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Drums&Drums&Drums

Jeremy Greenspan on January 07, 2013 12:01

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    "I first heard Laurie Spiegel's music about 13 years ago. Growing up I had been excited by early electronic
    experimentalists - people like Hugh Le Caine, Steve Reich, Wendy Carlos, Louis and Bebe Barron and
    of course Norman McLaren (whose work became the principal inspiration for the third Junior Boys
    album "Begone Dull Care"). In 2000 OHM released their excellent 3 CD set "The Early Gurus of Electronic
    Music". That album introduced me to the wonderful music of Jean Claude Risset, Alvin Lucier and most
    importantly for me, Laurie Spiegel. Spiegel's recording "Appalachian Grove I" stood out on the compilation.
    Amidst a sea of abstraction, dissonance and confrontational noise, Spiegel's composition is no less
    experimental, no less contemporary than the other works, but is, if you forgive the cliché, wholly musical. In
    fact "Appalachian Grove I" is, if anything, a celebration of joyous harmony. It is a gentle swarm of synthesized
    tones, like a perfectly conducted orchestra of robotic cicadas.

    Starting in the 1970s, Spiegel worked at the famous Bell Labs in Murray Hill, New Jersey. Under the direction
    of famed engineer Max Mathews, the Bell Labs were responsible for many innovations in sound design
    including the famous speech synthesizer used for HAL in Stanley Kubrick's "2001". Spiegel's work focused on
    programming computers with decision-making algorithms she could interact with to make music. As a result her
    music, except when directly based on a specific formula, such as her famous rendering of Kepler's Harmonices
    Mundi, is often rooted in the most fundamental materials and structures of the Western musical tradition.
    In the field of experimental electronic music, born out of the atonal philosophies of Varese, Schoenberg and
    Stockhausen, such traditional notions of harmony and melody make Spiegel quite unique.

    This last year a reissue of "The Expanding Universe", which compiles Spiegel's major works from
    the mid-70s was released to rave reviews on Unseen Worlds Records. Included on that release is the
    1975 composition "Drums". Since first hearing it over ten years ago, I was always amazed at how
    contemporary "Drums" sounded. I have, over the years, often thought of different ways I could edit the song to
    be used as a DJ tool. Last year while breaking from touring the fourth Junior Boys album, I released my first 12"
    for Dan Snaith's (Caribou, Daphni) label Jiaolong. The mandate of Jiaolong - to produce interesting and daring
    dance music following a wide variety of musical influences and trajectories - got me thinking that I should
    pursue my dream of re-editing Laurie Spiegel's "Drums".

    It is tricky to work with something you love, and which is in itself already perfectly complete. This track is
    credited to both myself and Laurie Spiegel, not only because I received her generous blessing and input, but
    also because I felt as though I was attempting not simply to re-edit or even remix the piece, but rather to play off
    of it: to use it as a guide to exploring some different musical possibilities, and to collaborate with the original.
    In many ways I didn't write anything, but simply played back "Drums" on my computer, using its tempo and
    rhythms to trigger an almost arbitrary chain of synthesizers, both new and old. I then fed Spiegel's original piece
    into my indispensable Eventide H3000 Ultra-Harmonizer (a piece of equipment that I use constantly and was,
    unbeknownst to me, beta tested by Spiegel in the 1980s). My job was simply to select the moments I thought
    worked and disregard the excess.

    I am thrilled to release this piece with Laurie Spiegel. She is in my opinion, the best type of experimental,
    electronic composer, because she is, at heart a populist. She uses the most cutting edge technology and she has
    always employed the most rigorously complex and formal methods to make music, yet the music is itself never
    esoteric or alienating. It is enjoyable to all who hear it. And with just a few tweaks, and a bassline it's now ready
    for the dancefloor."

    -Jeremy Greenspan

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