The ongoing sound project “Relay” is neither a game of telephone nor a round of Exquisite Corpse, but it shares with both those formats a mode that emphasizes sequential sharing between individuals that leads to a kind of serial collaboration.
“Relay” begins with an MP3 file, five and a half minutes in length, created by the act Chequerboard. Chequerboard, aka the Irish musician John Lambert (chequerboard.com), then passed the file to a subsequent musician, who in theory and practice took ideas and sounds from the previous work and made a new work out of them. That subsequent piece is then sent on to yet another musician, and so on. All the entries in “Relay” benefit from detailed explanatory notes written by the individual who created the music. The tracks thus far (there are six) are streaming in sequence here, and additional info as well as direct links to the MP3s appear below:
Lambert’s gambit, his piece that got the process rolling, is an imagined tour of a gallery space. His footsteps mark the path, while individual sounds — sampled separately from around the gallery — are dropped in, and slowly a musical passage enters, making the work less of a documentary, and more of a melodic musique-concrete (MP3).
Then off it went to Jimmy Behan (jimmybehan.com), who, struck by Lambert’s emphasis on the sounds of place, “tried to imagine what the house, and various objects in it … might sound like if it could hear itself as I slept,” a piece in which all manner of tiny noises — rough scratching, sonar bleeps, rattling items — mix into an intimate suite (MP3).
Behan’s entry went to Loscil (aka Scott Morgan, loscil.com), who focused less on Lambert’s interest in space and more on Behan’s introduction of the idea of sleep; he “sampled small portions of Jimmy’s piece and reconstructed them into very simple layered patterns that loop and oscillate,” describing them as “the sounds of the process of sleep itself. They are the sounds of a sort of sleep machine, an audio bridge between the conscious and unconscious,” all droning and attenuated (MP3).
Loscil’s went to Hulk (aka Thomas Haugh, myspace.com/hulkmusic), who focused less on sleep as a construct and more on the imagined experiences that occur within sleep, notably what he calls “dream memories,” or “memories of things which never happened or never could have happened, it’s strange how our minds can hold onto these things and how real they actually feel sometimes regardless of their surreality.” Hulk/Haugh took some of Loscil’s drones and worked with them — he also added some rough ukulele (MP3), which brings to mind some of the musicality of Lambert’s opening entry.
Then came Polly Fibre (aka Christine Ellison, pollyfibre.com), whose entry was the first of 2009 (the others appeared throughout 2008). Fibre/Ellison explains in her note that she’s especially interested in making the virtual into the physical (or “haptic”), so in one of the more overtly conceptual acts thus far in “Relay,” she took a printout of Hulk’s samples (rendered as sound waves on paper), and then cut them, interspersing cut and sample in a rhythmic sequence (MP3).
Most recently, just this month, the great sound-tinkerer Pierre Bastien (pierrebastien.com) latched onto Fibre’s use of scissors. This makes perfect since Bastien is well known for turning household objects into musical instruments, and a decade ago had himself created a “scissors player,” pictured here:
Bastien hadn’t used the “scissor player” since 1998 or so, but pulled it out of retirement for “Relay” and made it the rhythmic and textural basis for his track, “Play Scissors Play” (MP3), which also included prepared trumpet, vocal samples (from a “transformed” record player), and other elements.
The next artist in Lambert’s “Relay” is yet to be revealed, but follow at modelart.ie/relay. (There is no RSS feed for “Relay” specifically, but there is one [RSS] for the sponsoring institution, the Model Arts and Niland Gallery in Sligo, Ireland.)