Freitag, 17. Oktober 2014

Mix: Soothing Sounds for J.

My first child J. was born this spring. To celebrate his 5 months birthday, here's a little mix to soothe the young and old folks.

With some Brazil bliss, Kraut Kitsch, Back-to-the-land romance, a Library Lullaby, greetings from the New Age, falsettos from the beach (J. loves when I sing along) and a healthy dose of sweet Morr Music from around the Millenium.

Listen on Mixcloud or download here.

Freitag, 10. Oktober 2014

Asta Berling toys and kindergarten furniture

Toys and kindergarten furniture designed by Asta Berling, German architect (a former student and employee of Hans Poelzig) who emigrated to Switzerland in the 1930s. Toys produced by Profuond, Samedan and Brusio, Switzerland. Images from Werk 1/1964 (toys), 2/1963 (dollhouse), 8/1966 (kindergarten furniture)

Donnerstag, 2. Oktober 2014


It's a bit quiet here. Let's light a candle and listen to some Folk pop from Yugoslavia.

Mittwoch, 20. August 2014

BBC Radiophonic Workshop, Dr Who Sound Effects (from Doctor Who Weekly, 1980)

 The information value of this article is rather limited. But this Doctor Who magazine somehow found its way to a charity shop in Switzerland and into my hands and probably some of you like both the BBC Radiophonic Workshop and Doctor Who (about the latter I know very little I must confess) so I thought I share it with you.

Sonntag, 3. August 2014

Bruno Spoerri studio visit

Bruno Spoerri (*1935) began experimenting with electronic devices 50 years ago (he mentions seeing Rolf Liebermann's piece "Les Echanges" at Expo 64 as an important moment of inspiration). First with simple, homemade effect machines, an Ondes Martenot and manipulated magnetic tapes, and later as one of the first musicians in Switzerland to own a big synthesizer system (an EMS Synthi-100) and use a computer. With a background in jazz - he has played and composed with successful jazz bands since the age of 17 - improvisation has always played a major role in his mu­sic, and as of the 1980s he began to speak of 'computer­assisted jazz'­. A trained psychologist, he was virtually self­taught as a musician and scholar of music technology. In the course of his career, Spoerri has not only given countless concerts and re­corded dozens of albums, but also forged a groundbreaking career in advertising, TV and film. Among other things, he was the inhouse composer and sound designer (before the term existed) of one of the first agencies for TV ads in Switzerland and composed the soundtracks for approx. 500 ads. Check this previous post for some of his TV ident soundtracks.

If you're a frequent reader of this blog, you know that I'm a big fan of Bruno Spoerri's work. I had the pleasure to work with him on several occasions, especially at the 2010 Shift Festival in Basel, where Bruno gave a concert and a talk and we showed a programme with film- and videoclips with his soundtracks. Here's some pictures from a recent visit at his Studio in Zurich.

After the Ondes Martenot (he had since 1965) came the EMS VCS-3 in 1970, and he still has it. He modified it: "I used a Pitch to Voltage Converter to control the VCS-3 with my Saxophone. I needed my hands to play the saxophone, so I added some sort of "presets". There are switches that gave me the approximate functionality of a Minimoog without the need to use the patch panel. I also added trimmers to the oscillators and filters with a 4-way switch, so I could chance transpositions easily. I could e.g. play in a 3 voice polyphony and even reverse the voltage to play mirrored voices. But I had to control and re-tune the trimmers before each concert. Most of the time it worked, but sometimes it got horribly out of tune in the middle of a show."

The thing above the pitch to voltage converter and random generator is a home made unit to switch between the controllers saxophone, random generator and keyboard.

Bruno has a very well organised archive and has digitized most of his tapes. This is a page from the index of his archive of sounds and noises, showing recordings he made in factories for two of his great promotional records commissioned by the machine industry: Oederlin (iron foundry) and Lansing-Bagnall (fork lifts). The Lansing-Bagnall 7" was the first of Bruno's tracks popular among rare groove collectors.

Bruno is still experimenting with new technology, ever improving his unique "computer-assisted Jazz" setup. He creates/composes machines with software and hardware that leave room for improvisation (and chance). Here he showed me a composition that involves among other things Max/Msp (he's been an early adopter) a Buchla controller (not in the picture) an iPad - and a home made controller-ball inspired by Michel Waisvisz' "Hands" and Laetitia Sonami, as he told me.

Talking about Waisvisz brought us to the Crackle Box. Of course Bruno has one:

Some of Bruno Spoerri's electronic and experimental music is available through excellent compilations on Finders Keepers records. Some of his jazz band records were beautifully reissued by Sonorama.

Bruno is currently in a legal battle against Jay-Z and Timbaland because they used one of his compositions for the Lilith soundtrack from 1978 (with minimal modifications) for a track on Jay-Z's recent album without asking (he would have said yes and his phone number is on his website, would have been an easy thing). Read the story here. So, if you happen to know Jay-Z or Timbaland, please tell them to be so kind and give Bruno and Finders Keepers credits (and some decent money) for his work they re-used.

Previous Spoerri-related posts:
Irmin Schmidt (Can) and Bruno Spoerri about their collaboration
Exclusive Spoerri TV idents
Bruno's collaboration with artist Betha Sarasin
And in most of my mixes...

Samstag, 12. Juli 2014

Tasten Erkennen Wahrnehmen

Karola Baumann et al., Tasten Erkennen Wahrnehmen [touch perceive recognize], Ravensburg 1979

Samstag, 31. Mai 2014

Gertrud Meyer-Denkmann

Gertrud Meyer-Denkmann (*1918) is a German composer, educator, musician, musicologist. She was among many other things a friend of John Cage and an early advocate of his work in Europe.
Her book "Klangexperimente und Gestaltungsversuche im Kindesalter", published in 1970, was a success for the contemporary/experimental music education series "rote reihe" (previously featured here) and an influential publication of its field. It got translated into english as "experiments in sound". The concept of the book is to lead the children to make their own music, through their inventive intelligence by experimenting, listening, interacting. "To offer him only an educational experience which is labeled 'suitable for children' underestimates his aptitude. (...) There is little room for a child to exercise his imagination or initiative when he is confronted by a well-worn song, a piece to practise, or a prepared set of ostinati or percussion rhythms."

Here's a piece from the record that accompanies the "Klangexperimente..." book.
"Geräusch und Ton" (sound and tone)
"Five children age 4 and 5 produce sound and tone with their voices and order sound and tone instruments in accordance with this. (...)"

"sound groups with different tone colours"

"a chain of sounds as a relation of duration, action and tone colour"

Meyer-Denkmann and John Cage at her home in Oldenburg in 1963

Image sources:
Gertrud Meyer-Denkmann homepage at University of Oldenburg
A multimedia portrait of Meyer-Denkmann by researcher Kirsten Reese (more sound and image goodies there and even a great video)