The latest Iron Chef of Music competition is among its best yet. That number 43 outshines many of its predecessors in sheer listenability is expected, since it’s built on a sample of Benny Goodman playing Bela Bartok (MP3). For each Iron Chef of Music competition, musicians are assigned a shared sample from which they build a unique composition in a set amount of time. In the past, this has involved a Strawberry Shortcake record, the theme to the movie Robocop, and a field recording made in China, among other sonic mystery meats. The very first Iron Chef of Music competition, which took place back on June 7, 2003, took as its source material a MIDI remake of the theme to the TV show MacGyver. MacGyver provided a smart debut for the series, since he’s the patron saint of homebrew gadgetry devised under pressure.
The latest Iron Chef of Music competition involves takes by 13 musicians on the reedy, archive-quality recording of Goodman playing “Contrasts,” an aptly named piece he’d commissioned from Bartok; “Contrasts” probably sound likes a proto-mashup itself, the Jazz Age classicist performing something by the folk-infused classical composer, but the truth is even stranger than any potential fiction: that’s Bartok playing the piano himself on the recording.
The best of this particular competition retain evident elements from the original, like Mike Shusta‘s deliberate investigation of some pizzicato sections (MP3), something MNSN does to more muted effect (MP3). Bringing to mind Buddy Holly’s use of strings in the recording studio, Spamtron turns the sample into fodder for something utterly poppy. Only Butternuts pushes it into industrial-techno overdrive (MP3), and though the sound is appealing, it’s out of place if you think of the 13 tracks as a collection.
Xmark tweaks a clarinet riff into the stratosphere, but keeps the source material recognizable (MP3). Octopus Inc‘s is less a remix than a rearrangement (MP3), and had one only heard Silversmith‘s take, which is my favorite, you’d think the original sample had been salvaged, half-warped, from the dustbin of the early 20th century. In fact, it’s readily available on CD (amazon.com). More info at ironchefofmusic.com, a subset of kracfive.com.