Musicworks #50

Musicworks #50, magazine coverRobert Minden's waterphones
Michael Burtch's Waterfront sound sculptureMusicworks #50 side A

Robert Minden ‘The Boy Who Wanted To Talk To Whales’
01 Overture (4:45)
02 The Canadian (4:30)
03 Whale Song (4:15)
04 Daniel Goode ‘Thrush Polyphony (excerpts)’ (13:20)
05 Michael Burtch ‘Harbour Sounds Ashore’ (3:00)
06 Trevor Wishart ‘The VOX Cycle (excerpts)’ (6:30)
07 Petr Kotik ‘Wilsie Bridge’ (18:47)
08 Ushio Torikai ‘There’ (4:30)

Total time
Cassette+magazine released by Musicworks, Canada, 1991

The Boy Who Wanted To Talk To Whales’ by Canadian composer, story-teller and photographer Robert Minden is a cycle for voices and small ensemble using unusual instruments including: vacuum cleaner hoses, musical saw, cardboard tube drums and waterphones, amongst others. The excerpts given here conveys some unforgettable, magical sounds that make one want to listen to the whole work. During the 1970s, NYC composer Daniel Goode (a member of Gamelan Son of a Lion) transcribed Hermit Thrush songs for piano, clarinet or piccolo. ‘Thrush Polyphony’, with Goode himself on clarinet, Philip Corner on piano and William Hellermann on guitar, is an exquisite rendition of the bird’s songs. It sounds lighter and less metaphysical than Messiaen’s own transcriptions, while retaining some aspects of the original field recordings (pause, echo, simultaneity). Michael Burtch‘s Waterfront sound sculpture in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, is build from 3 huge air vents from the ‘Chief Wawatam’, a coal-burning steel ship that traversed the Great Lakes. Below ground level is a sound chamber with hanging steel bars and tubes, whose soft chimings are amplified by the horns outside. The sound sculpture seems to be remarkably integrated with its environment, recalling the sounds of distant freighters machinery while not being intrusive. British electroacoustic composer Trevor Wishart (born 1946) is famous for his Red Bird masterpiece, where voices, bird cries and other found object recordings morph into one another in a sonic tapestry that is nothing short of disturbing. Human voice has always been a pivotal feature for Wishart, like in Songcycle, Voiceprints and VOX Cycle, of which excerpts are presented here, a complex knitting of sound poetry wordless uterrances and computer technique. Petr Kotik is a Czech composer born 1942 who emigrated to New York in 1969. His 1987 Wilsie Bridge is a piece for wind, percussion and synth, all contributing to a highly energetic pulsation constantly on the move, where polyphony is created by the overlapping of instrument parts. Ushio Torikai‘s There is a short piece for synth and piano in unusual tunings.

[Link removed 12/09. Complaint received]

8 Responses to “Musicworks #50”

  1. 1 jan September 21, 2009 at 9:07 pm

    Hi, Continuo. In no time Robert Minden’s story has become a favourite here. Much more revealing than the whale-song recordings by Roger Payne i brought home a few weeks ago (second-hand vinyl) – I know, I can’t compare these two, but still… (cf. my thoughts on the UUHUU-bells). Many thanks for all your previous, next (Officer!, the Belgian composers, Veldman…) and… upcoming posts . Jan.

  2. 2 continuo September 21, 2009 at 9:16 pm

    Hi, Jan. Glad to hear from you again. Funny you mention Roger Payne’s whale songs recordings: I also found the LP this summer and I quite like it. It’s not as soporific as I expected. I’m even considering posting it!

  3. 3 jan September 22, 2009 at 11:38 am

    You can post it, Payne did a great job, I won’t complain or fall asleep, ‘en contraire’ :-)). By the way, on the same second-hand shelf I found the LP ‘Froschlurche unseren Heimat. Hörkulissen aus den Biotopen’, the songs of frogs and toads recorded in their natural habitats in Germany. The sounds of the midwife toad are extraordinary. I heard them for the first time years ago, at night on a campingsite near Le Puy (Auvergne): a shy, nocturnal conversation of dispersed tiny blieps, it really took a while to trace the source: a small choir of eyeblinking toads under a huge stone near, euh… the toilet vicinity. Sounds that create memories…

  4. 4 continuo September 22, 2009 at 12:20 pm

    Nice anecdote. Feel free to send mp3s along.

  5. 5 Nancy December 16, 2009 at 8:40 pm

    Hello Continuo,
    We are thrilled that you are featuring music from Musicworks magazine, and please remind everyone they can subscribe to our magazine on-line at However, making the music available on-line is a copyright infringement — if you don’t have permission. You need to contact the individual copyright holders to gain their written permission — we can help with contact info if you need it. Please deal with this promptly.

  6. 6 continuo December 16, 2009 at 9:25 pm

    Hi Nancy,

    Though I try to do it for other individual releases on my blog, I definitely don’t have time to deal with permission for each contributor on a Musicworks cassette. For instance, I was considering posting issue #23, for which contacting every copyright holder would be ridiculous. I mean: Joase and Susie Onalik? Alice and Donald Suluk? Alice Alasuak? Nellie Nunguak? Timanginak Petalaussie? Haunak Mikkigak???

    On the other hand, as I don’t feel like a pirate or a free music distributor, I wouldn’t mind removing all download links for Musicworks releases on my blog, no problem. Is this what you’re expecting from me?

    Funny to remember these Musicworks cassettes were compiled and produced by John Oswald, the creator of Plunderphonics and director of Mystery Tape Laboratory, who was once sued for copyright infringement himself.

    Best regards,

  7. 7 Kamil Antosiewicz February 23, 2010 at 3:43 pm

    Haha, nice remark, Continuo. This release is available on Soulseek too. Whoever wants to grab it, he should check out slsk resources.

  8. 8 continuo February 23, 2010 at 5:28 pm

    As far as I understand, lawyers and their clients don’t considerer Soulseek, eMule or forums as infringing their copyrights. They’ll only look at blogs, that is to say: what shows up instantly on Google.

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