Spring 2004

CD Insert / Past Forward

The sounds of things to come

Woodrow Wilson, Janek Schaefer, Achim Wollscheid, Kara Lynch, Luz Maria Sánchez, Manuel Rocha Iturbide, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Harald Bode, Microsound.org, George H. W. Bush, and The Quiet American

Entire CD

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1. Woodrow Wilson, “Address to the American Indians”

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Shortly after becoming president of the United States in 1913, Woodrow Wilson delivered this speech, assessing the history of “the white man’s dealings with the Indian.” After briefly noting the “dark pages in [that] history,” Wilson went on to catalogue evidence of the “remarkable progress toward civilization” the red man had achieved under the white man’s “wise, just, and beneficent” tutelage. “The Great White Father,” concluded Wilson, “now calls you his brothers, not his children.”

2. Janek Schaefer, “His Master’s Voices”

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T. S. Eliot’s “Burnt Norton” (1936), the first of his Four Quartets, offers a meditation on time and eternity that opens with the famous lines: “Time present and time past / Are both perhaps present in time future / And time future contained in time past.” Here, Eliot reads the poem with the aid of Janek Schaefer’s “tri-phonic turntable,” a turntable fitted with three tonearms. The piece was recorded live in 1997 and released as a limited-edition LP on Schaefer’s audiOh! record label.

3. Achim Wollscheid, “Ulysses (Excerpt)”

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“In 1986, the Goethe Gymnasium in Neu-Isenburg, Germany had 1026 students, as many as the German edition of James Joyce’s Ulysses has pages. Although it deals with the course of just one day, it takes the single reader about two weeks to read this book. The group of students—each one reading one single page—coped with the body of text in about seven minutes.” Originally released on the CD Acts (Selektion, 1998) and digitally remastered in December 2003.

Video stills from Frankfurt TV’s unbroadcast coverage of Achim Wollscheid’s Ulysses, 1986.

4. Kara Lynch, “Church”

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An excerpt from a multimedia work-in-progress titled Invisible. “In 2099, the transatlantic slave trade never happened. The event disappeared from the history books. A strange cult keeps the false memory alive through ritual bondage and transport of bodies across imaginary borders. Church is an audio excerpt from Episode 03, an outdoor video-audio installation that extrapolates upon a documentary photograph of a mother and son lynched from a bridge in Oklahoma circa 1911. Church is a time capsule: the moment a photo is taken. The shutter opens and quickly closes—as quickly as a breath held by a new devotee dressed in white at the river’s edge dunked gracelessly by the pastor and then coming up panting for air, saved. As quickly as the knot tightens and the neck breaks. Suspended, this moment rises above the river below, taunting gravity. It lengthens. We remember. We blink. We see the horizon. We take it with us. We sink. We listen and voices carry us. We float. We blink and it’s over. It’s like it never happened and we feel it in our bones.” All sound recorded on location during Juneteenth Celebration 2003 in Galveston, TX and in Okemah, OK, June 2003. Thanks to R. Jones Sanchez, B. Kruger, L. Nelson, and L. Chua.

5. Luz Maria Sánchez, “Radio1”

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Suddenly there was the possibility to say anything to everyone, but upon 
reflection there was nothing to be said.
—Bertolt Brecht

“The telegraph, the telephone, the radio—these devices arguably reshaped the course of the last century. But, in effect, they merely preserve and propagate fragments of historical data—information disassociated from both source and recipient that can be rearranged with the turn of the dial. Radio technology emerged, heralded by waves of optimism and great expectations, only to be absorbed, transformed into wartime propaganda machines, junk peddlers, and glorified jukeboxes.”

“Reflecting this deflation of purpose, when taken to an extreme, the act of electronic transmission abates the communicative potential of speech. In the electronic realm, words dissipate as soon as they are uttered, rendered into pulses of electricity floating in space. Each discernible unit is, in effect, the self-contained delivery of a thought, concept, or dormant history—that can be rearranged at will to form new realities. In “Radio1,” the human voice is abstracted, effectively obliterating its communicative capacity. Once-discernible words, all culled from the public airwaves, become the mere coupling of tones delivered as a sensory rather than informative message.”

“Radio1” is a quadraphonic sound piece for tape. This is a stereo version.

6. Manuel Rocha Iturbide, “... Even ... (Introito)”

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“Introito” is the first movement of the composition titled ... even ... , an electro-acoustic Catholic marriage ceremony. The piece attempts the joining of opposed elements—past and future, ritual and modernity, mythology and a disenchanted present—through an alchemical ritual of redemption that blends all of these into a union that comprises them all.

7. Dwight D. Eisenhower, “Farewell Address”

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On 17 January 1961, in his last official address as president of the United States, Dwight D. Eisenhower, the former commander of the Allied forces in World War II, delivered this address to the nation. Intended as a warning about the rise of military and corporate power, the speech turned out to forecast American history up to and including the present.

8. Harald Bode, “Phase 4-2 Arpeggio”

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An unsung pioneer of electronic music, Harald Bode was responsible for some of the earliest and most influential electronic instruments. Already in the late 1930s, he built keyboard-driven synthesizers. In 1947, he invented the Melochord, a monophonic keyboard instrument prominently employed in early electronic compositions produced at the WDR studio in Cologne by Herbert Eimert, György Ligeti, Henri Pousseur, Karlheinz Stockhausen, and others. In the 1960s, he contributed to the production of the Moog modular synthesizer, and in the mid-1970s he introduced the Vocoder, a voice-processing device that would be used in countless electro-funk hits. Composed in 1964 while Bode was experimenting with various phasers, filters, and frequency shifters, this track anticipates disco and electro by more than a decade, and acid house by nearly a quarter century.

9–10. microsound.org, “City of the Future”

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In the spring of 2003, shortly after the US invaded Iraq, the microsound.org list invited members to submit compositions based on a portion of Andrei Tarkovsky’s film Solaris. List owner Kim Cascone explains: “I’ve always had a favorite part of Solaris—the ‘City of the Future’ as it is titled on the DVD release. The entire scene is recorded from the point of view of the astronaut as he drives to the city on the highway. The sound design for this particular scene has always haunted me. I thought the title was fitting due to the current world situation. It is not an overt political theme for the project but it implies hope for a city in the future. So while this could mean ‘Baghdad,’ it could also mean the city you live in/near or a city you would like to visit. A city could also represent any large collection of various types and races of people. In any event, this is meant to be a productive, constructive, creative theme expressing hope for the future.” The list received forty-two submissions, available at www.microsound.org/city [link defunct—Eds.]. Here are two samples:

9. crlos, cityoffluxes
10. omnid, frozen duplicates

11. George H. W. Bush, “On the Commencement of the Bombing of Iraq”

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On 16 January 1991, President George H. W. Bush announced that American troops had begun to bomb military targets in Iraq and Kuwait in order to force Iraq to withdraw from Kuwait. Bush defends the attack against critics who would have continued to push for a peaceful settlement. Bush notes that the attack is in accordance with UN resolutions and that its aim is to destroy Saddam Hussein’s chemical and nuclear weapons facilities. This speech set in motion a series of events that are still unfolding.

12. The Quiet American, “Rockets of the Mekong”

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“‘Rockets of the Mekong’ is composed from a collection of field recordings recorded in Laos in November 2001 in the small rural town of Pak Tha, where the River Tha meets the Mekong, in northern Laos. The piece is named after “rocket boats,” hand-built, very shallow draft, thin-nosed speedboats with huge outboard motors that are the taxis of the Mekong. The pilots, and fortunate passengers, wear crash helmets (and earplugs) as the Mekong is treacherous with just-submerged sandbars and rocks, and a sudden stop at speed would be very dangerous. The recording also uses a passing small motorcycle, the constant buzz of cicadas, the sounds of children kicking a soccer ball, and a young girl saying “sabadee,” the Laos version of “sawat-dii,” the Thai greeting of respect.

“A field recording is a future history of a non-existent present. Field recordings constitute a documentary history of an imaginary, not a real, world. From the moment of its making. a field recording’s interpretations multiply and overtake its documentary value. Even for the field recordist who makes it, a given recording documents only in part the moment of personal experience that witnessed its making. In short, the field recording is an audible mirage. It is a documentary object that fails to contain the present. Or: it contains not the present, but a non-existent present. Or: it contains many non-existent presents, one for every listener. Or: it contains a new present on every listening.”

Originally released on Rockets of the Mekong (Quiet American, 2003). Courtesy Grain of Sound.

This CD was curated by Brian Conley and Christoph Cox.

Engineered by Brian Conley. Thanks to Kim Cascone, Andrew Deutsch, and Guillermo Santamarina of Ex Teresa Arte Actual.

Harald Bode (1909–1987) was a key figure in the history of electronic music. He invented a range of electronic musical instruments (the Warbo Formant organ, the Melodium, the Melochord, the Polychord and others) used in the earliest electronic music compositions, and, later in life, composed electronic music for television, film, and live performance.

Brian Conley is an artist and an editor-at-large at Cabinet.

Christoph Cox is associate professor of philosophy at Hampshire College and an editor-at-large at Cabinet. He is the author of Nietzsche: Naturalism and Interpretation (University of California, 1999) and editor of Audio Culture: Readings in Modern Music (Continuum, forthcoming).

Manuel Rocha Iturbide is a sound artist and composer from Mexico City, where he curates the International Sound Art Festival.

Kara Lynch is a multimedia artist who teaches video production at Hampshire College. Her feature-length film, Black Russians, was completed in 2001. She is currently at work on Invisible, a speculative, non-linear black liberation narrative.

Luz Maria Sánchez is a sound and installation artist and the founder of TPS, an artist-run space in San Antonio, Texas. Her work has been shown in galleries and festivals in the UK, France, Spain, Cuba, Mexico, and Egypt. She is working on her doctorate at the Universidad Autonoma de Barcelona, Spain.

Janek Schaefer is a London-based sound artist noted for his creative work with vinyl recordings and turntables. His multi-function, three-arm “tri-phonic turntable” is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as “the world’s most versatile record player.”

Achim Wollscheid is a sound artist from Frankfurt whose audio art has been released on the Ritornell and Selektion labels. A catalogue of his recent work, Achim Wollscheid: Selected Works 1990–2000, was published in 2001 by Selektion and Errant Bodies.

Aaron Ximm (a.k.a. the Quiet American) is a sound artist from San Francisco who works primarily with field recordings. His latest releases are Rockets of the Mekong and Plumbing and Irrigation of South Asia.

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