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The Casiotone Preset that Kickstarted Jamaican Dancehall

“Under Mi Sleng Teng,” by Jamaican singer Wayne Smith, is one of the milestones in the history of Jamaican popular music. Written by Smith and his friend Noel Davey, the pioneering dancehall classic was made using a Casio electronic keyboard. The song immediately became a smash hit when it was released in 1985, and its optimistic digital sound and addictive beat soon took the world by storm.

The rhythm section has always formed the backbone of reggae music. In modern styles, the drums and bass provide the distinctive “riddims” or backing over which a DJ or singer overdubs a vocal. It is common for numerous artists to make their own “versions” (vocal interpretations) of popular riddims, building original songs around the same basic rhythmical pattern. The “Sleng Teng” riddim, named after the song in which it was first used, has now inspired as many as 450 different songs. The riddim played a key role in bringing Jamaican music into the digital era, and is known as one of the “monster riddims” that ushered in the golden age of the dancehall era.

Today, 35 years after the original song was released, the conventional version of reggae history holds that the “father” of the riddim was Wayne Smith and his producer at the Jammy’s label in Jamaica. In fact, the history of the riddim goes back further than Smith and his collaborators. It was originally a preset rhythm pattern programmed into the Casiotone MT-40, released in 1981. It was this preset that Smith and his friends used as the basic building block for their revolutionary song.

  • CASIO

Unsatisfied with the corporate streaming model, an idealistic group of avant-garde improvisers created a small-scale alternative—and want other artists to do the same.

Talk to enough musicians about the problems they see with corporate streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music, and you’re bound to encounter a version of the following proposition, usually presented as a far-off hypothetical, if not an outright unattainable dream. What if we got together and built an alternative platform that prioritized the needs of independent musicians? What if we made the rules about who gets paid, and how? And what if we owned the company ourselves?

Catalytic Sound, a cooperative organization comprising 30 avant-garde instrumentalists and composers, is attempting to actualize this dream—and hoping to help other similarly minded musicians do the same for themselves. In January, the co-op’s partners launched Catalytic Soundstream, a small-scale streaming platform that charges listeners $10 per month for access to a rotating library of albums from the fringes of improvised music. The catalog is much more curated than the neverending buffets of the major platforms, with between 100 and 150 albums available at any given time and new ones swapped in and out every day. Most of these records feature one or more of the players who operate Catalytic and share equally in its revenue, an international and multi-generational roster of out-jazz and free improv luminaries that includes Joe McPheeTomeka ReidTashi DorjiIkue Moriclaire rousayChris Corsano, and Luke Stewart.

Within the bounds of experimental improvising, these musicians cover vast aesthetic territory, from McPhee’s strong roots in the jazz tradition to rousay’s use of field recordings and found speech. But according to Stewart, a D.C.-based organizer and bassist whose groups include Blacks’ Myths and Irreversible Entanglements, Catalytic Sound’s partners share an “underground aesthetic—one that has historically been ignored, but has also historically been fiercely independent, taking it all the way back to Sun Ra.”

To draw a comparison to video streaming, listening to music via Catalytic Soundstream feels more like browsing the Criterion Channel than Netflix. The records on offer, even at their most accessible, are well to the left of mainstream taste. (Someone wandered into the room as I was deep into Broken English, by the Peter Brötzmann Chicago Tentet—a group that includes several Catalytic partners in its membership—and remarked, not inaccurately, that the music sounded like “screaming, but with instruments.”) You shouldn’t expect to find the album everyone else is talking about, or even to find any particular album at all. You’re better off picking something you don’t know and following the platform’s thoughtful curation, which generally includes a note from one of the partners, much like a staff pick write-up at a bookstore.

If your ears are open to this sort of music, and you’re willing to trust your guides, you are all but guaranteed to hear thrilling, challenging, and mind-expanding sounds that you wouldn’t have encountered otherwise. Though many of the releases are also available on other platforms, Catalytic Soundstream surrounds each album with far more context and less competition for your attention than traditional streaming platforms, allowing you to approach the music closely on its own terms. And as a condition of their partnership in the co-op, every musician is asked to make one record per year for exclusive distribution through Catalytic. As a result, a substantial part of the catalog—55 of the 135 albums listed, at the time of this writing—is not streamable anywhere else, including Bandcamp.

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Poème électronique (English Translation: "Electronic Poem") is an 8-minute piece of electronic music by composer Edgard Varèse, written for the Philips Pavilion at the 1958 Brussels World's Fair. The Philips corporation commissioned Le Corbusier to design the pavilion, which was intended as a showcase of their engineering progress. Le Corbusier came up with the title Poème &eacute saying he wanted to create a "poem in a bottle".Varèse composed the piece with the intention of creating a liberation between sounds and as a result uses noises not usually considered "musical" throughout the piece. 

First presented at the 1958 Brussels Worlds Fair with 425 speakers placed throughout the famous Philips pavilion, the placement of the speakers and design of the building gave the spectators a feeling of being housed within a concrete, silver seashell. A giant model of the atom hung from the ceiling and the sound & imagery premiered to standing room only crowds and I can only imagine was a complete mind-blower to all who witnessed the spectacle. Varese is considered to be the "father of electronic music", Henry Miller described him as the "stratospheric colossus of sound." When Philips (Philips electronic company) approached Le Corbusier to design a building for the fair, Le Corbusier said, "I will not make a pavilion for you (Philips) but an Electronic Poem and a vessel containing the poem; light, color, image, rhythm and sound joined together in an organic synthesis."

The images in Le Corbusier's film are all black and white still photographs and willfully abstract. The first image is a bull's head in a spotlight. The final image is a woman holding an infant. Le Corbusier assigned thematic sections to the film: 

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0 – 60" Genesis
61 – 120" Spirit and Matter
121 – 204" From Darkness to Dawn
205 – 240" Man-Made Gods
241 – 300" How Time Moulds Civilization
301 – 360" Harmony
361 – 480" To All Mankind
The sequence of sounds in Varèse's composition:

  • Poème électronique

Born in Ottawa in 1988 and raised between the province of Quebec, Washington D.C. and Paris, Myriam Gendron settled in Montreal at the age of sixteen, where she currently makes her living as a book dealer.

In 2014, she released Not So Deep As A Well, a nine-track album made from poems by Dorothy Parker that she set to music. The critically-acclaimed record, released by Feeding Tube Records and Mama Bird Recording Co., was picked for many best-of-the-year lists. Richard Meltzer wrote that Not So Deep As A Well, “is the hottest—and FINEST!—Impossible Love collection in, I dunno, 30 years.”

Seven years later, in 2021, Myriam Gendron released Ma délire — Songs of love, lost & found, a very modern exploration of North American folk tales and traditional melodies. The bilingual double album of 75 minutes, released on October 1st 2021 by Feeding Tube Records and Les Albums Claus, is very well received by local and international musical critique. Myriam Gendron is part of the series CC No. 2 – Craving Coincidence, curated by by Thalia Zedek.

QUESTIONS

1. What is the biggest inspiration for your music?

It is hard to give a short and simple answer to this question. I guess many elements of life feed music in the most surprising ways but certainly
both the melodies I heard and love and the books I read somehow inspire my songs. I guess the life you live inspires the songs you write.

2. How and when did you get into making music?

I have been playing music since my early teenage years but I’d say that the actual creation of the songs on my first album came nearly by accident. I fell upon a collection of poems by Dorothy Parker called “Not So Deep As A Well” and I heard music in my head as I was reading them. Encouraged by people around me I turned these into songs that eventually became my first album, “Not So Deep As A Well” (2014). And then I realized I could write music that meant something to other people.

3. What are 5 of your favourite albums of all time?

– Robbie Basho : Visions of the Country
– PJ Harvey : The Peel Sessions
– Van Morrison : Astral Weeks
– Nick Castell : The Water Margin
– Leonard Cohen : Any album

  • Myriam Gendron

Following a successful Arts Council England funding bid, Ryoanji Records are putting out calls to commission new works of electroacoustic/acousmatic music which will be released digitally and physically as a hand-numbered, limited edition of 50 CDs and made available via the Ryoanji Records Bandcamp page and streaming services.

As signatories of the Keychange Pledge, this call will be open for applications from women, female-identifying, and gender minority composers only.

We are commissioning albums that last between 40 and 74 minutes long, which can take any form (eg from one long-form track through to multiple tracks).

Selected composers will also be required to participate in an online zoom presentation with young people about themselves and their work.

Each commission will have a launch event in Norwich, which we hope that you will be able to attend but is not compulsory.

The release date for this commission is scheduled for mid-June 2022, so works will need to be completed and sent to us by mid-May to allow time for mastering and pressing to CD.

To apply:

Please send links to up to three examples of existing work, no more than 15 minutes combined, that can be listened to online, alongside a written proposal of no more than one page long including a brief description of you and your work. Please also include a short explanation of the inspiration behind your proposal. Please do not send audio files as attachments. Please include your pronouns with your application.

Proposals for this call should be emailed to contact@ryoanjirecords.co.uk by 11:59pm (UK time) on Sunday 13th February ‘22. The selected composer will be notified by Monday 28th February.

Budget and other details:

A commission fee of £750 will be paid to selected composers and you will retain all copyrights to your work. You will also be provided with 10 copies of your CD for your own purposes. One year after the release of the work you may begin to host/sell the digital version of the album through your own channels should you wish to do so, but we would ask that you refrain from doing so until this point.

  • call

new Gazette Claus - first half 2022 by Kristina Nickel

https://issuu.com/lesateliersclaus/docs/lac_feb_2022

  • Kristina Nickel

WITH: Vito Acconci, Laurie Anderson, Alice Aycock, Scott Burton, Peter Campus, Chuck Close, Nancy Graves, Joseph Kosuth, Gordon Matta- Clark, Mary Miss, Elizabeth Murray, Dennis Oppenheim, Dorothea Rockburne and Joel Shapiro.

MICHAEL Blackwood and Nancy Rosen's ''14 Americans'' is a lively and informative feature that marks the re-emergence of the Film Forum, open in a new location after a year's hiatus and still programming independent features. A documentary, ''14 Americans'' is a look at a group of the most highly regarded artists of the 70's, providing each with a few minutes to discuss and demonstrate his or her work. Without narration or other commentary, it offers clear, illuminating glimpses of the artists and manages to present them in fresh and varying ways.

Not all of are shown off to the best advantage when given unlimited opportunity to discuss their art in abstract terms. Joseph Kosuth, who discusses his billboard filled with words and who tries to explain why he feels the best way to approach the problem of language is to confront it directly, talks a mile a minute, and somewhat muddily. Like Alice Aycock, who speaks about the origins of her work, he sounds quite high-handed.

But many of the artist viewed here, like Nancy Graves as she discusses her watercolors and camel sculptures, are very articulate about what they do, and all of them are fascinating to watch. Chuck Close, listening idly to ''Hollywood Squares'' while painstakingly airbrushing a small section of an enormous face, appears no less passionately involved in his work than the late Gordon Matta-Clark, who is seen carving shapes into an abandoned building in Antwerp.

Mr. Matta-Clark remarked that one reason he liked working with abandoned buildings was that the results were ''undocumentable.'' But Mr. Blackwood and Miss Rosen rise to the challenge very well, letting the camera roam through the unpredictable space Mr. Matta-Clark carved.

The works are filmed in appropriate, adaptable styles, with special attention paid to capturing each piece on its own terms. With Joel Shapiro's sculptures, the film makers immediately emphasize scale; with Laurie Anderson's conceptual art and music, they concentrate on the general strangeness of her efforts. Miss Anderson has equipped one violin with an electronically altered voice that says, ''I dreamed I had to take a test in a Dairy Queen on another planet.''

Scott Burton presents his furniture, saying of one piece, ''It is a chair, but in a way it's also a portrait of a chair,'' and maintaining, of a steel table and chair almost too heavy for him to move, ''they are real furniture, and they're meant to be used.''

Vito Acconci talks about the intimations of destruction in one of his sculptures, and says he can ''play with notions of art as therapy.'' Mary Miss, Elizabeth Murray, Peter Campus, Dennis Oppenheim and Dorothea Rockburne are also interviewed. They all contribute to the spirit of daring and bold experimentation that is the film's prevailing mood.
 

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  • 14 musicians

Black Editions Archive is a new imprint of Los Angeles’s Black Editions Group. Its focus is historical free jazz, with a particular emphasis on previously unheard recordings featuring Milford Graves. During his lifetime, the percussionist (and theorist, herbalist and martial arts practitioner) was extremely selective about releasing his music; subsequently there has been minimal documentation of his important work. In the final year of his life, Graves opened his personal archive to BEA, and saxophonist Peter Brötzmann offered recordings with Graves from the Brö records archive. Listen below to exclusive excerpts from works in progress and a complete recording from the first Black Editions Archive release, Historic Music Past Tense Future, with accompanying notes by Michael Ehlers of Black Editions Archive (and the Eremite and Brö labels).

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  • Milford Graves

• Iannis Xenakis 1922 – 2001

Martin Büsser

•Conceptronica

Between Club and Art
Sonia Güttler

•Les Disques du Crépuscule

The Beautiful Traitors in the Fading Light of Dusk
Oliver Tepel

• A conversation with Ziggy Devriendt about music in Belgium in general and STROOM in particular.

Michael Leuffen

Laurine Frost

The Musician As Outsider
Oli Warwick

READ IT HERE
 

  • Meakusma Magazine

Filmmaker Stanley Nelson, whose Attica is currently shortlisted for best documentary feature at the Academy Awards, has already identified his next project.

Nelson’s Firelight Films is developing Sun Ra and the Roots of Afrofuturism, about the life, work and legacy of American jazz legend Sun Ra. Born Herman Poole Blount in 1914 in Birmingham, Alabama, Sun Ra claimed that he had been “teleported” to Saturn and espoused a theory of Blackness as the foundation of the “omniverse,” from the birthplace of civilization in ancient Egypt through the Space Age. He composed more than 1,000 jazz works, released more than 100 self-produced records and wrote countless volumes of poetry until his death in 1993. He was a pioneer of Afrofuturism (coined by cultural critic Mark Dery), the cultural aesthetic that fuses African diaspora history, science and technology.

“Without Sun Ra it is hard to understand George Clinton, Erykah Badu, Janelle Monae, Ras G, Kamasi Washington, Shabaka Hutchings, Moor Mother, Black PantherLovecraft Country and Afrofuturism itself,” Nelson said in a statement. “Ra was part mystic, genius, showman and possibly alien. He was one of the most prolific, creative and visionary musicians the world has ever known.”

The documentary will combine archival footage and performances with new interviews from Ra’s surviving collaborators, including longtime Ra collaborator Marshall Belford Allen, 98, who currently leads Sun Ra’s Arkestra, as well as modern-day Afrofuturist artists and scholars.

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