Distant Early Warning – Side B

This is a 2012 re-edit (spring clean) of a twenty-eight minute stereo piece that was completed in 2007/2008. It was presented at the 2013 From Tape to TYPEDEF conference in January. “DEW is an energy landscape comprised of repetition, pulsation, signals, data tones, feedback, drones, immersive noise fields, and textural backdrops. In brief, the ideas that influenced the work relate to an underlying relationship that exists between the phonograph, musique concrète, American minimalism, and certain styles of Germanic post-techno. The piece could be interpreted as a form of acousmatic minimalism, insofar as the use of elaborate gesture-laden pseudo-instrumental articulations, found in many contemporary acousmatic concert works, is limited. Instead, the compositional use of blends, fades, cuts, removals, segues and breakdowns suggest the manipulation of vinyl in a DJ mix (albeit with a touch of bruitisme). Pierre Schaeffer’s first experiments with locked grooves (sillon fermé), using shellac records, offers another point of reference. We know Schaeffer worked initially (before tape) with this rather low-fi medium, one that was intrinsically noisy. Yet, it would ultimately form the basis of one of the most significant developments in 20th century music: musique concrète. In the 1960s, three now famous members of the so-called “New York Hypnotic School” presented drones, tape-loops, and repetition in the context of a minimalistic aesthetic. Thirty years later, the locked groove would re-emerge when techno DJs employed it in their pursuit of relentlessly repetitive dance music. Additional points of reference include the peculiar acousmatic proposition presented by a vinyl recording of Cage’s 4′ 33” (a reduced listening experience that might perhaps draw one’s attention to surface noise, rather than the actual recording).

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