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Jim Nollman’s Music for Cigarettes MP3

The score to Jim Nollman‘s “Cigarette Piece” is a classic example of instruction-music, a work in which the score is a set of rules, not of musical notes on ruled paper. The piece was performed live on KPFA radio in 1973, and a recording of that show was uploaded to the Other Minds catalog at archive.org earlier this month. The instructions are as follows:

The piece is scored for ten cigarette smokers and each night’s performance lasted as long as it takes each of them to finish one cigarette. In this performance one smoker whirls a noisemaker for the duration that smoke is in his lungs. In addition three other smokers each ring a bell for the length of time each one inhales smoke. Three others performers exhale against suspended wind chimes, while the final three sound a gong at each time they flick an ash.
The sound of breathing, of smoking, might be somewhere in the deep background, but the music as heard in the recording is all dispersed bells, chimes, and an enveloping gong against the semi-mechanical rotations of the noisemaker (MP3). The result could easily be taken for a meditative ritual — which, in some respects, is what smoking is in the first place.

By Marc Weidenbaum

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  • Marc Weidenbaum founded the website Disquiet.com in 1996 at the intersection of sound, art, and technology, and since 2012 has moderated the Disquiet Junto, an active online community of weekly music/sonic projects. He has written for Nature, Boing Boing, The Wire, Pitchfork, and NewMusicBox, among other periodicals. He is the author of the 33 1⁄3 book on Aphex Twin’s classic album Selected Ambient Works Volume II. Read more about his sonic consultancy, teaching, sound art, and work in film, comics, and other media

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