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Three Chef MP3s

THREE CHEFS MP3S: The Kracfive collective has posted the results of another of its Iron Chef of Music events, the ninth overall. Kracfive’s series, which began in June, is based on the Iron Chef TV show, in which star chefs are given a set amount of time during which to produce meals in front of a live studio audience. In each Iron Chef episode, there’s a surprise ingredient, a mystery meat (or vegetable, etc.). The resulting entrees and appetizers are judged by a panel of guests.

Kracfive’s conceit is cheeky, to be sure, but it’s yielded some great listening. For Kracfive’s musical version of Iron Chef, unedited sound samples are provided to participating electronica whizzes, who have two hours in which to convert the raw material into a composition. In the past, source recordings have included a Charles Mingus jazz tune and a closely miked chess match. The seventh Iron Chef of Music, based on ice rattling and dice being thrown, was the subject of Disquiet’s Downstream on October 25 (here).

For the ninth Iron Chef of Music, which took place on October 28, three acts were provided with a 36-second recording of two people passing time in a kitchen. Kracfive posts the raw sample as well as the resulting compositions, so the listener can hear not only the contestants’ works, but the unadulterated recording from which they grew. (See the Kracfive “battle” archive, here.) On this occasion, the source material (file here) begins with a piano piece trailing off, after which someone starts whistling; conversation and kitchen noise ensue. Between the source’s opening piano segment and the sounds of kitchen work, it’s hard not to think of Erik Satie’s theoretical “furniture music,” music composed to mingle with the sounds of a dinner party.

Three acts contributed their takes on this bit of household ambience. Colongib apparently loved that bit of whistling, which in its version, “Popsy Police” (file here), is extended and repeated, like something out of an Ennio Morricone spaghetti western film score. In contrast, the original was more Andy Griffith whimsical than Clint Eastwood epic. Colongib also slurs the sound of plates in the sink, with a turntablist’s ear for stretched audio. (The actual source of a given sound is mostly guesswork. The event’s official name is: “Reimer and Stephen Prepare Cheese with Gherkins.”) Mr. Numan’s “Ik Hou Van Deken” (file here) turns the kitchen sounds into percussion, occasionally pitching them, and putting the voices through a filter that has an effect similar to helium.

Noah’s piece, “Servant Cabine” (file here), is the most traditionally melodic of the three. He uses the source recording for his own purposes, in contrast with Colongib and Numan, who use composition as a window on the original material, allowing the listener to hear the voices and other sounds in new ways, but keeping them easily recognizable. On “Servant Cabine,” the melody appears to be a richly processed version of the whistling, that offhand whisp of a moment transformed into a proper lead instrument, a thick pure, singular line.

All three tracks are among the most polished of the Iron Chef of Music series so far. The best way to listen to them is to do so in tandem with the source material. The pleasure is less in any given end result than in each composer’s wily acts of extrapolation.

By Marc Weidenbaum

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