Tuesday, February 26, 2008


Among the "sounds of space" collected by University of Iowa instruments: the eerie sounds and bizarre features of Saturn's radio emissions captured by the Cassini spacecraft. Whooshing winds and theremin-ish wails - I love it because it sounds exactly like what I think outer space should sound like.

Saturn radio emissions

Thinking of sampling this stuff? Legendary composer Terry Riley beat you to it: the ubiquitous Kronos Quartet sometimes performs his 2002 piece "Sun Rings" using some of these sounds. Couldn't find any recording info, therefore I unfortunately cannot direct you to a cd. So just play a Sun Ra album and these sounds at the same time.

Saturday, February 23, 2008


By request, I've re-upped the mp3 of bizarro '60s Polish soundtrack music


In other news: Thanks to WFMU for making us one of their favorite music blogs, and hello new readers!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008


Last week, I attended a concert on the campus of USC that featured new music written for that century-old oddity, the player piano. Before recordings were popular, folks bought a player piano, which was as real and playable as any piano, put it in the living room, inserted a pre-punched roll of paper and, voila! The latest rag, boogie-woogie, or Tin Pan Alley hit was automatically performed, keys pounding away like an invisible man was playing.

So what's a player piano concert like? Someone puts in a piano roll, and you watc
h the piano play itself. The organizer, Veronika Krausas, apparently thought that this would be too uninteresting, so she asked her acrobat friends from Circe de Soleil to change the rolls, throwing in some acrobatics along the way. And a (seemingly under-rehearsed) bluegrass band played occasionally as well. A couple artsy black-and-white silent short films played during some of the music. I don't think Ms. Krausas was trying to be weird, but the surreal combination of these elements certainly added up to a real head-scratcher of an evening.

She had nothing to worry about. It was actually quite fascinating to watch the piano play itself - some songs created geometric patterns on the keyboard, and compositions that simply could not be played by humans could be dazzling both visually and musically. Don't have any video unfortunately, but I bought the CD "The Player Piano Project" that featured all the works performed that night, such as this dizzying demolition of John William's "Raiders of the Lost Ark" theme:

Ceiri Torjussen "Raiders March"

The big name featured was James Tenney, who died in 2006, but not before creating this incredible piece. It starts slowly and deliberately, then builds to an increasingly astonishing chaotic crescendo. Whew!

James Tenney: "Spectral CANON For CONLON Nancarrow"

Yes, electronics can also be used to make impossible-to-perform music, but hearing (and seeing) it coming from an acoustic, and usually predictable, instrument like the piano is different, like seeing a doll possessed by demons come to life and start talking to you.

So who was this Conlon Nancarrow? Why, only the granddaddy of creative player piano abuse. Throughout his long 20th century career he, more then anyone else, revealed the artistic possibilities of an instrument most others had long since relegated to the antique store.

Conlon Nancarrow - "Study For Player Piano # 21" - Absolute insanity; makes my head swim in the best possible way.

From the album "
Player Piano 3: Conlon Nancarrow Vol. 2 - Studies 13-32"

Friday, February 15, 2008

"Risque, Illicit and Adult"

"Risque, Illicit and Adult" is RIAA's 2007 collection - single tracks, compilation cuts, and miscellany, including such nuttiness as The Violent Femmes "Blister In The Sun" mixed with "Smoke on the Water." Not the Deep Purple original, but Senor Coconut's kooky electro-Latin version.

RIAA: "Risque, Illicit and Adult"

1. I Wanna Be Your Girlfriend
2. Smoke on the Sun
3. Smells like your Muddah
4. Sexy Pipeline
5. sshhaakkee yyoouurruummpp
6. Everytime You Touch Titties

7. Pacifica Fish Dance
8. Revelation Fever
9. Down at Mississippi
10. The Harder They Party
11. Candy Enema Shok
12. (Models Gotta) Fight For Their Right (To Mambo)
13. Coming To Get Bloodstains
14. Wake Me Up When Sept 11 Ends
15. Mind Control CIA
16. Guess I'm Falling Into Bubbles
17. Walking on the Moog
18. Gristle Calypso
19. Lord Only Knows
(with People Like Us)

TRACK SOURCES: 1. Avril Lavigne vs The Rubinoos 2. Senor Coconut vs Violent Femmes 3. Alan Sherman vs Nirvana 4. Lords of Acid vs The Chantays 5. Beastie Boys vs Reuben Wilson 6. Gravy Train!!! vs Moby vs Rusty Warren 7. Chemical Brothers vs Los Straitjackets 8. Peggy Lee vs Son House 9. Howlin Wolf vs. Violator & Doughbelly Stray 10. Manu Dibango vs Rocker's Revenge 11. Village People vs Wayne Newton (title is an anagram of "Danke Shoen" and "YMCA." ) 12. Beastie Boys vs Tito Puente vs Kraftwerk 13. Agent Orange vs The Who Boys 14. Rudolph Giuliani vs Green Day vs Nader (winner of the Remix Rudy contest!) 15. Stone Roses, Curtis Mayfield, The Last Poets vs tv documentary "Mind Control: America's Secret War" 16. Velvet Underground vs U.S. Army Airborne 17. The Police vs Fred Weinberg 18. Throbbing Gristle vs Kon Tiki steel drum band 19. George Harrison vs Beach Boys vs My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult (with People Like Us)
Additional beats and sounds: RIAA
Artwork by Shag

Sunday, February 10, 2008


Who's in the Music For Maniacs parking lot?

The Car Music Project: Believe it or not, sounds produced are made using automotive parts. Guitars, bass, even what sounds like a sax is done by blowing thru tubes: "Noodles Test Mix 1"

Wendy Chambers: Back in the early '80s, this New Yorker invented the Car Horn organ, which is exactly what you think it is. She plays popular favorites like Christmas standards, "New York, New York" and "The Star Spangled Banner."
The La Drivers Union Por Por Group - From Ghana, Africa comes this album of music made by taxi drivers using parts from their vehicles - not the modern electric horns Ms. Chambers uses, tho. They still use honk-horns. Car Horns Unplugged? "Por Por Horn to Horn Fireworks." Throw in some singing, chanting, and auto-part percussion along with the horns, and you got


I'm sure most of you know who Negativland is, but a survey of car music isn't complete without a mention of their 2002 album "Deathsentences of the Polished & Structurally Weak," which not only made electronically-processed music from wrecked cars found in junk yards, but also included a booklet of objects found in the actual cars. Unnerving.

"Only You Can Rock Me."

Happy motoring!

Monday, February 04, 2008

Request: The Politics of Dancing

Okay, you masochists, you asked for it, you got it: By request, I'm re-upping the painful patriotic polyphony of

John Ashcroft, and

Orrin Hatch

It is election season here in the USA after all. But the greatest release by an Am
erican politico would have to be Arnold Schwarzenegger's workout album, where he shouts out commands and encouragement over such songs as

"It's Raining Men" - Uh, who's the girly-man, Ahnold?

Thanks, WFMU!

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Do The Funky Didgeridoo

I've always been fascinated by non-Western approaches to Western pop. I could write entire books on Nigerian funk, Cambodian rock, Eastern European rap, Antarctic death-metal, etc. I thought I'd heard it all, but this bizarre, wonderful recording of a native Australian performing a funky James Brown tribute is a new one to me.

The didgeridoo is a traditional Australian Aborigine wind instrument that's considered to be one of the oldest instruments in the world. It's groany sound is pretty weird to begin with, but it's usually only used in traditional musics, or by hippies. Tjupurru, however, is clearly no traditionalist - hippie/folkies might be distressed by his use of a "Didjeribone," which slides "through different notes and tones - a cross between a didj and a trombone."

Furthermore, he plays through a "sensor implanted inside his mouth. With the addition of sampling and electronic effects, Tjupurru has enabled himself to perform as a one man band creating live samples and looping them."

Well, Tjupurru is an Aborigine himself, so he has as much of a right to mess with a sacred traditional instrument as anyone, I suppose.

Tjupurru: "Unkol James Brown" - Play this for funky hip-hoppers, and watch big question marks appear over their heads.