The Deeply Meditative Electronic Music of Avant-Garde Composer Eliane Radigue

Among a number of influential women in electronic music whom we’ve profiled here before, French avant-garde composer Eliane Radigue stands out for her single-minded dedication to “a certain music that I wished to make,” as she says in the video portrait above, “this particular music and no other.” Her compositions are haunting and meditative, “prefiguring the concept of ‘deep listening,’ expressed by Pauline Oliveros some years later,” as Red Bull Academy notes in an extensive profile of Radigue.

Using feedback, tape loops, field recordings, and, beginning in the 70s, the ARP 2500 modular synthesizer, Radigue “developed soundscapes… an interweaving of electronic drones, subsequently assimilated to what would later be called drone music.” But she has rejected the term as too static, stressing the variations and constant change in her music:

In Radigue’s work, sounds interact with each other like the cells of an organism, progressing in glissando in an extremely slow and subtle way. “I had found my own vocabulary. For me, maintaining the sound did not interest me as such; it was primarily a means to bring out the overtones, harmonics and subharmonics. This is what made it possible to develop this inner richness of sound.”

Radigue seems particularly self-assured, possessed of an intuitive sense of her work’s directions from the beginning. “I cannot start a piece if I don’t have an idea of what it would become, but what I would call the spirit,” she says in an interview with Electronic Beats.

“The spirit of what I wanted to do should be there… And I keep that spirit, that theme in mind, quite often several months before I start to do something. So, when I come to make the sounds it’s already there.”

But her career took many turns on a path through the compositional centers of mid-century avant-garde music. After studying traditional music theory as a child, she left her home in Nice at 19 and married the artist Arman. She was swept into an “exciting bohemian life” that would soon take her, in 1955, into the orbit of musique concrete pioneers Pierre Schaeffer and Pierre Henry.

While working as an intern for the composers (“If I claimed to be more, I don’t think they would have accepted me, because they were both the damndest machos!”), Radigue learned their methods and collaborated on their compositions. In 1967, she worked with Henry on L’Apocalypse de Jean, a piece designed to last for 24 hours. She ended her (unpaid) apprenticeship that year and began focusing on her own work, like Vice Versa (1970, excerpted further up) and Geerlriandre (1972, above) and Triptych (1978, below).

You can hear more of Radigue’s work at Ubuweb, including a more recent synthesizer piece recorded in 1992, as well as a 1980 interview for program The Morning Concert with Charles Amirkhanian. That same year, she became a convert to Tibetan Buddhism, and her work—like the Adnos series, below—was inspired by the religion’s history, her own meditation practice, and texts like the Bardo Thodol.

As the pulsing, droning, humming compositions she created throughout the late 20th century have become integral to the sound of the 21st, Radique has moved on, since 2001, to writing work for acoustic instruments. She made her last electronic piece, I’lle-Re-sonante, in 2000. The move came in part from requests she received from musicians, but it also represents a deliberate turn away from modern technology. “There’s always something missing with digital,” she says, even if it is somehow cleaner and clearer.”

Radigue has always favored the absorption of analogue sound, intent on taming its unpredictability as a meditator tames the darting, leaping, busy mind. “My music is always changing,” she says, “It comes from the first access I had to electronic sounds which was the wild sounds coming from feedback,” the noise of a microphone and a speaker getting too close to each other. “If you find the right place, which is very narrow, then you can move it very slowly and it changes but that requires a lot of patience.”

The word could define her entire approach, one radically opposed to instant gratification and quick fixes, focused singularly on outcomes while also fully present for the process.

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

The Deeply Meditative Electronic Music of Avant-Garde Composer Eliane Radigue is a post from: Open Culture. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus, or get our Daily Email. And don’t miss our big collections of Free Online Courses, Free Online Movies, Free eBooksFree Audio Books, Free Foreign Language Lessons, and MOOCs.

A Giant Mural of Robin Williams Goes Up in Chicago

If you find yourself near Logan Square, off of Milwaukee Avenue, in Chicago, take a moment to explore the new mural celebrating the life and art of Robin Williams. According to TimeOut Chicago, “The expansive mural is the work of New York street artist Jerkface and New Zealand artist Owen Dippie…  Jerkface is known for his subversive depictions of animated pop-culture characters, while Dippie specializes in hyper-detailed portraits.” This Chicago mural comes right on the heels of another mural painted on Market Street in San Francisco. It’s by Argentine artist Andres Iglesias, aka Cobre. Catch a glimpse here.

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A Giant Mural of Robin Williams Goes Up in Chicago is a post from: Open Culture. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus, or get our Daily Email. And don’t miss our big collections of Free Online Courses, Free Online Movies, Free eBooksFree Audio Books, Free Foreign Language Lessons, and MOOCs.

The Outsiders: Lou Reed, Hunter S. Thompson, and Frank Zappa Reveal Themselves in Captivatingly Animated Interviews

Lou Reed thought the Beatles were garbage. Or at least he did when he started out in music, as he reveals in a 1987 interview. “We had an ambition and a goal: to elevate the rock song and take it where it hadn’t been before,” he says of his first band — perhaps you’ve heard of them — the Velvet Underground. “I just thought the other stuff couldn’t even come up to our ankles,” he adds. “They were just painfully stupid and pretentious. When they did try to get ‘arty,’ it was worse than stupid rock-and-roll.” Having graduated from college wanting to write “the great American novel,” Reed eventually decided to incorporate literature, and all the culture he knew, into music, to “write rock-and-roll that you could listen to as you got older and it wouldn’t lose anything. it would be timeless in the subject matter and the literacy of our lyrics.” The conversation appears first in “The Outsiders,” a compilation of three recordings made with three pillars of alternative American culture and imaginatively animated by Blank on Blank.

The second, which we’ve previously featured here on Open Culture, finds Studs Terkel sitting down with Hunter S. Thompson in 1967, talking about his first book Hell’s Angels: The Strange and Terrible Saga of the Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs. “The Angels came out of World War Two,” Thompson explains, “this whole kind of alienated, violent, subculture of people wandering around looking for either an opportunity, or if not an opportunity, then vengeance for not getting an opportunity.”

But if people insist on thinking of the Angels and their kind as the only violent troublemakers in existence, “then it’s just putting off the recognition that the same venom that the Angels are spewing around in public, a lot of people are just keeping bottled up in private.” In exploring the culture of the Angels, Thompson found that the venom filled him no less than it does everyone else: “I was seeing a very ugly side of myself a lot of times. I’m much more conscious of the kind of anger that lurks everywhere.”

The third, a 1971 interview with Frank Zappa, takes on the subject of fads. Zappa considered everything a fad, including the supposed political awakening of youth in the 60s: “It’s as superficial as their musical consciousness. It’s just another aspect of being involved in the actions of their peer group. One guy in the group says, ‘Hey, politics,’ and they go, ‘Yeah, politics.’ Or they go, ‘Grand Funk Railroad,’ and they go, ‘Yeah, Grand Funk Railroad. It’s the same thing.'” In America Zappa saw “a lot of changes, but I think that they’re all temporary things, and any change for the good is always subject to cancellation upon the arrival of the next fad.” That’s what happens, he explains, in a country that “doesn’t have any real culture. It doesn’t have any real art. It doesn’t have any real anything. It’s just got fads and a gross national product and a lot of inflation.” Does that, asks interviewer Howard Smith, make Zappa himself a fad as well? “I’m an American, I was born here,” Zappa replies. “I automatically got entered in a membership in the club.”

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

The Outsiders: Lou Reed, Hunter S. Thompson, and Frank Zappa Reveal Themselves in Captivatingly Animated Interviews is a post from: Open Culture. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus, or get our Daily Email. And don’t miss our big collections of Free Online Courses, Free Online Movies, Free eBooksFree Audio Books, Free Foreign Language Lessons, and MOOCs.

Punking Out, a Short 1978 Documentary Records the Beginning of the Punk Scene at CBGB’s: Watch The Ramones, The Dead Boys & Richard Hell & the Voidoids

I hate to be one of those people who goes on about how punk was an all-American phenomenon before it crossed the pond. But hell, I’ve no less an authority on the counterculture than William S. Burroughs on my side, or on the side of Legs McNeil, at least, the music journalist who just happened to give punk its name by co-founding Punk magazine in 1975. Of McNeil’s seminal oral history Please Kill Me, Burroughs remarks, “This book tells it like was.” More accurately, it lets the music’s frontiersmen and women tell it, starting with Lou Reed and the Velvets and other mainstays in Andy Warhol’s Factory scene.

McNeil’s book surveys a number of major American scenesters, most of them from New York, with the exception of The Stooges from Detroit, and one exceptional band from, of all places, Cleveland, Ohio. The Dead Boys rarely get their due, but they were as influential as the Ramones in the downtown New York scene. Along with Iggy Pop, Dead Boys’ lead singer Stiv Bators indulged in the kind of thrilling onstage depravity mainstream audiences came to think of as the special provenance of the Sex Pistols. In the mid-seventies, these bands, along with Patti Smith, the Ramones, the New York Dolls, and Richard Hell and the Voidoids, etc. invented all the moves punk came to be known for.

An excellent companion to McNeil’s print documentary, the short, 1978 film Punking Out, above, surveys three key downtown New York bands—the Ramones, the Dead Boys, who moved to the city in ‘76, and Richard Hell & the Voidoids. (Hell gave McNeil’s book its title, designing a t-shirt with a bullseye painted on it and the words “please kill me” scrawled above. He admitted he was “too much of a coward” to wear it.) All three bands played central roles in the CBGB’s scene, and Hell—who also played in Neon Boys, Television, and the Heartbreakers—gets credit for more or less inventing punk fashion—from spiked hair to DIY clothing designs held together with safety pins.

Directed by Maggi Carson and Juliusz Kossakowski, the film serves as its own oral history of sorts, featuring interviews with fans and the bands and CBGB’s owner Hilly Kristal (who says, “the more crowded and the louder it is, I think, the less violence.”) Watch it for the history, but also for the classic performances, captured from every angle in black and white, with surprisingly decent sound. It’s educational, for sure. Punking Out belongs on every punk syllabus right next to Please Kill Me.

via BoingBoing

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

 

<i>Punking Out</i>, a Short 1978 Documentary Records the Beginning of the Punk Scene at CBGB’s: Watch The Ramones, The Dead Boys & Richard Hell & the Voidoids is a post from: Open Culture. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus, or get our Daily Email. And don’t miss our big collections of Free Online Courses, Free Online Movies, Free eBooksFree Audio Books, Free Foreign Language Lessons, and MOOCs.

How Pink Floyd’s “Comfortably Numb” Was Born From an Argument Between Roger Waters & David Gilmour

Retrospectives of Pink Floyd tend to devolve into rehashing fights between Roger Waters and David Gilmour, but there’s good reason for that. Some of the band’s best work came out of this personal and creative tension, especially their most beloved song, “Comfortably Numb,” which, as we know it, emerged as a compromise between two different visions.

Unlike, say, Lennon and McCartney, who made some excellent music without each other, Gilmour and Waters never shined as brightly as when they contributed to each other’s work. Part of the bittersweetness of “Comfortably Numb,” then, is that it represents, as Gilmour himself admitted, “the last embers of mine and Roger’s ability to work collaboratively together.”

The song began life as a skeletal demo leftover from songwriting sessions for Gilmour’s first, 1978 solo album, but it only came together, with lyrics by Waters, during sessions for the following year’s epic The Wall.

When it came time to work that album’s songs—essentially a Roger Waters’ solo concept presented to the band—Gilmour wisely took the rudimentary progression off the shelf and offered it to his bandmate. It consisted then, as you can hear above, of nothing more than the chord progression in the chorus and a vocal melody conveyed by “doo doo doos.” In the interview clip below, Gilmour talks about the demo’s “genesis” on a “high strung guitar.”

Despite the delicate acoustic strumming of the demo, Gilmour wanted the Floyd version of the song to have a harder edge. Waters, on the other hand, wanted a big, theatrical sound. As Waters remembers it in an interview with Absolute Radio at the top, the disagreement boiled down to a rhythm track, and the negotiation involved taking pieces of the verse and chorus from two different versions and piecing them together.

Writer Mark Blake, citing co-producer Bob Ezrin, describes the argument in much more detail, as between a “stripped-down and harder” take and what Ezrin calls “the grander Technicolor, orchestral version” Waters liked. “That turned into a real arm-wrestle,” Ezrin recalled. “But at least this time there were only two sides to the argument. Dave on one side; Roger and I on the other.” After much wrangling, “the deal was struck,” Blake explains: “The body of the song would comprise the orchestral arrangement; the outro, including that final, incendiary guitar solo, would be taken from the Gilmour-favoured, harder version.”

As the song was integrated into Waters’ conceptual scheme (which Gilmour later admitted he found “a bit whingeing”), early versions like “The Doctor,” above, show the grittier sound Gilmour wanted. This take also showcases some lyrical howlers (“I am a physician / who can handle your condition / like a magician”) that, thankfully, didn’t make the final cut. The Final Cut also happens to be the title of The Wall’s follow-up, another Waters’ solo concept and the effective end of his collaboration with Gilmour for good.

Learning the history of “Comfortably Numb” makes us appreciate all of the maneuvering that went into turning the song into the masterpiece it became. In listening to it again (below, in a video with the wrong album cover), I’m amazed at how splitting the difference between two competing creative directions created a piece of music that could not be improved upon in any way. If you can think of such a thing happening before or since, in any art form, I’d love to hear about it.

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

How Pink Floyd’s “Comfortably Numb” Was Born From an Argument Between Roger Waters & David Gilmour is a post from: Open Culture. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus, or get our Daily Email. And don’t miss our big collections of Free Online Courses, Free Online Movies, Free eBooksFree Audio Books, Free Foreign Language Lessons, and MOOCs.

The Joy of Experiencing Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody for the Very First Time: Watch Three Reaction Videos

Remember when you first encountered Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody”?

I suspect many of us don’t. It’s not the Kennedy assassination. Nor does it take long for Freddy Mercury’s soaring vocals and monumental lyrics to leach into the blood stream, creating the impression that we were born knowing every note, every word, every staggering transition…

(Note to those unfamiliar with this impossible to categorize 1975 masterpiece: Go give it a listen RIGHT NOW, while the rest of us wait for you here. Here’s the official video. But first, set up whatever equipment you need to film your reaction in real time, as Pennsylvania based YouTuber AFRO REACT, does above.)

He’ll definitely remember where he was when he first heard this wonderful, seminal song, as will over 1000 viewers, most of whom gave him an encouraging thumbs up.

So what if he mispronounces both “bohemian” and “rhapsody”?  That he’s unclear whether Queen is the name of the singer or the band? He can cringe later…or not. Such documented boo boos may be a generational hazard, the way crimped and moussed 80s hair was for mine.

(I was surprised, and grateful, that neither he, nor any of the video reaction masters featured today, sniped at the ridiculous coiffures of the artists they were watching.)

Perhaps AFRO REACT’s appreciation will lead him to investigate those unfamiliar words and more: Scaramouche, Bismillah, fandango (No, not the popular movie time site…)

I appreciated how he consulted his mom prior to listening, to see if she thought he’d enjoy the full song as much as he liked the snippet he’d heard in a movie trailer.

My son never asks my opinion like that.

Hold up a sec there, AFRO REACT. Why not leave Mom out of it and just give it a spin (as we used to say)?

I suspect what he was really eager to find out was whether she thought this track would be worthy of a reaction video.

The answer, resoundingly, is yes.

I confess that his habit of pausing the video to interject his own thoughts was driving me out of my gourd. My son does the same thing.

I have since learned this is more than just a symptom of being born into a world where pretty much everything can be paused and restarted at will, at least as far as practitioners of the reaction video arts are concerned.

Taking frequent breaks like that is a solid way to get around copyright claim when including the official videos alongside the reaction. (Other techniques include lowering the volume while offering one’s response or fast forwarding 5 seconds a couple of times per minute.)

I suspect many older fans will feel a lump at the 4:15 mark, as the appreciative first-timer muses, “This man has a beautiful voice. Like, what happened to him?”

Ask your mother, kid.

The real treat comes at 6:15. Scaramouche, scaramouche, whatever our young listener was expecting, it surely wasn’t that!

Thusly another Queen fan is forged. Just a few days ago, he shared his virgin response to “Under Pressure (Live at Wembley)

Tuscaloosa-based musician Joey Da Prince takes a more understated approach to reaction videos. Watching him bob from side to side, brow furrowed, appreciative involuntary smiles blooming now and again, reminds me of coming home, stripping the cellophane from a just-purchased album (or CD) and giving it a good hard listen, eyeballs glued to the liner notes.

He only hits pause once, shocked by the opening line of the famous first verse:

Mama just killed a man…

Oh, wait a minute. In a just posted 25-minute lyric breakdown, Joey reveals that he misheard that line, and was, understandably, taken aback by the idea of the singer’s mother murdering someone.

(Mercury’s technique was impeccable, so let’s take this as proof that commas are easier to see than hear…)

Like AFRO REACT, Joey quickly queued up the live version of “Under Pressure”…and “Somebody to Love,” “Fat Bottomed Girls,” “We Will Rock You,” the list goes on…

He’s obsessed to such a degree that he’s even filmed his reaction to pop culture essayist Polyphonic’s The Secrets Behind Freddie Mercury’s Legendary Voice, below. This is what lifelong learners do.

It’s worth noting that Joey Da Prince tried “Bohemian Rhapsody” on a commenter’s suggestion.

At the rate he’s going, he’s going to burn through Queen’s sizable catalogue pretty quickly, so toss him some suggestions, people!

I’m gonna go out on a limb and nominate Kate Bush’s “Wuthering Heights.”

Gamer Quamax, aka Qua, did not come to “Bohemian Rhapsody” as a total Queen newbie. By his own admission, he was somewhat familiar with “We Will Rock You,” “We Are the Champions,” “Another One Bites the Dust,” and “Under Pressure” from their appearances in movies and “other pop culture” (which presumably does not cover someone else’s reaction videos.)

As he listens in an intent forward-facing hunch, he seems the most keyed-in to the humor that is a definite part of this song’s listening experience (and possibly performance). He laughs merrily at the phrase “Mama Mia, Mama Mia” and avails himself of some truly delightful after effects in the editing process. (Those in a rush may fast forward to 4:32.)

Final pronouncement? It’s “dope and funny” and he really liked the transitions from one musical style to another.

Welcome to the Queen Army, Quamax! You should try listening to “Under…” oh, you already did.

Readers, if these young men’s open-mindedness and open ears have inspired you to shoot a reaction video of your own, you’ll find a good primer here.

What haven’t you heard?

And what do you wish you could hear again for the very first time?

via Metafilter

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Join her in NYC on Monday, October 15 for another monthly installment of her book-based variety show, Necromancers of the Public Domain. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

The Joy of Experiencing Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody for the Very First Time: Watch Three Reaction Videos is a post from: Open Culture. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus, or get our Daily Email. And don’t miss our big collections of Free Online Courses, Free Online Movies, Free eBooksFree Audio Books, Free Foreign Language Lessons, and MOOCs.