Grafonola Shellac (I Am Your Father, Luke!)


Running Time: 4:33

Released On: "Odd / Old Oddities" - Various Artists (8 tracks)

Label: EFSPACM (Ensemble For Sound Poetry And Contemporary Music)

Release Date: 7th July 2021

Format: Download

Buy Link: Bandcamp - Name Your Price 





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 suddenly exclaimed.

"Children's film," I replied, "never seen it."

"Father of vinyl." He concluded smugly.

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, as 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!