Obscure #8: John White/Gavin Bryars ‘Machine Music’

'Machine Music' front coverJohn White (b.1936)'Machine Music' info sheet'Machine Music' side B

John White
01 Autumn Countdown Machine (5:30)
02 Son of Gothic Chord (10:04)
03 Jew’s Harp Machine (2:31)
04 Drinking And Hooting Machine (4:42)

Gavin Bryars
05 The Squirrel and The Ricketty Racketty Bridge (20:45)

Total time 43:30
LP released by Island Records, UK, 1978

Two slices of pure Systems Music by the inventors of the genre. John White (born 1936) is a composer, pianist and tuba player. He founded Promenade Theatre Orchestra in 1969 along with Christopher Hobbs, Alec Hill, and Hugh Shrapnel. He was also a member of The Scratch Orchestra, Garden Furniture Music and the Farewell Symphony Orchestra (see Systems Music Timeline). The John White’s Machine Music featured on this LP refers to a set of rigid rules imposed on the interprets in order to limit their selfishness, exuberance, virtuosity and showmanship. In Son of Gothic Chord, the scale of the music is limited to one piano octave only, while Jew’s Harp Machine is written for an extremely limited instrument, as is Drinking And Hooting Machine, for glass bottles. Exquisite, self-restrained music, in any case. Gavin BryarsRicketty Racketty Bridge is for 4 guitarists playing 2 table top guitars each. Interprets play the strings with fingertips like a keyboard. Derek Bailey, Fred Frith, Brian Eno and Gavin Bryars play different kind of guitars (see liner notes above). The result is a steady, semi-aleatoric web of soft notes where all personality and selfishness from the guitarists have been erased. Calling this Minimalist Music would be to miss the point entirely. The process is much more ironic.
Music offered by koshka. Thanks.


See also:

  • Obscure #2: Hobbs/Adams/Bryars ‘Ensemble Pieces’ >
  • Obscure #4: David Toop/Max Eastley >
  • Obscure #6: Michael Nyman ‘Decay Music’ >

6 Responses to “Obscure #8: John White/Gavin Bryars ‘Machine Music’”

  1. 1 Nick October 26, 2009 at 11:53 am

    Thanks for this. “Drinking and Hooting Machine” is my go-to experimental music to perform with dinner party guests.

  2. 2 continuo October 26, 2009 at 12:22 pm

    There’s nothing like Upper Class music to cheer up a party. Nice blog you have there. Thanks for dropping by.

  3. 3 wightdj October 26, 2009 at 5:23 pm

    Thanks for this Obscure batch. I plan to feast on these all week.

  4. 4 continuo October 26, 2009 at 5:35 pm


  5. 5 gidouille October 29, 2009 at 4:59 am

    Any of the Obscure series are welcome. I have the Jan Steele/John Cage, which WFMU posted a while back. This is one of the rarer of the series.

  6. 6 continuo October 29, 2009 at 8:13 am

    It was high time they were made available again. This is what blogs are supposed to do, after all.

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