Could the final frontier of electronic music be to perform its broad repertoire of composition, sound experiments and popular song acoustically?
Landmark pieces will be arranged and performed without the use on any electronic component. Video game themes, audio logos and music from electronic pioneers Raymond Scott and Kraftwerk featured. $10
To say that electronics have sneaked their way into the music world is a bit of an understatement. For decades, this music technology has pushed the electric impulse—that damn one and zero—into every corner of music performance, recording, composition and synthesis. (Exceptions being, of course, traditional world folk music, early Bob Dylan, and holiday performances of Handel’s Messiah on 18th century period instruments.)
By harnessing the sine wave, the great sonic explorers of the 50s, 60s, and 70s employed newly invented ‘sound machines’ to shape the attack, sustain and decay of pure tones. With the synthesizer, a few twists of a nob and a few patch cables later, experimental artists were able to replicate the sounds of a full orchestra just as easily (well maybe not quite in those days) as they were to birth sounds we associate with post-space-age life. Today this technology is largely used to eliminate the hassle of . . . playing actual instruments or, worse, hiring people to do so. Not long ago, recording a jingle required hiring an army of musicians and arrangers! Today this music can be manufactured at a fraction of the time and cost. Most of us simply accept this sonic substitution as part of the aural soundscape. But with so much of this music in our ears why should we ignore it? It is perfectly possible for people today to live their entire lives and never hear music in its purest form: the live acoustic performance. Not through a digital recording, not on a DJ’s laptop, and not through the MUZAK station blaring soft rock classics through tinny speakers hanging in the drop ceiling of your ‘local’ pharmacy chain. For the ‘techie,’ this is a mission accomplished! For the purist, this a frightening thought. For the Junk Kitchen Concert Series, this is yet another challenge!
In an age of digitizing the world, can this process of analogue to digital be reversed?Can music created on computers, played on electronic instruments, and recorded digitally be performed acoustically? And if so, what is lost? What is gained? Why should anyone care to do so anyway? Well, great attention has been brought to the hazards of eating processed foods; shouldn’t there be at least a dialogue about the potential risks of consuming ‘processed music’?
This program will be broken into four sections. We will take what is generally considered ‘functional’ electronic music and tear it away from its digital and midi files to perform it in the flesh, with an all-acoustic ensemble. Not only will this show allow the listener to hear some of this music live for the first time, but we are also giving this music an artistic acknowledgement that’s long overdue.
Video game music: The music of the Nintendo video game system has long been a staple of 1980s and 90s pop culture. Selections from the Mario Bro’s franchise will be performed with a live ensemble, along with a special performance of ‘Duck Hunt.’
Kraftwerk: This German group of the 1970s paved the way of the electronic/industrial music movement. Their songs, with simple melodies and strict dance rhythms recorded on an array of synthesizers, were to be the soundtrack to an inevitable singularity between man and machine.
Audio logos: What’s an audio logo? Simply put, it’s a musical motif that acts as a sonic identity, used by corporations in radio and TV promos. Think of it as the bird song of business. Isolated out-of-context, the audio logo may seem like a familiar sound never before really ‘heard,’ or a
warm childhood memory of watching public television.
Such a thing of modern beauty, the audio logo.
Raymond Scott: An unsung hero of composition and electronic innovation. We’ll perform pieces created under the Manhattan Research Inc. alias. Under this firm, Scott first commercialized musical electronics produced by his invention, the ‘electronium’: an early electronic synthesizer and algorithmic composition/ generative music machine. From the May 2012 ‘Raymond Scott Review’ the selections ‘Lightworks’ and ‘Paperwork Explosion’ will be performed.
Junk Kitchen is paying tribute simultaneously to both worlds: Electronic music played with acoustic instruments, baby!
Those who refuse to believe that this music can be performed accurately won’t go to this show. They’ll regard this description as nothing more than a just another one of our rambles about a program that puts opposites together and whatnot. They’ll stay home and spend the evening in an enclosed darkness, searching for something online that will, at best, only give them a fraction of what this show will offer. We shouldn’t blame them for their reluctance. We live in a world where the feeling of doing something is replacing the actual experience of doing it.
Ironically, defying this is at the heart of this installment’s mission. Will these pieces be acoustic imitations of electronic sounds or are they somehow the original sounds on which the electronic music is based? And upon answering this question, could a new frontier of music, or at least a conversation, be founded on the exploration between the two? How do these sounds measure up in the compassion of curious ears? How will the dark timbres of strings stretched taught over aged wooden bodies compare to the purity of the sound wave? How will a quantized pulse of time be felt against the mighty swing of the heartbeat? How will a chorus of cent-by-cent auto-tuned voices support the cry of blue notes sung out of the depths of genuine human experience? The end result will not only allow us to gain an understanding of how acoustic performances differ from electronic ones, but it will ultimately reveal what we have lost by giving way to these technological innovations. It’s quite possible that the sounds of this music might make it unrecognizable to a few or sound a bit funny to others. At minimum, the music of this night should lose its digital characteristics. Such a cost is negligible, for this night of acoustic performance may finally give electronic music back its soul.