We know what Alan Morse Davies did to construct The Last Summer. The brief liner note on the project’s home page (at archive.org) states it plainly enough: “An album of manipulated recordings from 78RPM records recorded between 1905 and 1931.” He’s taken outmoded recordings of once popular music and transformed them, courtesy of the creative license inherent in the public domain, into his own deeply felt renditions. The shortest of the three tracks, a version of the Debussy favorite “Claire de Lune,” is extended to over 17 minutes, at which point it is almost pure choral gossamer (MP3); each of the other two, “The Last Rose of Summer” (MP3) and a rousing “Ave Maria” (MP3), clock in at over 23 minutes.
It’s a testament to Davies’s approach that he doesn’t get hung up on the needle-in-the-groove clicks or dusty residue of the 78s. He doesn’t need to reproduce the rough surface texture of the original medium in order to telegraph to today’s listeners that this stuff is, plain and simple, old. His versions don’t merely extend the content of the originals until that material is ready to evaporate into thin air; they amplify both the richly melodious songs that were a dominant style of that period, and the archaic echoes inherent in that time’s sonic-reproduction technology.
Get the full set at archive.org. More on Davies at his website, at-sea.com.
A Morse prayer by Alan Morse Davies
Part of the underlying strength of the spoken word, of the word intended to be spoken even more than of the word intended to be read, is its rhythm. The pace of words, of syllables, of phrases, the criss-crossing of reference points, is as much a matter of rhetoric as are the words themselves: grammar, metaphor, anecdote, even the message may not be as powerful as the rhythm with which they are expressed. Alan Morse Davies pushes at this a bit in his tidy seasonal sonic experiment, in which he took one of the most recited texts and converted it, so to speak, into Morse Code:
[audio:http://www.at-sea.com/today/01.%20How%20to%20Contact%20God%20When%20He’s%20Out%20of%20Cellphone%20Range.mp3|titles=”How to Contact God When He’s Out of Cellphone Range”|artists=Alan Morse Davies]
What has been encoded is The Lord’s Prayer, and the endeavor is titled, by the ever wry Davies, “How to Contact God When He’s Out of Cellphone Range” (MP3). Additional recommendation, according to Davies: “Use a good ground wire and a good length antenna.” Needless to say, when you make experimental music of the electronic sort, and when your middle name is synonymous with a particularly outmoded proto-codec, it is inevitable that you would employ it in your work. It is fascinating to listen to something hallowed be translated into a technology, a language of sorts, that itself has an aura of antiquity.
Track originally posted for free download at Davies’ alanmorsedavies.wordpress.com website. More from Davies at at-sea.com.
Among the top 10 most popular posts of the past month, May 2012, out of a total of 28 posts, all but two were drawn from the daily recommended free downloads of the site’s Downstream section: (1) XYZR_KX plays Autechre on guitar, (2) Mark Browne dips his tech in boiling water, (3) Schrödinger’s Dog recognizes the fax machine as a dubstep muse, (4) Rawore plays around, (5) Hey Exit adds a touch of the electronic to his guitar, (6) Greg Surges employs SoundCloud as a sketchbook, (7) Phillip Wilkerson records the Floridian quotidian (i.e., birds), and (8) Federico Durand‘s album preview serves as a composition unto itself.
The two remaining most popular posts were sets of automated Saturday collections of the previous week’s twitter.com/disquiet posts, from (9) May 5 and (10) May 12.
The most popular searches on the site during the month of May were: aaron, distinction, pessoa, mixes, alan morse davies, cicada, crewest, darkly, garde, intone, iron chef of music, lique, mallet, monolake, n4tural, neilwiernik, selun, sharing, sol rezza, stasisfield.
Even though it only launched in the last few days of the month, (1) the Disquiet.com various-artists album Instagr/am/bient: 25 Sonic Postcards was the top post of December 2011 (during which there were 25 posts). Five entries from the site’s Downstream department of freely and legally downloadable music made the top 10: (2) excerpts from Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross‘ score for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, (3) Nottingham, England”“based Guy Birkin‘s distillation of the end-of-year holiday aura, (4) Chicago-based Jeff Kolar‘s music from (not for) operating systems, (5) Cologne, Germany”“based All N4tural‘s “colliding banter” music drawn from glitches in human speech, and (6) Berlin, German”“based Timo Kahlen‘s exercise in political noise. Also making the top 10, (7) a post summarizing this website’s recent redesign (“Welcome to Disquiet.com 3.0”) and (8) “15 Reflections on the 15th Anniversary of Disquiet.com,” which occurred on December 13. Also, (9, 10) not one but two entries from the weekly automated summaries of tweets made at twitter.com/disquiet.
And the most popular searches of the month were: natural, instagram, Saito Koji, sfmoma, aaron, brusio, cocteau, restive, autechre, Instagrambient, alan morse davies, Arcka, Christmas, delaurenti, feedback, instagr/am/bient, kettel, lique, maudlin.
Of the top 10 most popular posts of the past month, October 2011, eight were drawn from the Downstream department of freely and legally downloadable MP3s: (1) a consideration of Richard Devine’s collection of field recordings of consumer technology such as printers and so forth (“An Alan Lomax of Lost Technology”), (2) a gloss on urgent information flow by Soundmutations (“A Series of Glitchy Twitchy Switchbacks Through a Steady Stream of Low-level Pulses”), (3) a live recording of a feedback-laden performance by Dave Seidel, aka Mysterybear (“Upload Through the Red Door”), (4) Sara Pinheiro‘s fragile arrangement of avian sound (“The Sonic Trajectories of Birds”), (5) Neil Wiernik‘s submerged pianism and balanced play between foreground and background (“More Than Haze for Haze’s Sake”), (6) the “glitchstep” of Biting Eye, aka Ben Bridges (“What’s in a Genre?”), (7) a casual field recording (related to the image shown up top) by Richard Thomas, CCO of the great RjDj and Inception apps (“45 Seconds of Unaugmented Reality”), and (8) an interview with Kid Koala (“Music for Drawing”).
And, for reasons that are always beyond me when it occurs, not one but two entries in this site’s automated Saturday compendiums of the prior week’s twitter.com/disquiet feed: (9) October 8 and (10) October 15.
The most popular searches of the past month were, in descending order: the truth about frank, autechre, 11-Sep, app, fernando pessoa, film, film scores, framework, lique, mp3, muller, music, OUTRA-G, raymond scott, sexby, tangerine dream, alan morse davies, 2009, 4’33 field recordings, aairria.