• Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

"Musique Concrète Soundtracks To Experimental Short Films 1956-1978"

E-mail Print PDF
In the 21st century, audio preservation and restoration will become a hot topic. I believe it's going to be a struggle as copyright owners (both private and corporate) will be the main factors of letting musical works die. I fear history will only be recorded for the most popular icons of the most popular western music genres. Thankfully, there's a small number out there who aren't willing to accept that. These first three CDs in this series exemplify what I consider 'guerilla preservation'. The music that appears on these compilations has been mastered from both 16mm prints and first-generation videotapes, illegally, with a host of mysterious credits.
First of all, whoever's been doing them has been physically just dropping them off at the local Cambridge store, Twisted Village. Next, the music is credited to being mastered by Theaddeus Cahill at the New England Electronic Music Company in Holyoke, MA. Cahill actually invented what many consider to be the first electronic instrument, the Telharmonium (click here) and had worked on creating these huge beasts at the factory in Holyoke around the last turn of the century. It's an ominous reference to preservation of electronic music as no sounds from the Telharmonium have survived. (Sadly, the last existing Telharmonium was sold for scrap by his brother when nobody was willing to buy it.) Finally, special thanks go out to people like Alan Smithee (a non-existant man who film directors choose to go as when a film company decides to destroy their film beyond the director's intent).

The music on the first disc is pulled from five shorts, opening with the music from 1958's 'Glas' by Tom Dissevelt which is easily a blueprint for early Cabaret Voltaire music with tape manipulation, found sounds and hypnotic vocal loops. The music from 'Pixillation' is from 1971 and uses a healthy balance of rhythmic analogue synths, lead organ and various percussion. It's by Gershon Kingsley, composer of the theme to TV game show "The Joker's Wild"! The spacey drones on 'Free Music' by Perry Grainger accompanies dialogue about space exploration which could easily pop up on a Jack Dangers 'Sounds of the 20th Century' series while Pierre Boulez' 'Symphonic Mechanique' from 1956 is full of Stockhausen-esque audio manipulations, accented with piano, bass, and xylophone sounds. Volume One concludes with, "Dance Frame" with music by Joan LaBarbara, using nightmarish vocals and an equally creepy bed of noise.

The second and third volumes only feature two pieces each. With these tracks stretching to about 10 minutes on average, the music is arguably more thematic and compositional in nature than the shorter tracks on volume one. Pierre Henry's music to 'Les Amours de la Pleuvre' is remeniscent of church music with the occasional vocal loop while Wlodzimierz Kotonski's music for Jan Lenica's 'Labyrinthe' is a playful cartoon-esque pitch-twisting dementia of percussives, pianos and unrecognizables with calliope. Kotonski appears on volume three with twisted piece, this time a morse code and noises-enhanced gloomy bit from the 1957 animated short by Jan Lenica with Walerian Borowczyk, 'Dom'. The other piece on volume three is music from the 1964 film 'Jeux des Angels' with French dialogue, audio manipulations, xylophones, and various other noisemakers that would probably make any fan of Nurse With Wound's 'Sylvie and Babs' quiver. These collections are truly fascinating and eye-opening and I'm anxious to find more volumes. I hope the real Thaddeus Cahill (who died in 1934) is proud that his name and company are being name-checked so respectfully and whoever's putting these things out keep it going. Twisted Village's website is


Last Updated on Friday, 15 July 2005 10:20  


Donate towards our web hosting bill!
		at the iTunes store