Worlds Within Worlds
July 1, 2005 3:32 PM   Subscribe

Basil Kirchin, 1927-2005

Who he? Kirchin began, aged 14, as a drummer in his father Ivor's jazz band. By the mid-1950s, he and his father were co-leading the most acclaimed jazz band in Britain. They backed Ruby Murray (whose name lives on as cockney rhyming slang for curry), and the great Sarah Vaughan wouldn't tour the UK without them; neither would Billy Eckstine. After disbanding the Kirchin band at the height of their fame, Basil set off around the world, a trip which ended disastrously, when Kirchin's tapes of his band's best moments (obsessively recorded, thanks to the fact that the Kirchin band was one of the first to travel with their own PA system) were accidentally dropped into Sydney Harbour. [more inside]
posted by Len (6 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
After that, Kirchin – a musical experimenter from the word go – wrote soundtracks to "imaginary" films (though he also scored a few real ones, including The Abominable House Of Dr Phibes), which led to him developing, in 1964, the idea of musical "worlds within worlds", combining field recordings of nature, treated tape effects, improvisatory jazz and musique concrète.

All but forgotten, apart from by a small band of dedicated enthusiasts, Kirchin's work went on to influence everyone from Brian Eno (who wrote the sleeve notes for the original 1971 release of the Worlds Within Worlds album) to Bjork, the Aphex Twin and Broadcast; the eventual release of the spellbinding Quantum [review here] (which kicks off with geese singing what appears to be God Save The Queen, features Evan Parker on sporano sax duetting with the wildlife, and also features recordings made by Kirchin of autistic Swiss children) in 2003 has been followed by Charcoal Sketches/States Of Mind, the latter half of which was composed to soundtrack a documentary about various types of mental illness, and, this year, Abstractions Of The Industrial North, another of Kirchin's soundtracks to an "imaginary" film, now coupled with reissues of a series of 10" releases Kirchin made for library use, including one track which features a pre-Yardbirds, pre-Led Zeppelin Jimmy Page.

Kirchin's music – by turns odd, experimental, tantalising and wonderful – is, it seems, only now getting the respect is has for so long been worthy of.
posted by Len at 3:35 PM on July 1, 2005

Wow. Fascinating post. One thing conspicuously missing, though... are there any samples of this maddeningly intruiging music available online?
posted by speicus at 5:55 PM on July 1, 2005

Never mind. Google first, ask questions later, right?
posted by speicus at 6:03 PM on July 1, 2005

Damn, I didn't see the WFMU stuff when I was hunting for info, or I'd have included it in the FPP; glad you found it, though. Kirchin's stuff is utterly of another world ...
posted by Len at 6:14 PM on July 1, 2005

Excellent post. Thanks very much.
posted by Wolof at 1:25 AM on July 2, 2005

Wonderful post, Len. Thank you for introducing me to Mr. Kirchin. I'm very grateful.
posted by sleepy pete at 8:34 AM on July 2, 2005

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