arrizabalaga Quintet in Frigiliana, Málagua, Spain on 19 July 2003. (Tracks 9 and 10 were recorded in performance in Madrid.) The concert was released as an album, Nfamoudou-Boudougou, on Hazard Records.

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Spark on 04/21/2010 at 06:00AM

Spark: Creative Commons Playlist

The latest addition to our guest curation series comes from Spark, "a weekly audio blog of smart and unexpected trendwatching" from CBC.


My name is Dan Misener, and I work on Spark, Canada's national technology/culture show from CBC Radio. I'm delighted to have been asked to participate in the Creative Commons curation project at the Free Music Archive. From its first episode in the fall of 2007, Spark has extensively featured CC-licensed music. Let me tell you why:

What the Web Sounds Like

A few years ago, the staff of Spark were preparing to make our very first episode of the show. We knew we wanted Spark to be more than a traditional broadcast radio program. We wanted it to be a collaboration and a conversation -- a platform for exploring the intersection of technology and culture. We wanted to embrace the values of online culture to talk about online culture. And as we worked on our first episode, one question we kept asking ourselves was, "What does the Internet sound like?" As it turns out, the Internet sounds an awful lot like the best CC-licensed music: collaborative, remixable, and constantly evolving.

Equality for podcasts and broadcasts

Here in Canada, using music in podcasts can be tricky business. Though rights and licensing agreements are in place for terrestrial broadcasts, that's not yet the case for podcasts. The result is that many over-the-air radio programs use commercial music, which must be removed or replaced for the podcast version. Usually, this means extra work, recutting a show so it's "podsafe."

When we started Spark, we were very keen to create a single, definitive version of the show for online and on-air. We didn't want our podcast to be a watered-down, "lite" version of Spark. We put a lot of time and attention into researching, writing, editing, and mixing Spark every week, and the quality of the end product shouldn't suffer because of the distribution mechanism.

Spreadability, linkability

One of the great unintended consequences of using CC music on Spark has to do with the Attribution condition. Of course, artists deserve credit for their work, and each week, we post links to the music and artists featured on the show. If listeners hear a tune they like, they can easily find out who wrote it and download their very own copy. This is a win-win-win for the listener, the show, and the artist. Listeners get pointers to great CC-licensed music, Spark gets exposure on sites like CCMixter (via trackbacks), and the artists get heard by hundreds of thousands of people on Canadian public radio.


Dan Misener is a producer on Spark, the national technology/culture show from the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

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