Edit: My original title sucked, so I made it (if only slightly) better :)
Recently I have been downloading a lot of obscure out of print records from various record collector blogs. This of course has become a sort of obsession for me. It’s as if a dam has burst and all of what I at one point had hoped I’d find, has come rushing in at me. What I love about these blogs is that they constantly introduce me to new music. I could download 20 records a day and not be able to keep up. Of course now finding the time to listen to it all is the problem. I try to give everything an open mind, but since downloads are usually restricted in some way, I tend to be sort of picky about what I get.
Every so often something shows up and I just have to jump on it. It either sounds so good or just so weird I have to hear it. One such record is “Ligeliahorn” by Metgumbnerbone. In the notes that I read on the record it was mentioned that the band recorded exclusively on location is various abandoned buildings, or other such odd places, citing that the influence of the space informed the music and made the whole experience more fulfilling. There is a definite ritual quality about this record that allows it to trancend the realm of pretense. It is as if true exploration is taking place. Almost in the way one would explore a cave. Going in slowly, being very aware of your surroundings, making sure you can back out if you need to, but at no time letting all of that dampen the excitement of your quest.
The location concept really stuck with me for the next couple of days. I kept thinking about the idea of this dual exploration. On one hand you are exploring the space as a space, but in another way you are exploring it’s musicality. Of course these two things are really one, and that is what I think makes this so interesting to me. Especially since from the time I can remember, I have always loved to explore. I spent a decent portion of my youth in abandonned buildings and following train tracks to various other bombed out locations. For me, as a city boy, it was a welcome escape from the stress of the fast paced, on edge day to day life, to a place where I created (or rather was free to interpret) my environment.
In thinking all of this over I began to imagine the concept of a group of individuals exploring a space both experiencially and sonically, by bringing nothing in terms of instruments into the space, but instead using only what the space provided as a means to excite sound. An alternative to this means which I think also has decent potential, would be to allow only tools which could be used to excite the necessary vibrations from the objects contained within the space, but only if they could not serve as instruments within themselves. Objects in this category would merely be extensions of the players. Items such as bows, drum sticks, mallets, or even clamps, could serve well in this purpose.
While I could certainly wax intellectual about the significance or potential of an activity such as this, I think it would only serve to diminish what I think could be it’s primary focus and strength… IT WOULD BE FUN!!!! Think of it… a bunch of friends, some beers, some tools, a recording device and hearing a decaying old building come alive with sound! Seems like a good way to spend an afternoon to me. I may enlist some cohorts to try this out sometime. If nothing else, it is just a good opportunity to spend some time together doing something that most people would never even consider. I especially feel that for all time, these kinds of activities that break our normal modes and bring us into communion with things primordial, are vital. Not to mention that interacting with sound outside of strictly “musical” contexts is something I always find rewarding.
Take a listen Metgumbnerbone and next time you find yourself in an acoustically interesting space, bang on something, yell something, take a moment to interact with that space and most of all HAVE FUN!
side note: If anyone knows of any group that has done what I have outlined above, let me know, I’d love to hear/read about them. And if you go out and do it yourself, record it and send it to me, i’d love to hear it.
Tags: avant garde, chance opperations, experimental music, exploratory music, field recordings, found objects as instruments, improvisation, location recording, music commentary, noise, sound experiments