Just about a year ago, we were
looking for a new approach to the 'records' theme for a new volume in the
IFAR musique concrète series. We'd previously played around with the surface
noise of both flexis and vinyl discs, the mechanics of the record player
itself and used spoken word samples, that seemed to have exhausted our ideas
for the time being.
"I am your father , Luke!" Skit
"Children's film," I replied,
"never seen it."
"Father of vinyl." He concluded
Man of few words, but when he
speaks, you understand why. Shellac, often erroneously known as wax, was
indeed the father of the polyvinyl chloride disc that followed, and we just
happen to have an old 1930's tabletop Columbia Grafonola in the house and
oodles of 78's to play on it. In fact, it was originally planned to be a
part of the very first Magic Moments At Twilight Time live set! Seriously,
Shona and I (back in the days when MMATT were just 'a husband and wife duo
from north west Surrey') were to walk on stage, wind up the gramophone and
put on a copy of Dry Bones by Fred Waring And His Pennsylvanians
(Decca, 1947), then stand one either side of it pointing to the various
bones it mentioned on our own bodies. As it turned out, that never happened.
The gig was cancelled,
and by the time it was rearranged, Jay and Kate had
joined and we had a completely
different idea for an opening. The
rehearsal for the gig that
should have been was recorded though,
was the later real live debut, both of which are available free on a 'virtual
c90' download. Here's the link for that (click on the image), should any of
you want to enjoy a bit of 1987 vintage Magic...
What followed was a great
experimental session; sticking microphones all around the odd / old machine, then
trying with condenser mics on the inside, using old tea-towels to dampen the
sound, opening and closing the slats at the front et al; each time winding
the spring, then placing the point on to the blank piece of the disc that
follows the end of the recording. For the obsessive among you, the record
used was The Lion And Albert, a 'humorous monologue' by Roy Barbour,
released on the Rex label in 1934. This stuff matters, I know. After several
run-throughs, sometimes allowing the spring to play out completely, others
using the stop lever, we figured we had enough recordings to play with. The
finished result is a mix from many of them, no special effects, just the
true sound of history, carefully edited to 4:33 coz that's the way Shaun
Robert likes them (though we did do an extended version at 7:35 with an
alternate ending too).
The planned release for this
latest volume of record related works was in the August of last year, but
Shaun decided to delay it to allow himself time to complete other projects.
I know how he feels, that enforced 168 hour limit on the working week is a
killer! So it just sat in the 'pending' folder and we didn't really give it
a second thought, though we did go back to the source recordings to take
some samples for We Would Hear Your Columbia Grafonola on the Mi
Casa, Su Casa album. After that, we really did forget all about it.
Until, that is, the announcement of EFSPACM's June projects this year;
'machines' and 'odd / old oddities'. I got back on to Shaun and asked if
there was any reasonable possibility of releasing the track, coz it was
nearly a year old by now, or failing that, would he mind if we used it for
the EFSPACM project instead, the concept of which it fitted in to perfectly.
He was real nice about it and gave us the go ahead, and we've promised him
another track should our pulling this one leave him short when he does come
to it. Sorted, the 'machines' album it is then. Only they got loads of
offerings for that one and just a handful for the 'odd / old oddities' set, so
we volunteered to have it swapped. Et voila, we got there!