still editing audio files, i found this excerpt of the ARP 2600 (also recorded at mills) sounding quite like a bird. in recent weeks, national geographic published news on the sound design of 1100-year-old mayan architecture, suggesting that mayan pyramids were designed to respond to a handclap with the sound of the sacred quetzal bird. (national geographic is also known for trotting out that old canard [sorry] that animals should be credited for composing aesthetically-pleasing music - though you can count on comparisons to mozart and not rap.) the mayan report adds another episode to a long history of efforts to emulate birdsong with musical instruments & composition: from sound-producing automata, to messiaen and his spectrograms and transcriptions of birdcalls, to ARP itself and its instructions for synthesizing a “terned-on seagull.” perhaps my favorite example in this lineage is david dunn’s composition mimus polyglottos, discussed in this interview, a duet between an oscillator and mockingbird in which the bird seems curious to emulate the electronic sounds… terning the tables, so to speak.
today, cleaning files off an old hard drive, i unearthed recordings i made of the moog IIIp at mills last march, and listened for interesting excerpts to pull. curiously, i found a little riff that sounds like the “12 days of christmas.” certainly nothing i intended to compose, it may have resulted from knob settings that predated my arrival in the studio. last night i was reading an article on the decline effect of the scientific method, which suggests how scientific conclusions become increasingly difficult to replicate over time. one explanation for this phenomenon is that scientists feel the pull of a dominant paradigm (per kuhn), or of the study’s orientation toward a goal, and interpret data accordingly. in time, the ambient pull shifts toward disproving the claim instead. likewise, i suspect my hearing "six geese a-laying" in the moog riff is enabled by the ambient ubiquity of christmas tunes around the holiday… another time of year, i’d hear it as just another sequence of notes. (( reconsidering listening as acts of occasional interpretation… )) in any case, “switched-on santa" has already been made, amidst the avalanche of imitators following wendy carlos’s pathbreaking album, so i’ll leave this riff behind.
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signs of life in the studio, after a long hiatus while finishing my phd. thrilled with my new recording setup: 2x neumann km184 condenser mics (which i became enamored of while doing the mfa at mills) running into a sound devices 702 digital recorder (highly recommended by my audiophile buddies). here, the glowing 702 records a hammond L-103. the L-103 was likely built in the 1960s, a cousin of the more famous B3. my folks acquired this one used, when i was a kid, through an ad in the old knickerbocker news. i remember visiting the house where we got it; the hammond seemed forlorn and neglected on a screened porch. it was bought for the other family’s daughter, 20 years before, who never took to it. i don’t remember how we got it home. maybe in the back of our oldsmobile cutlass wagon? this reminds me, i keep meaning to read annie proulx’s accordion crimes… also, check out owen chapman’s research on the history of the hammond organ…