Monday, August 03, 2009

AVANT HOUSEWIVES & THE HISTORY OF WHITE TURNTABLISM

Two reissues in Amoeba's "Unusual/ Experimental" section recently caught my eye, tho the original recordings were so obscure that these are virtually new releases.

Ursula Bogner was "a pharmacist, wife and mother, and she was obsessed with electronic music -- an obsession that drove her to build her own studio for extensive recording and experimentation." This started in the '60s, making her yet another female electronic music explorer (see also: Delia Derbyshire, Bebe Barron, Pauline Oliveros, etc.) Her music is not as pop as the Moog stuff going on at the time, but neither is it as abstract as the atonalities then dominating academia.

I got the album out of curiosity (a German female Bruce Haack?!) but ended up really liking it on it's own terms. Some is proto-industrial (I await the inevitable remixes), some BBC Radiophonic Workshop-esque sci-fi soundscapes, and some almost pop, like this delightful opener:

Ursula Bogner: Begleitung für Tuba

Her eccentricities went beyond music, e.g.: "...a strong fascination for mysticism, esotericism, and Wilhelm Reich's "orgonomy," the psychoanalyst's bizarre late work on his discovery of "orgonenergy" or life-force."

Dennis Duck is best known for his alt-rock drumming duties. In fact, he played on the Dream Syndicate's classic "Days of Wine and Roses" album, one of my favorite '80s rockers. But history may remember him as the first recorded turntablist. A short-run cassette called "Dennis Duck Goes Disco" featuring Duck playing nothing more then records was first released courtesy of the legendary Los Angeles Free Music Society , and is finally available on cd.

A whole album of nothing but skipping records! From 1977, no less. How great is that? Though few heard it at the time, he did beat Grandmaster Flash, Christian Marclay, etc. to the punch, as those New Yorkers didn't make recordings 'til almost the '80s (tho supposedly DJ Kool Herc was cuttin' wax as far back as '73.)

There's no fancy wicka-wicka scratching that we're now used to hearing, so it's fascinating to encounter turntablism from the perspective of almost no history. True, avant-gardists like Cage had used turntables before, but usually using their own prepared recordings. Duck, however, went to the thrift-stores and used record shops and bought kiddie records, religious sermons, musical kitch, etc., prefiguring everything from hip-hop, to Negativland-like sound collages, to mashups. Again, this isn't just of historical interest - it's a lot of loopy fun.

A jazz records skips to a crazy swingin' beat:

Dennis Duck: One O'Clock Jump

.

4 comments:

Cuttlefish said...

I'm not convinced Ursula Bogner is a real person. I posted this a few months back. . .

http://www.discogs.com/groups/topic/174769

Mr Fab said...

Oooh, conspiracy theories! Well, if it's a hoax, it's a damn good one. Skeptical bastard that I am, I usually spot hoaxes right away. I've listened to lots of old-school electronica, and this album sounds properly dated. No digital hi-tech sounds, and as, I wrote, has that BBC feel to it. In other word, it really sounds like it was recorded in the '60s.

And I genuinely like the tunes. So, we'll see.

Anonymous said...

Awesome.
What about Thuunderboy!? -- Tony Conrad's 2-year old son that was exploring the minimalist possibilities of Donnie Osmond's "Puppy Love" and a spool.
e.g.: http://www.boomkat.com/item.cfm?id=8123

I'm also reminded of James Tenney's "Collage #1 (Blue Suede)" from 1961, which uses "Blue Suede Shoes", but processes it via tape manipulations as opposed to turntable operations.

-- endwar

ropedrum said...

I can't place "Begleitung fur Tuba", but I know I have heard it in a recent TV commercial...like for breath mints.