Popular Archeology: Shellac

Thanks to Marij van Gorkom spent more time than she needed to working through the minutiae of my short piece, Popular Archeology: Shellac, for bass clarinet and monophonic audio, in preparing for the concert she gave last night as part of her Sonic Spaces project.  Needless to say, such attention to detail is greatly appreciated and, what’s more, essential in a piece such as this which reduces the huge expressive range of the bass clarinet down to a scale appropriate to the sound reproduction capabilities of a small loudspeaker placed in the bell of the instrument.

The piece itself is very much concerned with the relics found by an amateur audio media archeologist – an Op.37 by someone no doubt once well known, a song with the title “Cherry Ripe” (precious little left to hear of it) – and will expand as other artefacts are committed to digital media. Marij is keen to help with the ongoing excavations.

Magnetic North: Wow & Flutter

Andrew Clifford’s “Magnetic North” essay, on my installation Popular Archeology, is now online. The installation was the first show in the Letting Space series curated by Sophie Jerram and Mark Amery.  Andrew’s essay nicely situates the installation in the context of a bunch of other media-obsessed and medial projects, articulates its relationship to popular culture (long live the mixtape), and links it to a much longer tradition – vanitas and the ars morendi. Oddly, I hadn’t though of making this link, but it of course makes perfect sense and reminds me that I was once told by Miriama Young that the word cassette derives from the French “casse” or “caisse” meaning “casket” (among other things).

Andrew’s descriptions of the installation are rich and apt. Here’s one of my favourite passages: “Repeated listening to any fragment only makes it stranger, like trying to identify a mumbled word on a recording, or reciting a phrase until it becomes meaningless.” This suggests a link to the Formalists, perhaps making the installation a Shklovskian gesture for the 21stC: “The technique of art is to make objects ‘unfamiliar,’ to make focus difficult, to increase the difficulty and length of perception because the process of perception is an aesthetic end in itself and must be prolonged.” (“Art as Technique”, 1917).

The essay also features some wonderful photos of the installation taken by Boofa (thanks again!).