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Monthly Archives: October 2009

Harold Budd Piano Transcription (MP3)

Readers of critic-composer Kyle Gann‘s PostClassic blog at have been treated this year to occasional comments on his part about his various efforts in transcription — taking existing recordings, and converting them into staves on the page, and notes on the stave. (And, if not literally the page, then a computerized equivalent.) Gann describes the practice as a kind of fool-hearty obsession, and as an instructive tool: learning by diving deep into the work of composers he admires.

When he completed a transcription of the piano improvisation “Children on the Hill” by Harold Budd — heard on the Budd album The Serpent (In Quicksilver) — and showed the score to Budd, he says Budd replied, “I couldn’t play that in a thousand years.” Fortunately for us, the accomplished pianist Sarah Cahill accepted the challenge, and performed Gann’s version last month at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, which was hosting the Second International Conference on Minimalist Music.

In Cahill’s playing, this is an intricately minimalist work, simple patterns repeating to maximum and sustained effect. Gann’s source material is not the Serpent album version, but a live performance by Budd at New Music America in 1982. (The Serpent version is about five minutes long; this transcription is about five times that. He’s written about the differences in the versions at

Gann has posted a recording of the Cahill performance at (MP3).

[audio:|titles=”Children on the Hill”|artists=Harold Budd transcribed by Kyle Gann played by Sarah Cahill]

Of course, Budd is as much an innovator in sound as he is in composition, as exemplified by his work with Brian Eno and the Cocteau Twins. The resulting file from the Minimalist Music conference has something akin to the milky lushness that listeners have come to associate with a proper Budd recording — perhaps due to the relatively low fidelity of the recording and of MP3 compression.

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Image of the Week: Ken Gregory’s Wind Song

This is an “Aeolian kite instrument” installed by artist Ken Gregory as part of his current exhibit, titled wind coil sound flow, at Gallery 1C03 at the University of Winnipeg, in coordination with at the Video Pool Media Arts Centre:

The exhibit is on view from October 1 – 31, 2009. Image courtesy of Gregory’s, which also includes a sound sample from the show. More info at More photos at

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Quote of the Week: The Music of Jonathan Lethem’s Chronic City

The new novel by Jonathan Lethem takes place in a modern Manhattan slightly askew from our own. It’s the same Epcot for aesthetes that the borough has become in the years since Mayor Rudolph Giuliani bleached Times Square and tamed crime, but there are differences, like a giant, and likely mechanical, tiger raging through midtown, and the existence of pop-cultural artifacts with no equivalent in our world, such as films that don’t appear in the IMDB listings for Marlon Brando and Werner Herzog — at least not in our parallel universe. The novel is titled Chronic City, and true to its name, it’s a marijuana-infused story of cultural paranoia. Key among those paranoids is Perkus, a walking encyclopedia of film, pop music, and politics who spends his time weaving conspiracies from stray threads of coincidence. These insights also manifest themselves in the form of “cluster” headaches, which lead him, in the following scene, to visit an acupuncturist known as Strabo:

    Thin as threads, each with a tiny flag at their end, they entered his body at various points, neck and wrists and shoulders, painlessly. Only a hint of tightness, a feeling he shouldn’t move suddenly, confirmed Strabo had used them at all. Then Strabo lowered the lights and switched on some music, long atmospheric tones that might have been vaguely Eastern. “To someone like you this CD may sound a bit corny,” he said, surprising Perkus. “But it’s specially formulated, there are tones underneath the music that are engaging directly with your limbic system. It works even if you don’t like the music particularly. It’s inoffensive, but I personally wish it didn’t sound so much like Muzak.”

    “Okay,” said Perkus, just beginning to see that he was expected to reside with the needles a while.

    “I’ll be back for you in half an hour. Practice breathing.”

    “What if I fall asleep?”

    “It’s fine to sleep. You can’t do anything wrong.” With that, Strabo was gone. Perkus lay still, feeling himself pined like a knife-thrower’s assistant, listening as an odious pan flute commenced soloing over the synthesized tones, promising a long dreadful journey through cliché. Here Perkus was, supreme skeptic and secularist, caught naked and punctured, his whole tense armor of self perilously near to dissolved. How had it could to this?

The first chapter is available for download at

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Past Week at

  • Back to the Futurism, tonight: Luigi Russolo / Metal Machine Manifesto — Music for 16 Intonarumori at Yerba Buena — #
  • So much fog out, it's imaginable that it squelches the fog horns. #
  • Sirens and helicopter noise seem more conspicuous in San Francisco, if not more prevalent, since Trauma debuted on TV. #
  • The Tuesday noon siren rings on a Thursday: 10:15 on 10/15. Weird to hear the sound out of temporal context. Hope it never means something. #
  • Saw the Pogues, who still rock. The penny whistle is the stiletto of rock, the way it pierces the raucous rollick. (No Longplayer, though.) #
  • Last evening before the new neighbors move in. Enjoying final hours of several months of footstep-less-ness and backyard-noise-less-ness. #
  • Support @hecanjog solo electronic-music November tour and get a 7", a 12", a good feeling, and much more: #
  • What we learned on Fringe last week: Dr. Bishop likes Yes, Dr. Bell likes Jerry Garcia, & Chris Squire's bass doesn't sound great on my TV. #
  • Woke up to find new Jonathan Lethem novel on my iPod Touch. Kindle software's a nice way to shop, especially on rainiest day of the year. #
  • Eating some pizza, learning about Ableton. #
  • College student on bus, seat close to mine, had iPod stolen and was hit in face. On the scene, police said it's "the fourth one tonight." #
  • This week's Disquiet MP3 Discussion Group is yapping it up about the Italian duo Tu M's album Monochromes Vol. 1 (Line): #
  • Holland Cotter asks of the Obamas's art choices: "Couldn’t they have opted for … a Sound Art piece in the Rose Garden?" #
  • The "Music" section at is like with instructions. #
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Electronic Minimalism, Pulses and All (MP3s)

Much ambient and otherwise minimal electronic music bears the hallmarks of what’s known in classical music as “minimalism,” but few musicians accomplish this cross-pollination with the melodic alacrity of Segue. That’s the name under which Vancouver, Canada-born, Washington, DC-based Jordan Sauer records his pulsing, flowing, time-slowing wonders, like the three tracks that comprise his recent album, In with the Out, Old with the New. Released last month on the IOD netlabel, the record is rich with pieces that mix clockwork patterning with sinuous intent. Only one of the tracks is available for streaming, the rapid “Adventure” (MP3), which balances its staccato vocabulary, all miniscule little rhythmic items that sound like a china shop during an earthquake, with a glacial melodic structure.


The full set, however, is available for download as a Zip archive at

More on Segue/Sauer at

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