April 16, 2016

Record Store Day!:


It was a joy to see Andy’s Records choc-o-bloc with punters rediscovering the virtues of vinyl:


Today, 33-rpm records cost five times more than they did when I last bought one. In the mid-1970s, I used to save up a month’s pocket money and take a bus from Abertillery to Newport, often with friends (album buying was a social activity, back then), to spend a good hour leafing through the racks in each of the town’s several retailers. Record shops were our libraries. On leaving Andy’s Records, an idea pressed itself upon me: ‘Stylophonics’. Just that word, and a ‘vision’ of a live performance in the confines of the shop. What do you do when strong impressions come at you out of the blue like that?

The Stylophone was my first instrument. So, perhaps the idea is an invitation to return to my origins as a sound maker:


The Stylophone (invented in 1967) was first promoted by a now unmentionable antipodean, but its chief claim to fame was as one of the instruments played by David Bowie on his Space Oddity (1969). It had a rather nasty, brassy, and frustratingly limited sound produced by a single voltage-controlled oscillator. During the period from 1972 to 1976, I played the original Stylophone and its successor, the larger 350s, through a fuzz-wah effects pedal and an analogue reel-to-reel tape recorder, while circuit-bending the devices to create ‘illicit’ and, potentially, more productive sounds (that were sometimes far from controllable):


Today, it’s one of the main instruments played by the Russian rock group ГРОМЫКА. 

During the morning, the Aural Diary migration and cataloguing was completed. I’ll be adding fresh material to this collection, once my digital, hand-held recorder arrives. I returned to my study of musicology and a paper on Handel’s Messiah (1741), a piece of music with which I’ve had a run-in before, for other reasons.

After lunch, I composed a shortlist of terms used in music criticism to provide a framework of reference for a more formal interrogation of my composition:


I can see why Clement Greenberg was so enamoured with music criticism as a possible paradigm for art criticism. Music criticism deals with formality foremost. Because music is fundamentally abstract.

I returned to the other tracks that’ll be included in the new double CD, to review the mastering that I’d completed at the end of September last year. The mastering sounded, now, too brittle to my ears. A moderate mellowing was in order. In part, the problem is created at source. A number of the found sounds were recorded on whatever I had to hand at the time: a Walkman Cassette-corder, cameras, and digital Dictaphone. Other recordings were captured, live, directly to computer using a portable interface. The quality of the sound is the quality of the sound. One has to work with it.

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