Saturday, October 2, 2010

the raw and the cooked

My collaborative residency with writer Jen Craig is coming to an end, and while we've both done lots of work over the past 12 days, there's not much that's ready for anyone else to hear.

Part of my process over the past week has been simply to take Jen's texts and put myself in front of a microphone or two (with one of the mics feeding through an old analog synthesizer) and improvise take after take of interpretations of these texts. As the week has gone on I've found myself homing in on certain texts that seem to gel more with the vocal performances I've come up with. Most of these are still in various stages of editing and elaboration with other recorded material from the residency and elsewhere. But I decided to take a risk tonight and let one fairly raw offering out of the bag. Listen.

The text is one of Jen's briefer micro-stories - a 32-word utterance called Only three removes - that leaves lots of raw edges hanging. Unlike the previous two audio pieces, I've done nothing to directly address the contexts the text refers to (Kafka, holocaust, Prague...). I've just set two quite different 'readings' (vocalisings) of the text side by side. While I wanted to make the text comprehensible, neither of my readings aims to emphasise the narrative or emotive details of the text. Rather, they take a relatively emotionally flat approach, but with lots of grain in both the vocal performances and the interference (noise?) provided by the synth and some abrasive treatment of one of the mics.

My sense is that the resulting musical texture is analogous (homologous in Shepherd and Wicke's sense?) to the unresolved edges - almost the emotional prickles - that I read (feel?) in the text. It's a text which is full of ambivalence and tension. My desire in making the music was to inhabit (and perhaps take pleasure in) that space of masochistic discomfort. The masochism extends to the rough and unresolved edges of the recording and mix itself.

Does the strategy succeed in embodying such an experience? Or does the very 'under-produced' nature of the work get in the way, and stop the listener from really listening? Is it too literally uncomfortable to resonate and be appreciated as a musical experience?

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