Music that inspired 1980s Japanese environmental music composer Yukata Hirose

Yutaka Hirose is a Japanese composer who was a key figure in that country's ambient/environmental music scene of the 1980s that in recent years has been rediscovered by crate-diggers around the world. Hirose's "NOVA" (1986) is a classic of the genre, a soundscape that Misawa Home Corporation commissioned as a "soundtrack" for the prefabricated houses. While original LPs have sold for hundreds of dollars, WRWTFWW Records have recently reissued the record as an expanded double LP and double CD. (For a further exploration of Japanese environmental music of the 1980s, Light in the Attic Records' "Kankyō Ongaku: Japanese Ambient, Environmental & New Age Music 1980-1990" is a perfect portal.)

To celebrate the NOVA reissue, The Vinyl Factory asked Hirose to create a mix of music he was listening to and inspired by in the 1980s Listen above. It's a beautiful, sometimes-jarring, and totally compelling journey through avant-garde sounds of the time. Here's the tracklist:

1. Jan Steele – All Day 2. David Toop – Do The Bathosphere 3. Gavin Bryars – 1, 2, 1-2-3-4 4. Joan La Barbara – Poems 43, 44, 45 5. Meredith Monk – Waltz 6. Karlheinz Stockhausen – Stimmung 7. John Cage – Seven Haiku 8. Throbbing Gristle – Almost A Kiss 9. Robert Ashley – Yellow Man With Heart With Wings 10. The Flying Lizards – The Window 11. Henry Cow Little Red Riding Hood Hit The Road 12. Faust – Faust 13. CAN – Future Days 14. Tangerine Dream:Rubycon 15. Michael Nyman – Decay Music 16.

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This dark and amazing animation about the end of humankind aired on Ed Sullivan in 1956

Joan and Peter Foldes directed this incredible animation, titled "A Short Vision," in 1956. The couple created the film -- based on a poem by Peter -- in their kitchen. It was funded by a grant from the British Film Institute's Experimental Film Fund. From Wikipedia:

Ed Sullivan saw A Short Vision in England, and promised an American showing. He said his motive was a "plea for peace" However, he may have shown it because of his relationship with George K. Arthur, A Short Vision's distributor. Ten days after he saw it, Sullivan showed A Short Vision on his popular Sunday night show The Ed Sullivan Show on 27 May 1956. Sullivan told the audience to tell their children in the room to not be alarmed, because of its animated nature. The film was very popular, and it was shown again on 10 June; Sullivan told parents to take children out of the room.

More on the film's history here: "A SHORT VISION: Ed Sullivan’s Atomic Show Stopper" (CONELRAD) Read the rest

Far-out Estonian animation from 1974

Esteemed Estonian animator Rein Raamat created this groovy short, "Värvilind," in 1974. The music is by composer Rein Rannap who was also the founder of Estonian prog rock band Ruja.

(via ObscureMedia)

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Documentary about the 1980s SoCal underground art happenings with Sonic Youth, Einstürzende Neubauten, etc.

In the 1980s, Stuart Swezey was at the epicenter of Southern California's underground culture. The co-founder of Amok Books, Swezey was also known for organizing extreme industrial and avant-garde outdoor happenings in remote locations like the Mojave Desert that featured performances by Sonic Youth, Einstürzende Neubauten, Survival Research Laboratories, Minutemen, and many other experimental and transgressive artists. Now, Swezey has made a documentary about those extreme experiences. Above is the trailer for Desolation Center.

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"Meet David," an unintentionally weird educational film clip from 1959

Context is everything, especially when it's missing.

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Mesmerizing 1980s experimental Japanese film using video cut-ups to deconstruct architecture

In 1982, Japanese avant-garde filmmaker Toshio Matsumoto used video cut-up techniques to deconstruct a single residential building into a disorienting architectural puzzle. The short film is titled Shift (シフト 断層). Music by Yasuke Inagaki.

From a 1996 interview with Matsumoto:

We have to do more to irritate and disturb modes of perception, thinking, or feeling that have become automatized in this way. I did several kinds of experiments from the 1970s to the 1980s that de-automatized the visual field. But when image technology progresses such that you can make any kind of image, people become visually used to that. That's why there's not much left today with a fresh impact. In this way, the problem is that the interpretive structure of narrating, giving meaning to, or interpreting the world has become so thoroughly systematized that one cannot conceive of anything else that is largely untouched. We have to de-systematize that.

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Listen to BBC Radio 4's "New Weird Britain" audio program

John Doran, founder of the excellent music news site The Quietus, and producer Alannah Chance have created a fascinating audio documentary series for BBC Radio 4 titled "New Weird Britain." Over four episodes, Doran explores the UK's cultural interzones where hidden scenes of experimental musicians and transmedia artists are keeping the avant-garde alive. From The Quietus:

(Each episode focuses) on the urban fringes of major cities and post-industrial towns, as well as the rural and coastal underground, to find the people responsible for making innovative 'weird' music outside of the mainstream music industry.

New Weird Britain will feature interviews with musicians such as Gazelle Twin, Richard Dawson, Guttersnipe, Sophie Cooper, Hawthonn, AJA, Rhodri and Angharad Davies, Natalie Sharp, Kelly Jayne Jones and many others. There will also be guest appearances from Cosey Fanni Tutti and Jennifer Lucy Allan during the series.

The first episode, Urban Hinterlands, is now available online. Read the rest

San Francisco: Kronos Quartet's Kronos Festival 2019, May 30 - June 1

San Francisco: It's time again for the always-outstanding annual Kronos Festival, several days of fantastic global and experimental music curated by the seminal avant/classical/global Kronos Quartet. Every Kronos Festival I've attended has turned me on to a spectrum of new sounds, artists, scenes, and regions. From KQED:

At SFJAZZ on June 1, singer-composer Hawa Kassé Mady Diabaté of Malian group Trio Da Kali performs her new Fifty for the Future piece inspired by tegere tulon, the impromptu hand-clapping songs and dances Malian girls create in the countryside. Ethnomusicologist Lucy Duran, who specializes in African music, will give a pre-show talk contextualizing Diabaté's performance.

On May 30, the quartet will also premiere a Fifty for the Future piece by Stanford professor Mark Applebaum, whose playful compositions have been known to include junk-as-instruments, non-musical players such as florists and even a piece for three conductors and no musicians. Plus, there's a new work Fifty for the Future work by Missy Mazzoli, a boundary-pushing rising star of the classical world and the Chicago Symphony's current composer-in-residence.

Also on May 30, Kronos Quartet pays homage to the work of left-wing historian Howard Zinn. Ethio-jazz singer-songwriter Meklit, cultural critic Rebecca Solnit, folk musician Lee Knight and poet/actor Michael Wayne Turner III will accompany the musicians with readings from works by Zinn and Martin Luther King, Jr. (Zinn's A People's History of the United States highlights how abolitionists, labor organizers, feminists, civil rights leaders and other dissenters shaped American history.) Meklit performs with Kronos once again on June 1.

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Watch clips from Breathe, a lovely "water opera" in a pool

A few weeks ago at Appleton, Wisconsin's Lawrence University, a group of experimental musicians, dancers, and performance artists staged "Breathe," a "multidisicplinary water opera" in the college's swimming pool. (The video above is from a previous performance at Middlebury College's Natatorium). From Fox Cities Magazine:

Lawrence University’s Margaret Sunghe Paek, professor of dance and curator of Dance Series, will work with music director Loren Dempster and director/choreographer Gabriel Forestieri to bring (the performance) to life...

“I wanted to see if I could make sound underwater,” Dempster says. “I experimented with microphones underwater, I bought a hydrophone, I [even] played the cello underwater.”

Dempster will be the only underwater musician in the entire opera as he will be in the shallow end, playing his cello while underwater microphones transmit the sounds above the surface.

Forestieri choreographed the opera, combining the practice of dance and free diving, called dancing in apnea, to create the water visuals.

“[I’m] taking cues from the space and the people in the space and how they relate to each other,” Forestieri says. “The choreography is a mix of [dancing] on deck, sometimes in the pool, partner dancing in the shallow end, and dancers floating with float belt.”

(via Weird Universe)

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Watch Madonna, at age 16, star in a high-schooler's experimental film

In 1974, Wyn Cooper, one of Madonna's fellow students at Adams High School near Detroit, invited the 16-year-old pre-material girl to star in his experimental film. The Super 8 short is titled "The Egg." "We developed a friendship and hung out," Cooper, now a poet in Vermont, has said. "I had a Mercury Capri with an eight-track tape player. Madonna and I would hop in the car, drive around and listen to Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars while enjoying a little marijuana." (via r/ObscureMedia) Read the rest

Watch the Private Life of a Cat

Back in 1947, decades before cat memes became a way of life, experimental documentary filmmakers Maya Deren and Alexander Hammid gave us a lovely glimpse of the "Private Life of a Cat." From Archive.org:

RECORDS FEMALE CAT & HER 5 KITTENS AS MOTHER CAT APPROACHES LABOR, KITTENS ARE BORN & OBTAIN MILK & MOTHER CAT THEN CARES FOR THEM IN LEARNING & GROWING PROCESS, IN WHICH TOM CAT OCCASIONALLY PARTICIPATES.

(via r/ObscureMedia)

Previously: Maya Deren's Sights and sounds of Haitian vodou Read the rest

Archival music collection from June Chikuma, composer of the "Bomberman" videogame soundtracks

June Chikuma is the Japanese composer behind the beloved soundtracks to Nintendo’s Bomberman series and countless other videogame, TV, and film scores. Now, Chikuma's 1986 album "Divertimento" has been expanded into a new edition titled Les Archives, available from the Freedom To Spend label. The vinyl edition of Les Archives also includes a limited 7" with tunes from the era that didn't make the original Divertimento release. The above video, "June Rebuilds," was directed by Amanda Kramer and features the track "Broadcast Profanity Delay" from Les Archives. From the release announcement:

While Freedom To Spend’s reinvented edition bares little visual evidence of its origins in the composer’s name, title, or sleeve design, the album, a whooping gonzo of synthesizers, samplers, drum machines, and a mysterious string quartet, remains as vibrant now as it did when released on Toru Hatano’s Picture Label as Divertimento in 1986. In fact, the music of Les Archives now glows with a different purpose; one that revises the past while maintaining, and finally elevating, its hidden influence.

A woman of multiple disciplines and identities, June Chikuma (竹間 淳, Chikuma Jun) has composed for TV, film, and video games over the past thirty plus years. Her proto-techno and drum and bass soundtracks for Nintendo’s Bomberman franchise in the 80s and 90s is an oeuvre unto itself. In more recent years her musical focus has turned toward classic Arabic and Egyptian music. Chikuma studies Arabic nay, playing and performing with Le Club Bachraf ensemble. In a melding of June’s contrasting, colorful worlds, Le Club Bachraf composed part of the original score for the 2007 video game Sonic and The Secret Rings.

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Siri accompanied by pen drumming sounds like minimalist experimental music

Of the videos like this one showing people drumming along as Siri recites 1 trillion to the tenth power, the particular variation below really reminds me of a minimalist composition by Laurie Anderson or Steve Reich. The toothbrush in the background also adds a bit of dada weirdness to the performance.

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Mannheim Steamroller Christmas, a freaked-out ambient tape loop remix

Magnetic tape maestro Randall Taylor, aka Amulets, takes an old Mannheim Steamroller Christmas cassette in a totally different direction... a totally different dimension.

Just when you thought you were going to listen to some sweet christmas music it turns into a weird 7 minute ambient drone rework that no one wants to hear at your family/work/friendmas/holiday party! Give the gift of your obscure musical taste and Mannheim Steamroll your loved ones today!

GEAR USED: - Custom Tape Loops - Tascam Porta 02 - Library of Congress Tape Player - Memorex Walkman - Behringer Micromix - AC Noises AMA - Strymon Blue Sky

Support and follow Amulets on Patreon.

Previously: "Spectacular 'Ambient Walkman Symphony' and other tape-loop, circuit bent performances" Read the rest

Enchanting, dark, heavy Indonesian music blending traditional and experimental modes

Rully Shabara and Wukir Suryadi are Jogjakarta, Indonesia-based musicians melding the ancient, traditional sounds of their region with a very contemporary mode of heavy experimentalism. The duo, known as Senyawa, have just released a new album, Sujud, on the always-compelling Sublime Frequencies label, distributed by Forced Exposure. This is music that is best enjoyed at night, in the darkness, where the expansive, transgenre magick can wash over and through you. Listen below. From Sublime Frequencies:

The basic theme of the record can be summed up with one extremely powerful Bahasa Indonesian word, Tanah, which translates to "soil-ground-land-earth". Shabara's vocals are an expressive force, conjuring spirits from the soil with a deep humility and respect for the land and their existence in the universe. Suryadi has built a new guitar for these tracks and pushes the Senyawa sound into new territory, utilizing delay, loops, and other effects creating grounded backdrops of folk metal, punk attitudinal, and droning earthscapes - providing Shabara the perfect context to explore his whispering poetry and jagged, sharp-as-a-kris animistic powers.

Sujud by Senyawa

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Lose your mind in this new track from Cosey Fanni Tutti (Throbbing Gristle, Chris & Cosey)

Boing Boing friend Cosey Fanni Tutti of pioneering experimental/electronic/art groups Throbbing Gristle, Chris & Cosey, and Coum Transmissions will release a new solo album, Tutti, in February. This is her first solo record since Time To Tell in 1982. Above is the title track, a pulsing (throbbing?) soundscape of electronic rhythm, noise, and Cosey's glorious trumpet. Cosey composed these new tracks as the soundtrack to her autobiographical slideshow Harmonic COUMaction, part of last year's COUM Transmissions retrospective in Hull, England.

"Working on the COUM Transmissions exhibition also coincided with writing my autobiography - collating archive material and re-engaging with my past," Cosey told The Quietus. "My work is a continuum, the past feeding the present and vice versa. The album is an interpretation of my past and present, of my understanding the shifting perceptions of how they inform one another. One form creating another through a metamorphic process."

A gentle reminder about a not-so-gentle book: Cosey's 2017 memoir "Art Sex Music," is a must-read for anyone interested in the history of avant-garde music, performance art, underground culture, radical living, and female empowerment.

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Sights and sounds of Haitian vodou

Between 1947 and 1954, avant-garde dancer and experimental filmmaker Maya Deren visited Haiti and immersed herself in vodou. Supported with a Guggenheim Fellowship grant, Deren intended to study and film the trance dancing of vodou ceremony. Ultimately, Deren became an active participant in the rituals. She documented her experiences in the 1953 book Divine Horsemen: The Voodoo (Living) Gods of Haiti and the footage that resulted in the entrancing 1981 film above, completed two decades after Deren's death by her third husband and his wife. Now, the Psychic Sounds Research & Recordings label has remastered and reissued Deren's audio recordings from Haiti on vinyl. Audio sampler below. From the label:

Maya Deren journeyed to Haiti to make a film of ritual dances, instead, she came to be accepted as a Voudoun initiate, whose devotees commune with the cosmic powers through invocation, offerings, song and dance of the Voudoun pantheon of deities, or Loa, whom are witnessed as being living gods and goddesses, actually taking possession of their devotees. Deren describes the relationship between magic, science and religion bringing a uniquely lyrical voice to her narrative. This paints a multi-textured, infinitely complex portrait of a spiritual tradition with roots stretching back to the very dawn of humanity. Joseph Campbell calls Divine Horsemen 'the most illuminating introduction that has yet been rendered to the whole marvel of the Haitian mysteries as 'facts of the mind.'' Included in this album are some of the first recordings ever made during religious ceremonies near Croix de Missions and Petionville featuring selections that serve as a soundtrack to the film she shot documenting Voodoo ceremonies and festivals conveying the incantatory power of the ritual drumming and singing.

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