The Aliens Get Nuclear Bugs In Them And Pop
January 3, 2006 4:17 PM   Subscribe

Eine Kleine Naughtmusik [pdf]. Great article on music by nonmusicians from Dave Soldier - the guy that brought you People's Choice Music [a musical work that will be unavoidably and uncontrollably liked by 72 +/- 12% of listeners], the Tangerine Awkestra [These children met in a schoolroom, where they listened to records by Ornette Coleman and Roscoe Mitchell of the Art Ensemble of Chicago played by their teacher, Katie Down. The children said they could do that. Down said they could NOT. The kids said can TOO. Down said could NOT and brought her own collection of musical instruments to school. The kids immediately became Artists and formed a band.] and of course the now infamous Thai Elephant Orchestra.
posted by nylon (18 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
This is pure genius. Thank you for posting.
posted by hoskala at 4:27 PM on January 3, 2006

I love Tangerine Awkestra. Thanks for the heads up.
posted by coach_mcguirk at 5:16 PM on January 3, 2006

So how do they rehearse?

awk 'MEASURE==32,MEASURE==70' <
posted by Wolfdog at 5:20 PM on January 3, 2006

I side with katie Down's original assessment: could not. Be glad to elucidate after I've played the Awkestra a few more times.
posted by beelzbubba at 5:21 PM on January 3, 2006

OMG! I love that stuff! I don't care what you nattering naybobs of negativism have to say. Those kids can rock.
posted by geekhorde at 5:40 PM on January 3, 2006

boo to conceptual music
posted by dydecker at 5:45 PM on January 3, 2006

Although there was a link on the page, I forgot to explicitly mention that there are sound clips (.aiff) of the most wanted and most unwanted songs at the bottom of this Salon article. But I think they got them the wrong way round. I mean, what's not to love about bagpipes accompanying operatic falsetto rapping? Come on.

Dydecker - conceptual music for conceptual music's sake is not necessarily a good thing from everyone's point of view, but in this case it sounds great (all apart from, ironically, the most wanted song). So everyone's a winner.
posted by nylon at 6:08 PM on January 3, 2006

nylon, for me music is about the direct qualities of the sound itself and not how it was achieved. Would people still be interested in this music if they didn't know the backstory?

I did appreciate the Langley Schools Music Project album. Probably this is because it was riffing on pop music/rock, which is a genre I can relate to and a genre that has an emotional impact on me.

Of course I respect the records as great idea but the music itself doesn't do anything for me. I suspect this is because I have never really got into free jazz/improvised music. If I was more interested in the philosophies/aims/boundaries of these genres then I'm sure I could appreciate more how outsider/kid/animals making music could be an interesting twist on things. Sincere question: does this stuff move you?
posted by dydecker at 6:44 PM on January 3, 2006

This isn't new, by any means, Consider the Portsmouth Sinfonia. Thirty years ago, Gavin Bryars formed an orchestra where the only requirement to join was that you not be trained in playing the instrument you used in the orchestra. As a certain other website is fond of saying, hilarity ensued. An object lesson in what happens when the inmates take over the asylum.
posted by pjern at 6:59 PM on January 3, 2006

Would people still be interested in this music if they didn't know the backstory?

Generally speaking, in some cases yes, in some cases no. I think that's a question that more musicians/artists should ask themselves. They shouldn't necessarily stop doing something if the answer is no, but I think they should at least be aware of the existence of the question. Hopefully this will lead to a greater amount of music that can be taken on its own merit without extensive liner notes, but not at the absolute expense of purely conceptual music. That will always have an important role to play (for a certain small audience).

Sincere question: does this stuff move you?

Yes. The Elephant Orchestra stuff is genuinely beautiful and mesmerising. So much so that I actually find the idea of it being improvised by real elephants to be somewhat implausible (I'm not accusing anyone of being a liar, I'm simply saying that the process appears sufficiently removed from the result that it's not at all a significant aspect in me liking it). The Tangerine Awkestra stuff is moving because it appeals to me on a very primal level. I love the freedom and sense of innocent exuberance that comes through. It's the kind of music I'd really like to make myself, but it's surprisingly difficult - not because you have to be technically good, and not because I am technically good, but because, simply from having listened to so much music, I would come to the creative process with too much baggage. So although it's not particularly tuneful, it's fun and quite exhilarating. And it's genuinely more interesting than the current crop of bearded New Weird Americans doing musically similar stuff - Davenport, Sunburned Hand Of The Man, The Tower Recordings, Virgin Eye Blood Brothers etc.

For me, the concept behind conceptual music is often (not always) the icing on the top of an already interesting and pretty tasty cake. It adds to the appeal, but it can't create it if there's no appeal already there.
posted by nylon at 7:13 PM on January 3, 2006


That Tangerine Awkestra stuff is awful. It's awful even knowing it is a bunch of elementary school children. Many people severely underestimate the musical ability of children. I've heard children under age 10 play with startling technical ability.

I find it very hard to believe anyone here truly would enjoy listening to that.

It is noise. It is properly described as noisemaking, much like one would try to scare birds out of a field. The fact that it is noise created with instruments is irrelevant.

Moreso in music than any other art, people tend to misidentify "different" with "good".

If you are so bored with music that you need to listen to recordings of construction sites to try to identify magical unintentional non-temporal melodic structures, you need a new hobby as you have simply grown tired of this one.
posted by Ynoxas at 7:54 PM on January 3, 2006

Go listen to the most wanted and most unwanted song each right now, f'ing hilarious. And yes the most unwanted is far superior, though if I wanted theme music for my geocities home page I would go with the most wanted song.

"Survey says politics and religion are to be avoided as well, which explains why the soprano's soliloquies about saddling up the fellas and Wittgenstein are interrupted by a kids chorus yelling, "Yom Kippur! Yom Kippur! Self-reflection and atonement!"
posted by afu at 8:03 PM on January 3, 2006 [1 favorite]

you know, as a jazz listener I have come to appreciate the powerful effects of tension and resolution. and in fact some songs I've listened to have tense open sections that, by themselves, sound as awful as the Awkestra. The key is the the musicians eventually resolve the chaos and sit back down into a groove; the resolution is so gratifying after such tension that it can make you melt right into your seat.

Even though I knew it was ten-year-olds I couldn't help but wait on the edge of my seat listening for the impending resolution. When it doesn't come it feels like a joke with no punchline.
posted by PercussivePaul at 8:12 PM on January 3, 2006

Ynoxas: what's wrong with enjoying noize? What's wrong with finding the music in noise?

As with all things dealing with any artform, this is all incredibly subjective. I don't need your value judgements applied to my pleasure, nor do I need your outmoded and dated views of music to validate my taking pleasure in said music.

'Different' can sometimes mean unique, or new, or the sheer joy in listening to another human being take pleasure in crafting sound.
posted by geekhorde at 9:11 PM on January 3, 2006

Ynoxas: "If you are so bored with music that you need to listen to recordings of construction sites to try to identify magical unintentional non-temporal melodic structures, you need a new hobby as you have simply grown tired of this one."

That's not how it works, at least not for me - I listen to plenty of this sort of music, but also to plenty of pop, rock 'n' roll and what have you. I'm not really sure if listening to a wiggy conceptual noise piece is on the same continuum as listening to the new Girls Aloud single, or whether enjoying the former is more akin to appreciating conceptual art of the sort that you find in a gallery (where, again, knowledge of the artist's intent, the process of making the work, &c. may or may not be needed to fully appreciate the work). Either way, I've definitely not tired of music, I just like some stuff that might not be 'music' as it is usually understood.

nylon: For me, the concept behind conceptual music is often (not always) the icing on the top of an already interesting and pretty tasty cake.

Same here, though I have come around to enjoying certain pieces only after reading about their conceptual basis (and vice versa).
posted by jack_mo at 4:22 AM on January 4, 2006

That clip of the "most unwanted song" reminds me a lot of the Go! Team. (In a good way.)

Also, can anyone point me to some good construction site recordings?
posted by aparrish at 7:40 AM on January 4, 2006

I'm with Ynoxas -- the stuff is awful. Of course, you'd really need an Ornette Coleman recording, too, to make a meaningful comparison.

Personal tastes aside, the music done by Coleman etc. is clearly more artistic in that it takes skill and years of hard work to accomplish.
posted by sour cream at 11:20 AM on January 4, 2006

dave soldier is one of my favorite artists. komar & melamid's "most wanted paintings is also worth checking out. nice post.
posted by jann at 7:18 PM on January 5, 2006

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