Archive for the 'radio art' Category

Jacki Apple – The Mexican Tapes

Jacki Apple - The Mexican Tapes LP front cover
Jacki Apple - The Mexican Tapes LP back cover
Jacki Apple - The Mexican Tapes LP side 1

Jacki Apple

Californian performer and audio artist Jackie Apple produced the Soundings radio show on KPFK-FM Los Angeles Public Radio from 1981-1995, where she aired experimental music and sound art and commissioned numerous new radio plays from US sound artists. Between 1983 and 1995, she was a contributing editor to the quarterly journal High Performance founded by Linda Frye Burnham in Los Angeles (1978-1997). One of Jacki Apple’s first release was the artist book Trunk Pieces, published in 1978 by Visual Studies Workshop Press, Rochester, a collection of found photographs used to create a semi-autobiographical narrative – a process similar to her use of archive recordings and found sounds in her audio works. Apple’s soundwork Black Holes/Blue Sky Dreams was included in the Airwaves compilation LP on One Ten Records in 1977 along Meredith Monk, Laurie Anderson and Terry Fox, a.o. Jacki Apple is professor at Pasadena College of Design since 1983.

 The Mexican Tapes was Jacki Apple’s first full-length disc release. It was published in 1980 by One Ten Records – who put out Laurie Anderson’s O Superman single in 1981. The soundtrack to a Super 8 color film, The Mexican Tapes is a complex combination of archive recordings, fictionnal investigation and spoken word interwoven into a multi-layered narrative. It is actually a polyphony of male and female voices reading simultaneously from a variety of sources including Mayan and Aztec sacred texts, diplomatic and CIA papers, US presidents speeches, Cold War propaganda, excerpts from Octavio Paz or Roland Barthes books, Trotsky’s stay in Mexico, the 1968 Mexico Olympics, etc. At times, there’s an exquisite underlying ambient music soundtrack made of small percussion, whistling, flute and sound effects, an allusion to Ancient Mayan music in the way Jorge Reyes did, just much more minimal. But I must confess I struggle to grasp the meaning of this collage or to reconstitute a coherent narrative in The Mexican Tapes.

01 The Mexican Tapes (24:54)
02 The Mexican Tapes – continued (26:20)

Total time 51:14
LP released by One Ten Records, ref. 003, New York, N.Y., USA, 1980

Download or  Download

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Katalin Ladik & Gábor Fülöp [2 radio plays]

Katalin Ladik & Gábor Fülöp [2 radio plays] LP front cover
Katalin Ladik & Gábor Fülöp [2 radio plays] LP back cover
Katalin Ladik & Gábor Fülöp [2 radio plays] LP side 1

This 1988 Serbian disc on Radio-Televizje Beograd (RTB) pairs two radio plays produced by Radio Novi Sad by Magyar-speaking writers Katalin Ladik and Gábor Fülöp (note: in this post, family names come in last, unlike Hungarian custom).

A poet, mail artist, sound poet, performance artist and actress from Vojvodina, Katalin Ladik, born 1942, worked at Radio Novi Sad from 1963 to 1977, then became actor with the Novi Sad Theater until 1992, when she relocated to Hungary. She collaborated with composers Dubravko Detoni (1973-73), Ernö Kiraly (Jugoton LP, 1979), Dušan Radić (Oratorio Profano, 1979) or Boris Kovač (Ritual Nova I & II, 1985-88). Ladik’s radio play Aki Darazsakról Álmodik, or Who Is Dreaming About Wasps, was premiered in Budapest by the Hungarian national radio in 1982 under the title Furcsa, Aki Darazsakról Álmodik, with the voices of Alex Avanesian and Imre József Katona. The version on this disc was recorded by Radio Novi Sad in Vojvodina (a Serbian province including a Magyar-speaking minority – see previous post) and directed by Tibor Vajda and the collaboration of Júlia Biszák, Karoly Fischer, Gábor Fülöp and experimental music composer and instrument builder Ernö Király. Ladik was married to Király during the 1960s, when he was music director at Radio Novi Sad.

In this surreal, dream-like radio play, studio techniques like montage, varispeed or voice spatialization create a disconcerting theater of voices narrating the encounters of a woman (played by Ladik herself) with various imaginary male and female caracters. The woman’s voice is alternatively a child, a young woman, a mother or an elder, not necessarily in this logical order. Ernö Kiraly’s mysterious ziterphone and tablophone notes float around adding up to the Surrealist and neo-folk atmosphere.

Hungarian poet, translator, playwright and editor Gábor Fülöp (b1950), lived in Yugoslavia in the 1980s and was director of dramaturgy at Radio Novi Sad from 1976 to 1991, when he finally relocated to Budapest, Hungary. The radio play Bomba-Effektus Le És Föl (or The effect of bombs, above and under) was originally created at Radio Novi Sad in 1983. The play is more traditional than Ladik’s own, with proper roles, scenario and Foley art.

[Thanks to Goran for this disc]

  1. Katalin Ladik Aki Darazsakról Álmodik (23:07)
    Katalin Ladik, author
    Katalin Ladik, Júlia Biszák, Károly Fischer, actors
    Ernö Király, ziterphone, tablophone, electric guitar
    Tibor Vajda, director
    Gábor Fülöp, dramaturgy
    Doru Barbulov, sound engineer
  2. Gábor Fülöp Bomba-Effektus Le És Föl (21:35)
    Gábor Fülöp, Éva Varga, authors
    György Fejes, István Sinkó, Jeno Ferenci, József Horváth,
    Károly Fischer, Zoltán Balázs-Piri, Zsuzsa Daróczi, actors
    Gábor Fülöp, dramaturgy
    Iván Fece, sound engineer

Total time 44:42
LP released by RTB, Belgrade, ex-Yugoslavia, 1988


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Ernst Jandl ’13 Radiophone Texte’

13 Radiophone Texte cassette
13 Radiophone Texte side 1
13 Radiophone Texte liner notes

Austrian poet Ernst Jandl (1925-2000) was a key figure of German sound poetry, famous for his play with the language and hilarious public lectures where his version of the Viennese accent added to an inexhaustible aural creativity. Recorded in the BBC Radiophonic Workshop in July 1966, this cassette documents a performance conceived for writer/producer George MacBeth‘s poetry programme, as part of the BBC’s Third Programme series devoted to contemporary poets. Also including Bob Cobbing, for instance, MacBeth’s show was the first to present sound poetry and concrete poetry on the Beeb.

♫ The extraordinary plasticity of Jandl’s voice is enhanced by re-recording, tape speed change, sound effects and montage, courtesy of the Workshop’s technicians, to create lively evocations based on Jandl’s own book “Laut und Luise”, published that same year (1966). While one clearly hears echoes of Kurt Schwitters’ Ursonata and the Dada soirées at Cabaret Voltaire, the resulting aural vignettes are also close to musique concrète and hörspiel. The collaboration between Jandl and the BBC’s sound technicians yielded wonderful results, with some tracks verging on plain choral music and others closer to obscure shamanist songs. 13 Radiophone Texte was issued on cassette in 1977 by S Press Tonbandverlag, or S Press Tapes, a German publisher of avantgarde music and poetry reading, especially by Beat poets like Ferlinghetti, Giorno, Ginsberg or Kerouac. It was founded in 1970 by Angela & Michael Köhler with Nikolaus Einhorn, and released cassettes and LPs.

Jandl posterThe music, pictures and liner notes English translation for this post were provided by fellow blogger and music researcher Acousmata (thanks!) who’s simultaneously making a post on an Ernst Jandl voice-based musique concrète piece titled “Fünf Mann Menschen” (visit here). Ubuweb also features some of Jandl’s concrete poetry.

01 George MacBeth Introduction (2:08)
02 In the Country (3:54)
03 Longing (1:57)
04 Pain through Friction (:49)
05 Niagara Falls (3:07)
06 In the Realm of the Dead (2:29)
07 Rich Man, Poor Man, Beggar Man (:43)
08 Prayer (1:50)
09 Einsamkeit – Loneliness (1:21)
10 War Poem – The Trenches (1:13)
11 Ode to N (1:49)
12 Talk (:52)
13 Rope Ladder (1:28)
14 A Study in Bureaucracy – Office with Swallows (4:03)

Total time 28:00
Cassette released by S’Press Tonbandverlag, Düsseldorf & München, Germany, 1977


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Ernst Jandl cassette

Ergo Phizmiz ‘The Faust Cycle’ [review]

The Faust Cycle front cover
The Faust Cycle back cover
The Time Machine [from WFMU]

In The KLF’s 1990 Chill Out, the car radio was a means for a psycho-geographic dérive in America’s Deep South through TV-evangelists’ rants, traffic-accident reports, Tuvan throat singing and sheep herds. In The Faust Cycle, completed January 2010, English sampler virtuoso Ergo Phizmiz (born 1980) embarks in a similar dérive, though he eventually gets rid of any excuse or plausible scenario to let his mind become a permanent radio dial switching between 78 rpm shellac records, music automata, string quartets and cuckoo clocks. In this surrealist aural freak show, Phizmiz attempts to capture the last signals from 20th century’s murmuring agony, from Morse code to music boxes, from 78s to ukulele, from silent movies to bird recordings. This mammoth mix collects sonic memes and blends them with Phizmiz’s own obsessions: music machines, bird songs, Gramophones, scatology, artists as divine figures. Exploring the dark recesses of the Doctor’s House, he encounters the many faces of Faustus: the Artists, the Creators, the Originals, the Freaks, the Musicians, etc, and eventually finds a family among them. But Phizmiz is not alone in this adventure and Faust includes a host of collaborators, sponsors and music workshop participants. The former contribute a series of fantastic pop songs and incidental music, while the latter add awkwardness and freshness to the music – all enhance The Faust Cycle‘s collective experience. For Phizmiz has the ability to let other people’s creativity blossom, embedded inside his own work, and most composers will look narrow-minded, even unidimensional, compared to Phizmiz.

For instance, Chunk #3 incorporates rehearsals and final interpretation by amateur young people from the Isle of Wight (around 1h44). In the course of their workshop with Ergo Phizmiz, they created an alternative soundtrack to Murnau’s 1926 Faustus film, based on ukulele, melodica, piano, xylophones, marimbas, assorted percussion and. . . Drinking Lucky Bird [+]. The ensemble reminds some of Cornelius Cardew’s Scratch Orchestra experimentations. This episode #3 is typical of all the Cycle. It has collage and electroacoustic music by Angela Valid, on top of which Phizmiz has plenty of time to retell an episode from Homer’s Illiad. A ventriloquist duo eventually disrupts any common sense left. In an hilarious scatological passage around 2h10mn, the mix transforms into a radio drama where the narrator gets way of his soul in the toilet bowl, or porcelain. The passage eventually leads to Doctor Faustus’ sewer system. Episode ends with a desolate violin solo by Amie Willingale, followed by a no less sad, Liszt-ian piano solo, presumably an interpretation of Erik Satie’s Le Tango Perpétuel by James Nye.

The sublime first half of Chunk #4 is devoted to Bird Machines. After we’ve heard Duchamp lecturing birds, after a brief encounter with a Gramophone walking on 4 legs playing dusty shellac discs, the mix describes a series of bird machines, including a Night Jar-Machine, a Duck-Machine, a Cuckoo-Machine, all inspired by an obsession with Vaucanson’s mechanical duck. The rest of Chunk #4 has birds and nature recordings, sped-up frog recordings, Tibetan bells (56:00), slowed down bird songs mixed with 78s sizzling sounds, close to some of Philip Jeck’s own work. Also included is a great song about a Cassowary (49:15) that praises “the amazing benefits of grazing”, and an homage to Joseph Cornell – to which the Cycle is dedicated. Elsewhere, Cornell is described as ‘an assistant of Faustus’ (Chunk #2, 26:00). Martha Moopette also contributes extensively to the project in various Chunks, and it all ends  with a sublime field recording of a brook and birds by The Travelling Moongoose (Chunk #5, 2h40mn).

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Below: some of the visual inspiration for The Faust Cycle.
Can you spot Faustus among them?

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Subtitled ‘An adventure for radio’, The Faust Cycle is after all a regular radio play, where Phizmiz narrates his own adventures, leading us from place to place, from implausible stairs to the next imaginary room. Episodes of the Cycle have been aired on various radios between 2008 and 2010, including WFMU. The Faust Cycle would not have been possible without mp3 technology and the ability to store thousands of sound files on a hard drive and the whole project is quite vertiginous when you think about it: it contains samples of music (78rpm and other records), but also samples from sample-based music (guest contributors). In any case, The Faust Cycle is the most ambitious music project conceived in the 21st century and certainly the only one able to challenge your listening habits. That it is available for free and doesn’t fit on a regular disc speaks volumes as to the state of music today.

Download from Headphonica. Visit Ergo Phizmiz’s blog.

All Chemix Radio ‘Bob in Europe/The Sacred Hole’

'Bob in Europe/The Sacred Hole' cassette coverJ.R. Bob Dodds Sr., figurehead of the Church of SubGeniusVeronica Vera (presumably photographed by Robert Mapplethorpe)Andrew McKenzie

01 Bob in Europe (43:50)

J.R. Bob Dobbs Sr., voice
Willem De Ridder, voice
Chuck Wirstrom, library music and sound effects
Recorded ca. 1990

  • In this rare interview appearance, Bob Dobbs, creator of the Church of the SubGenius (see official website and Wiki page), tells us more about the Foot Gland, the Liquid Slack [+], the discovery of pyro-flatulation, and other important matters. This short ACR episode (31:00) deals with post-WWII and Cold War topics, transformed by De Ridder and Dobbs into absurd and surrealist events. It is followed by a conversation between Veronica Vera and Cora Emens regarding the Spiral Cassettes series, an audio magazine published by De Ridder and Andrew McKenzie, including spoken words, audio snapshots, archive or ethnic recordings, etc. The first issue apparently appeared in January 1990.

02 The Sacred Hole (Good Catholic Girl) (42:30)
Veronica Vera, voice
Andrew McKenzie, electronics

  • In The Sacred Hole, ex porn star, pro-whore activist and cross-dressing champion Veronica Vera, narrates her discovery and exploration of sexuality from childhood to adulthood in a charming, sensual voice, with metaphysical electronic accompaniment courtesy of Andrew McKenzie (aka The Hafler Trio). Vera’s narration is full of vivid images and she has the ability to retell her discoveries and surprises in a captivating way. What might pass for a lewd, self-indulgent confession turns out to be the sincere self-portrait of a woman. Intriguing pairing with McKenzie’s electronic drones.

Music+scan provided by Olivier Prieur. Thanks!


Willem De Ridder ‘De Grote Oto Derby’

Grote Oto Derby - tape box n°1

De Grote Oto Derby
01 Part I (61:48)
02 Part II (61:50)
03 Part III (63:11)

Total time 3hrs 6mns
Recorded 1978. Retrieved from VPRO.


The 1978 Death Fear Escapade, drawing by Peter PontiacIn 1977 and early 1978, Willem De Ridder organized ‘Doodsangst Therapie’ (Terror Therapy) radio shows on VPRO Dutch national radio, using provocative and questionable tricks (including torturing a mouse, according to Paul Kuiper). With these shows, De Ridder was taking part in a typical Dutch trend, known in The Netherlands as thrillerhoorspelen, or thriller radio plays. The last episode was titled ‘Death Fear Escapade’ and was aired January 10th, 1978, asking car drivers to put a skull on their windshield and honk several times when coming across other participants on their way to a then unknown destination, eventually Loevestein. The drawing above, from a Peter Pontiac comic book titled Retrospective Comics, illustrates the episode. A dedicated website archives the Doodsangst Escapade episode – including a complete list of previous episodes here.


To the Grote Oto Derby GoogleMapDe Ridder conceived an even more spectacular event during the night of Monday 18 to Tuesday 19 September, 1978, the instantly legendary Great Auto Rally. To the volunteers who wished to take part in the experience, De Ridder had devised a trip from Amsterdam to Harderwijk, in the centre of the country, through the polders of the Flevoland province, notoriously below sea level – in a way, the very essence of the country: ‘In Nederland, het land van de Neders’, says De Ridder (The Netherlands, the Low Country). The circuit included going through Utrecht, Hilversum, Muiderberg, Almere, Hollandse Hout or Holland Forest, Lelystad and Lelystad-Haven, and finally the Knardijk dike or Knardijk dam in Harderwijk, separating Flevoland from Gelderland (see Google Map). 7,500 cars alleguedly took part and 30,000 listeners were hooked on their radio (3,000 cars and 20,000 listeners according to other sources). Participants were asked to put sacred objects on their dashboard, stickers on their windshields and to use their lights to signal each other. During the first episode, De Ridder also requires participants to carry a house plant with them upon arriving in Lelystadt. Later during the night, hundreds of people were asked to get out of their cars at a meeting point and make use of the flashlamps from their photo cameras in a kind of Fluxus event. The purpose of the event for De Ridder is not to reach the last stop, the trip itself is the experience, hence the motto used to advertise the event: Zoekt niet en gij zult vinden, or Seek not and thou shall find – more or less inspired by Deuteronomy 6.4.


The Grote Oto Derby heroesThe whole show is no doubt one of the greatest experiments in radio art of all times and its large scale and ambition only comparable to the Mercury Theater’s War of the Worlds (1938). During the first hour, De Ridder apparently sets the mood for the events to come, with a mix of energetic rock numbers and electronic sounds (think Spooky Tooth with Pierre Henry). Vangelis’ Spiral (1977) reappears several times as a dotted line, possibly as a warning that the trip will not be rectilinear.  The second hour is 95% instrumental and is presumably meant to be listened to during the trip to Lelystad through the desolate Pelvo polders. The DJ plays a mix of kosmische musik like Vangelis and Klaus Schulze, including the whole B-side of the latter’s Blackdance, 1974. In Part III, De Ridder leads listeners to Lelystad Haven, the port of Lelystad and then Knardijk dam, the actual endpoint, with yet another great pop-rock and electronic mix.

Download (256Mb): option 1 / option 2

Philip Perkins ‘Drive Time’

Philip Perkins 'Drive Time' LP coverDrive Time side ADrive Time side BPhilip Perkins 'Drive Time' back cover

01 Rainy Third Street (:42)
02 At Home And Away (3:35)
03 Noise Organ / Xmas Party / Ella (3:32)
04 Mechanical Piano Parade (3:06)
05 On The Park (2:51)
06 At The Machine / Eastchester Parade / The Onion (5:19)
07 Radio Dream (London) (4:02)
08 Street Conversation / Hardanger (2:56)
09 Squeak Opening / Grieg Park (3:02)
10 Shanty (3:25)
11 Bearing / Guitar Hero (4:45)
12 Hotel TV (LA) (1:28)
13 Jig (2:27)
14 Lions (:53)
15 Fire (3:45)

Total time 45:40
LP released by Fun Music, San Francisco, 1985

Philip Perkins was born in 1951 in Coatesville, Pennsylvania. During the first half of the 1970s he made numerous experimental films in Eugene, Oregon before relocating to San Francisco in 1977. Starting 1979, he focused on sound engineering and music, yet still making videos for local bands The Residents, Tuxedomoon or MX-80, for instance. Like two other Perkins audio works of the time (The Rosetta Stone and Hall of Flowers), ‘Drive Time’ was conceived as an alternative radio program, an interest Perkins further developed in later radio projects featuring live musicians and electronics, like ‘South Florida Remote’, ‘San Francisco Remote’ (both 1988), and ‘Berkeley Remote’ (1989). For more information on these, read Philip Perkins 1989 interview with H23 magazine No 1, Spring 1989 here. ‘Drive Time’ is a collection of audio vignettes encompassing recordings of various human leisure and outdoor activities (conversations, Christmas party, funfair,  mechanical piano, outdoor orchestral music, muzak, geese, gulls, rain, etc), interweaved with keyboard and guitar music, in addition to what Perkins calls ‘simple musique concrete tricks’. The final mix, an elaborate audio survey of contemporary human activities, shows Perkins’ mastering of studio techniques, clever arrangements and melodic skills. ‘Eastchester Parade’ recalls Tony Schwartz’s own fondness for street parades, while on ‘Mechanical Piano Parade’ the piano conjures up a frolicking Buster Keaton surrounded by joyous geese. Imagine The Residents toying with field recordings for one of their concept albums (minus the buffoonery), except Philip Perkins’ melodies are far more refined and his arrangements more complex. The brilliant sound crafting recalls fellow San Franciscans Rhythm And Noise (Naut Humon, Nik Fault, Rex Probe) and the peerless technique of ‘Chasms Accord’ (1985). But Perkins doesn’t focus on electronic, and keyboards are just an element in a well balanced mix of acoustic instruments, synth loops and location recordings. Quite an achievement, actually.


See also:
Philip Perkins ‘Virgo Ramayana’ >
Philip Perkins ‘Neighborhood With A Sky’ >
FUN music official website

Hessel Veldman ‘Radio Times’

'RadioTimes' front pictureHessel Veldman (2005)'RadioTimes' back cover'RadioTimes' cassette

01 Radio Times I (31:00)
02 Radio Times II (30:55)

Total time 62:00
Cassette released on Exart Cassettes, EA037, The Netherlands, 1990?

With ‘Radio Times’, released ca. 1990, Hessel Veldman possibly wanted to compose a paean to radio and celebrate the decade he spent working with Willem De Ridder on numerous All Chemix Radio plays during innumerable recording sessions, either in his own Ijmuiden, The Netherlands studio, or De Ridder’s own Amsterdam home studio, or even the Radio Rabotnik studios. The ‘Radio Arts guild’ logo from the cover is a possible reference to De Ridder’s Radio Art Foundation. ‘Radio Times’ fits perfectly with other projects from around 1990, namely: Michael Snow’s ‘2 Radio Solos’ and Chris Meloche’s ‘Document 90’, posted earlier on this blog. The 2 sides of this cassette are build on layer upon layer of uninterrupted, processed radio transmissions from around the globe along various percussion, tapes, didjeridoo and female vocals. Veldman is not interested in radio tourism or exoticism, though, and the unrecognizable broadcasts are a mere source material for thick layers of static and electronic interferences where only hints of the original voices and music surfaces intermittently. Whether this was recorded live or painstakingly processed is not known to me, though the FNTC/All Chemix Radio ethos prescribed live recording only. Anyway ‘Radio Times’ can be heard as an impressive farewell to easy listening.



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