Summer 2002

CD Insert / Syntax Error

Failed utterances

Michael Ballou, M. Behrens, George M. Cohan, Andrew Deutsch, Douglas Henderson, Peter Lew, Christof Migone, Pauline Oliveros, William Safire, Tobias Schmitt, Yasunao Tone, and Claude Wampler

Image courtesy Michael Ballou.

Entire CD

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1. William Safire, “In Case of Moon Disaster”

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William Safire penned this speech in 1969 for Richard Nixon in the event that the two astronauts landing on the moon had to be abandoned there. Nixon impersonator: Jon Dryden.

2. Yasunao Tone, “Wounded Man'yo at Lovebytes”

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“In the fall of 1984, after reading a chapter on digital recording in a Japanese book, I wondered if it was possible to override the error-correcting system of a CD player. If so, I could make totally new music out of a ‘ready-made’ CD. I began by simply making pinholes on a bit of Scotch tape, which I stuck to the bottom of a CD. The Scotch tape not only changed the pitch and timbre, but also the speed and the direction of the spinning disc. To my surprise, the ‘prepared CD’ seldom repeated the same sound when I played it again, and it was very hard to control. The machine’s behavior was very unstable and totally unpredictable; I therefore thought it would be perfect for performance. Solo for Wounded CD uses my album Musica Iconologos (1993) made with the same technique. It produced sound waves that were so mercilessly distorted that the original could not be recognized. The related piece for Cabinet is part of a CD-ROM project called Musica Simulacra, based on the eight-century Japanese poetry anthology Man'yoshu, and will ultimately consist of 4,516 pieces.” Live performance recorded on 16 March 2002 at Lovebytes Digital Art Festival, Sheffield, UK.

3. Andrew Deutsch, “Zerbrochen Bewegung Tomato”

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“‘Zerbrochen Bewegung (electro-mechanical loops)’ is a series of sound works constructed using broken music boxes. My interest in these works first developed out of experiments with analogue tape loops, which later extended to music boxes. Music boxes are mechanical loops set into motion via spring compression and consequently have the character of ‘winding down’ as they play. This compositional unfolding is most delightful as it destroys the often gebrauchsmusik quality of music box melodies. To further destroy this ‘music of the home,’ I explored the possibilities of working exclusively with broken music boxes as their melodic structures would be ‘readymade destroyed.’ Additional deconstructions were performed with electronics such as vocoders and ring modulators.” Produced in 2002 at the Institute for Electronic Arts, Alfred, New York.

4. Christof Migone, “Fado”

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“My Portuguese neighbors in Montreal often fought. It seemed that their relationship was in a permanent state of breakdown, with episodic flares announcing and confirming it to the neighborhood. As this fight got louder, I got my video camera out in the kitchen where they could be heard the loudest, with the video focused on an aloe plant on the table and the microphone eavesdropping on the downstairs commotion. The visuals are peaceful and oblivious to the sound. The sound witnesses the failure in progress. This incident ended with the police taking the man away.” Recording in the summer of 2001. All sounds based on the original recording. Arranged in Brooklyn, March 2002.

5. Doug Henderson, “Sodapop”

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A protest piece of sorts produced in 2002, “Sodapop” is a vehicle in which a “voice of America”—the Coke machine—is inveigled to “sing” against itself, its rhythms of “ka-ching” and consumerist fantasy forced to fail. The vérité dripping sounds, clashes of metal on glass, and burbling of carbonated release are juxtaposed with sound effects (receding footsteps, guttural vocalizations, muffled fisticuffs) lifted from the little-known Cold War–era radio program Reality Versus the Thing, a science-fiction/whodunit that aired for only three episodes in 1953.

6. Claude Wampler, “Life Is Long Xavier LeRoi”

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“To be listened to while lying on your back, weight distributed onto your shoulders with your hips in the air, legs over your head and knees resting on the floor on either side of your ears, eyes gazing at your crotch.” An excerpt from the soundtrack of Present Absence, a piece by Claude Wampler, with sound by Christof Migone. Recorded in 2001.

7. Andrew Deutsch, “Zerbrochen Bewegung Kling Klang”

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See liner notes for track no. 3.

8. Peter Lew, “No!”

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Homer Simpson’s endless wonder at the world failing to meet his expectations, put to song. Produced in 2002.

9. Pauline Oliveros, “Untitled (Failure 1)”

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“My procedure in making electronic music in the 1960s was my own invention, predating synthesizers and mixers. I used oscillators set above 30kHz to generate combination tones and tape delay. This had a delightful instability caused by the bias of the tape recording machine and the non-linearity of the system. I improvised all my pieces, using this system and reacting instantaneously to the sounds that occurred. There was always the possibility of failure (and success). The risk gave the music an exciting edge.” Recorded in 1966 at Mills Tape Music Center, Mills College, California. Produced with support from the Pauline Oliveros Foundation.

10. Andrew Deutsch, “Zerbrochen Bewegung Bugs”

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See liner notes for track no. 3.

11. M. Behrens and Tobias Schmit, “Chair”

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In this piece, made in 2002, the sound of a creaking studio chair is used, accompanied by voice and the rustling of some piezoceramic transducers in M. Behrens’s trouser pockets. Tobias Schmitt modulates the sounds with digital delay and modular synthesizer. The focus falls less on the inherent automatism of digital machines than on generating glitches and failure by themselves. Schmitt/Behrens concentrate on instant compositions derived from different media for each piece.

12. Doug Henderson, “lbs/sq. in.”

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The title refers to sonic distortion caused by submarine pressure upon the recording equipment (of a strictly non-oceanographic grade) with which this mini-submersible was mounted. Trolling in the feeding grounds of the Minke whale off Cape Cod, the small vessel was repeatedly butted, nosed, and, it appears, unsuccessfully courted by a young male Minke, whose increasingly confused signals were imperfectly picked up by the device. Note the motif of a “boinging” antenna, and approximately five seconds of dead airtime, both caused by the overzealous attentions of our frustrated pelagic friend. Produced in 2002.

13. Andrew Deutsch, “Zerbrochen Bewegung Garden”

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See liner notes for track no. 3.

14. George M. Cohan, “You’re a Grand Old Rag”

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A rare Edison cylinder recorded before Cohan changed the lyric “rag” to “flag.” (See Scott Sandage’s article on patriotism in this issue of Cabinet for details.) Sung by Billy Murray, this topped the charts for eleven weeks to become the bestselling record of 1906. Thanks to Scott Sandage.

This CD was curated by Brian Conley and Christoph Cox.

Engineered by Stephen Gaboury.

Michael Ballou is an artist based in Brooklyn, New York.

M. Behrens has lived and worked internationally as an artist and designer in Frankfurt since 1991. Since 1996, he has worked mainly with sound and video installations.

George M. Cohan (3 July 1878–5 November 1942) was a writer, composer, and performer.

Andrew Deutsch is a sound and video artist who lives in Hornell, NY, and teaches sound art at Alfred University. He is a member of the Institute for Electronic Art at Alfred University and of the Pauline Oliveros Foundation’s board of directors.

Brooklyn-based soundmaker Douglas Henderson has been working with electro-acoustic composition, music for dance, and installation pieces for twenty years. He has run the Sound Arts program at the Museum School in Boston and holds a doctorate in composition from Princeton University.

Peter Lew is a New York–based artist whose work includes painting, installation, and sound art. He has participated in the radio project WAR!, the sound show “constriction” at Pierogi gallery, and his paintings were included in “Working in Brooklyn” at the Brooklyn Museum. His work has been exhibited in Austria, Switzerland, and Japan.

Christof Migone is a multidisciplinary artist and writer. He lives in Montreal and New York.

Pauline Oliveros (born 1932) is a composer living in Kingston, NY, and teaching at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Mills College, and Bard College. She is president of the Pauline Oliveros Foundation, a creative cultural center in Kingston; see

William Safire is a columnist for the New York Times.

Tobias Schmitt. 1975: born in Frankfurt. 1989: first experiments with electronic music. 1994: started working as sbc. 1996: started doing artworks as Mischstab. 1999: founded Acrylnimbus.

Yasunao Tone is a co-founder of Group Ongaku and an original member of Fluxus. Born in Tokyo in 1935, he has resided in New York since 1972. He has exhibited in numerous shows, including the 1990 Venice Biennial and the 2001 Yokohama Triennial.

Claude Wampler is an artist based in New York City.

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