Closing the month’s Disquiet Downstream entries on a particularly high note: Raz Mesinai‘s technologically mediated chamber music. Titled “String Quartet for Four Turntables,” it’s a shifting, elegiac piece that plays with the textures and tenets of classical music. The instrumentation is the standard: two violins, one viola, one cello. But if the individual parts appear to have a subtle yet clearly discernible give, that’s because the performers are not playing in tandem, at least not literally.
Mesinai composed the quartet and recorded it, but he produced a separate 12″ LP for each of the four parts, and then manipulated them as a group on a set of turntables (MP3).
http://www.dqxt.org/dubwar/podcast/dubwar_podcast_06_razmesinai.mp3|titles=”String Quartet for Four Turntables”|artists=Raz Mesinai]
According to his June 24 post at razmesinai.blogspot.com, the piece had its debut at Lincoln Center in Manhattan in 2000 with a performances by DJ Olive and DJ Toshio Kajiwara. The version heard here, though, was recorded by Mesinai for the dqxt.org/dubwar podcast series. There is a fifth sonic element: an intense layer of distressed vinyl, the result of conscious lack of care that Mesinai took with the LPs. Though all vinyl can eventually take on this crusty patina, it seems especially fitting to the antique aura of chamber music.
The work serves as an intersection of many of Mesinai’s interests. Its appearance on Dub War cements its provenance with some of his earliest music, the electronic dub he did under the name Badawi, which occasionally he would shoot through with dramatic string arrangements. And in its use of live studio performances as raw material, “String Quartet for Four Turntables” resembles the manner in which he recorded the album Before the Law (for John Zorn’s Tzadik label), on which various improvising out-jazz musicians, including violinist Mark Feldman, committed short, sharp elements to tape, which Mesinai later put together into his own, arguably “unplayable” constructions.
I’d love to hear an album in which a half dozen different DJs take their turn with the material.
The masterminds behind the remix contest focused on famed Afrobeat drummer Tony Allen (best known as the backbeat of legend Fela’s band) want us to download the 15 constituent parts of the single “Secret Agent,” the title track off his new album on World Circuit label. And no doubt the promise inherent in those tracks will draw in participants. But there’s much pleasure to be had in the raw materials — how often, when you think about it, do we get nearly six straight minutes of Tony Allen drumming, which is freely available here, a trenchant rhythm that’s liked the most stripped-down Meters metric you’ve ever heard? Likewise, amid the emotive backing (and foreground) vocals and syrupy-slick guitars, there’s a fine synthesizer line available all on its delectable lonesome. And for those truly looking to Zen out, there’s even five-plus minutes of a low-volume shaker, rattling along as steady as can be.
The contest is hosted at soundcloud.com, which provides the following handy interface for accessing the goods:
Photo shot during performance of late spatial composer Henry Brant‘s “Orbits” at the Guggenheim in Manhattan a week ago today.
Photo by Robert Stolarik. It originally appeared in June 22 issue of the New York Times, accompanying an article by Times critic Anthony Tommasini (nytimes.com). The caption reads: “Neely Bruce, at bottom of photo, leading 89 trombones, a soprano and an organ in the East Coast premiere of Henry Brant’s ‘Orbits’ in the rotunda of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Guggenheim Museum on Sunday night, part of both the museum’s Works & Process series and the citywide festival Make Music New York.”
How musician Christof Migone describes his conceptually driven, often microsonic music:
“A hardcore of the infinitesimal”
From an anecdote in a report by Carl Wilson on the belated reception of Mignone’s 2004 album Escape Songs, a collaboration with Veda Hille, in the Globe and Mail (theglobeandmail.com). More on Migone at christofmigone.com, and on Hille at vedahille.com.