There are at least seven “laptop orchestras” around the world, according to the list up at Tom Whitewell’s excellent and obsessive music-tech website, musicthing.blogspot.com. Among them is the Tokyo Laptop Orchestra, which has an international membership and which frequently opts to work with percussionists and singers.
There are eight MP3s of the group’s performances between 2002 and 2006 currently available for free download from its website, laptoporchestra.net, most choice among them perhaps their very first, which is said to feature 20 participants and was recorded in Tokyo on August 18, 2002. Whereas many of their more recent gigs, as represented by those MP3s, take on the chaotic vibrancy of European free improvisation, the August 18 show was an airy affair, far more rarefied than the fact of its 20 contributors might suggest (MP3). Among the musicians are several artists on the Flyrec label, plus American-born musician Robert Duckworth and vocalist Tsujiko Noriko. (The picture above is from the group’s website.)
Though the Tokyo Laptop Orchestra’s last reported performance was almost a year ago, in late November 2006 (at least according to the orchestra’s website), they will be taking part in the February 2008 Japan! culture + hyperculture events at the Kenedy Center in Washington, DC (more info at kennedy-center.org).
The song “G-Mart” by Relcad is tagged on his website, relcad.com, with this enticing note: “It is likely you will hear that rain sample again.” The track indeed begins with a quiet field recording of rain — light rain, not torrential. And the track follows at a pace to match, even as it musters a steady beat, occasional bursts of pneumatic noise, and lo-fi effects that lend the piece a homespun vibe (MP3).
Relcad is the pseudonym of Seattle-based musician Alex Duff. Additional info at myspace.com/relcad.
Sound art is often presented as an installation — that is, as a site-specific event in which the resonances of the space are an inherent part of the work. Still, we can’t all make it to Santa Fe, Chicago and Albuquerque every time an artist such as Steve Peters presents something new. Though video records of such performances-cum-sculptures are becoming all the more popular, the most prevalent record of sound art is the audio.
A new CD, Three Rooms (on the Sirr label), collects recordings of sound art by Peters presented in the three mentioned cities above: “Delicate Abrasions” was taped in an old warehouse in Santa Fe, “Center of Gravity” is processed breaths recorded at the School of Art of Chicago, and “Mountains Hidden in Mountains” is built, according to Peters, from “a single strike of the meditation bell at a zendo in Albuquerque,” a “zendo” being a Buddhist meditation hall.
Two-minute excerpts of two of the pieces are available as free downloads from the Sirr website. “Gravity” is a whorl of airborne experience, never so fully removed from its origin that you don’t picture the human mouth (MP3). “Abrasions” is all microsonic activity, little drops and burrs, with enticing tonal intrusions (MP3).
More info at sirr-ecords.com and at steve-peters.blogspot.com.
News on Quiet, Minimal and Otherwise Atmospheric Music on the Big and Small Screens: (1) As of my first viewing, I can’t say if there’s enough of a proper score in No Country for Old Men to fill a 7″ single, but what there is is evocative, as blissfully mundane and forebodingly arid as the movie’s setting. It was composed by Carter Burwell, regular colleague of the film’s directors, Ethan Coen and Joel Coen, and includes guitarist David Torn among its musicians. … (2) It’s way early on The Road, the next film adaptation of a novel by Cormac McCarthy, author of No Country, but the movie is currently associated with director John Hillcoat, whose The Proposition was scored by Nick Cave (who also wrote it) and Warren Ellis (of Dirty Three), which is quite promising. … (3) Control, the bio-pic of Ian Curtis‘s brief life and briefer career with rock band Joy Division, features a score by New Order, which Joy Division became after Curtis’s 1980 suicide. Reportedly, Curtis watched director Werner Herzog‘s Stroszek (1977) that final night, which means some of the last music Curtis heard — in addition to Iggy Pop‘s The Idiot (also 1977), which he’s said also to have played that night — was by country guitarist Chet Atkins and blues harmonica player Sonny Terry, who contributed the score to Stroszek. … (4) Under-recognized ambient musician (and longtime sound designer) Kent Sparling is on The Princess of Nebraska by director Wayne Wang (whose Slam Dance had music by Mitchell Froom) and on Seventh Moon by Eduardo Sánchez (The Blair Witch Project, which was scored by Tony Cora, who’s also on Seventh Moon). … (5) David Holmes (Ocean’s Eleven, Out of Sight) is on director Aisling Walsh‘s The Daisy Chain. … (6) Clint Mansell (Requiem for a Dream) is on The Calling, from director Jan Dunn. … (7) The excellent, score-centric blog theplaylist.blogspot.com discusses Jonny (Radiohead) Greenwood‘s work on the new Paul Thomas Anderson film, There Will Be Blood, which had previously been associated with Jon Brion, who scored Anderson’s Magnolia and Punch-Drunk Love; the piece quotes a recent Entertainment Weekly profile of Greenwood and focuses on the composer Krzysztof Penderecki‘s influence. … (8) Is there another credit more bittersweet for the movie-music professional than “Additional Music By”? … (Much of the above film-composer associations via imdb.com.)
Sound designer and musician Tim Prebble went to Japan and, like many of us might in similar circumstances, he picked up a handy new gadget. Fortunate for us, he immediately put that gadget, a self-contained digital audio recorder, to use. Prebble’s film credits include The World’s Fastest Indian, Fracture and, most recently, 30 Days of Night, and the recordings he made during his travels show his interest in room tones. Included are several segments of the ambience of a temple in Kamamura (MP3, MP3, MP3), also from a temple in Kyoto (MP3, MP3, MP3), and water drips inside a cavern (MP3).
In the post on his website, substation.co.nz, Prebble reflects on the way recording sounds (much like taking a photograph) impacted his experience of the places he visited:
I am so happy to have all of these recordings, and no doubt some of them will make it into a film one day, but imagine the opposite ie no recorder, no mic….these would all be sound memorys, slowly fading as time passes with no ability to reference them – I know which i prefer… US$200 well spent! And its like the size of two cell phones… and it makes you listen, be quiet and listen… I stopped counting the number of times I suddenly realised I had stopped breathing & was starting to hear my heart pouding in my chest, why? Simpyl because of the sonic beauty of engaging with the environment in Japan
More details on Prebble’s audio-tourism, and additional recordings of train sounds and other settings, at his website, substation.co.nz
. Also included for each of these MP3s is a quadraphonic version, from which the MP3s were derived.