andrewcsmith on 05/08/2010 at 11:00AM
Between 1965 and 1971, the composer James Tenney wrote a series of pieces later collected as “Postal Pieces,” in which he wrote the entire composition on the back of a postcard and mailed it. Many of these were later published in Peter Garland’s journal Soundings, and have since been performed as independent pieces as well as recorded and released on CD by everyone from the classical ensemble The Barton Workshop to Sonic Youth.
Some time in the early twenty-first century, the poet Sara Wintz founded the Pretty Panicks Press with the purpose of documenting, in reduced form, the compositional ideas of rock music. Partly about the compositional process of rock musicians, and partly an homage to Garland and Tenney, these postcards tie the twentieth century into the ambiguous zone that many classical/alternative/rock/hyphenated musicians today find themselves in. The recordings of rock preserve the sound of the songs, and the sound of the musicians, but these extreme reductions preserve the idea.
The electric guitar quartet Dither, typifying this nebulous twenty-first century, brings massive chops with an egalitarian sense of purpose to every piece of music. For this concert, they took up Molly Thompson’s postcard piece “Roar and Spit,” containing the statement, “you could basically use any instruments as long as the accordion and voice remained intact and it would be different every time.” Check out their recording below, along with Sara Wintz’s reading of part of her long poem “Twentieth Century” (from which I copped this post title).
There’s more music available on the album page as well, including Lisa R. Coons’s “Entropion” and quartet member Josh Lopes’s “Pantagruel.” Both of these tracks will be available on their debut studio album on Henceforth Records, celebrated by an album release party at the Invisible Dog Art Center in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn, on Saturday, June 12.