[04] The Tape-beatles: Sombre Gertrude - Piece for Strings

The Tape-beatles - Foto: Lloyd Dunn

The Tape-beatlesFoto: Lloyd Dunn

rAdioCUSTICA selected 2007 | 23:29



Sombre Gertrude - Piece for trings

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The presented work is so new to them that they are still coming to terms with the pieces, which are in 3 parts. All works were done on laptop studio-workstations, though they tended to use odd configurations of work surfaces such as a desk with boards and shelves screwed here and there or, cantilevered by a stack books and boxes, an old singer sewing machine or whatever happens to be handy or in the way. The first work completed was the short interlude that remains undemarcated was the most successful of John's early experiments or explorations learning new compositional tools, but supplemented with new software, that behaved as if it were the simplest tool from the early 90's 16-bit sound processors. Remember: it hasn't always been so easy to process audio. 

Lloyd and John struggled with the issue of using midi instruments in their compositions, and it appears for the first time in the 'clock clack track' interlude, seen, we hope, as a throw-back, throw-ahead, or simply thrown-together samizdat which feels free to laugh in the company of the virtuosos. Lloyd, in a state of 11:59 anxiety suggested running the whole thing through the 'bit-crusher' filter, though, after counting to 10, cooler heads prevailed. Lloyd plunged ahead with his fertile explorations in harmonics, a tendency which has cropped up before, but has returned now with hot insistence. Here, new tools were put into service to bring about a sound for the ages from the ages. 

If this summary of Lloyds execution of this work smells of a yellowed, mildewed text, let me say it equals a magical Budapest night when the duo happened upon a string quartet who played in a corridor that lead to and from the toilets. The performers explained that it had the acoustics they were listening for, and the piece they played ripped our hearts out. One of the Tape-beatles thought he heard a modernist tome, though it was reported to be their interpretation of a string piece more than a century old. That night breaths in this last movement - the 'Piece for Strings' and the sweet smell of the wine rises from where the dusty text ought have been. 

The first segment came about by the marriage of a carefree assemblage of rhythm elements with a nearly belabored echo-looped treatment of a small fragment of speech*. The arrangement was completed and put aside, then fortuitously discovered during a 'library' operation and married to the vocal instrument, and the adrenaline produced, drove the work to its logical conclusion. The explosion of language which occurs over the drama of suspense filled horns and percussion works like a miniature action film within the context of the mix of home-spun and electronic textural elements that frame it. These works seem to tell a more emotional story than earlier Tape-beatles works which relied on text to deliver the narrative drama or message. 

* the voice of Gertrude Stein reading from her Portrait of Picasso, source: ubuweb 

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