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DavidKant on 05/16/2012 at 01:30PM
The Happy Valley Band is the Great American Songbook heard through the idiosyncrasies of the machine ear. It is what happens when a computer tries its best to pick out the tunes by ear, writes down what it hears and demands that human performers try to play it. It combines audio separation and computer automated transcription technologies together with a twisted affection for American popular music icons.
In the process of creating the music, the original recordings are first separated into individual instruments and then transcribed by computer automated techniques. Arranging the music is an effort to parse the profusion of computer analysis data into playable form. The Happy Valley Band then plays the mercilessly over-specific computer transcriptions along to the sound of the lone extracted vocal track, offering a new accompaniment to a familiar voice.
Last month The Happy Valley Band squeezed into the studio at WFMU to deliver a set of unusual interpretations on popular music classics. Performing live on Kurt Gottschalk's Miniature Minotaurs Show, the studio quickly became an obstacle course of musical equipment—saxophones, violin, accordion, pianos, guitars, basses and drums, topped off with a Farfisa and a small army of music stands. By the end of the set, the floor was hidden beneath a carpet of loose sheet music, casualties of frantic page turns as the band carefully staggered through a set of classic songs by Elvis Presley, Patsy Cline and James Brown rendered in new, unrecognizable forms.
All software and sheet music will soon be available from the band's website. No classic recordings were harmed in the process. The Happy Valley Band is based out of New York, but you can catch them up north this summer at Electric Eclectics Festival.
DavidKant on 08/23/2010 at 11:28AM
July 28, 2010, Cecilia López brought her Música Mecánica para Chapas to ISSUE Project Room, a long way from her home in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The composition features López’s homemade instrument, called the chapa: a large sheet of metal, suspended from the ceiling, and rigged with piezo-electric elements that both amplify the vibrations of the sheet and drive it.
We played the chapas in pairs; for each chapa, one performer playing at it and the other playing the chapa itself. Facundo Gómez—López’s partner in acoustic crime—shook, bent and uncurled the metal sheet, capturing and transforming the sounds of my saxophone into disembodied and transfigured specters of ringing feedback.
It was a strange kind of duet. It felt like we each had one hand on the same instrument. It felt like someone was taking the voice right out of my throat and manipulating it before it ever reached my own ears. At times, the sound of my saxophone and the sound of the chapa were completely indistinguishable. Then the metal sheet trembled and the sound split into two halves. Sometimes I tried to mimic the sound of the chapa, and other times I struggled to distinguish myself from it.
I felt an overwhelming sense of being part of the machine, part of this immense acoustic mechanism. In contrast to the all-too-often disembodied sensation of performing electro-acoustic music, this was not my sound and processed sound. It was not about input and output. It was just one giant edifice of physicality and acoustic resonance.
This particular performance for ISSUE Project Room’s 15-channel speaker system nicely complements other recordings of Música Mecánica para Chapas. The performance was more subdued and subtle than others, but still retains López’s characteristic controlled chaos of feedback and eerie sonic simulacra.