Cheep (sic.) Imitation (For J. Cage)
All instruments, recording etc. Dave Madden (nonnon), Ravi Alice Coltrane, The unnamed Squirrel
Wine rack, tuned vases, egg slicer, rubber elastics, Sony Minidisc, egg timer, knitting needle + cd spindle = turntable cartridge, Winnie the Pooh album, Numark turntable First Act Jr. guitar, Epiphone Les Paul Jr., Fender Telecaster, Epiphone 5-string EBM bass, prepared Swarmandal cymbals: 10”, 14” (2), 16’, 16” china crash, 20” gong; bass drum, modified mobile timpani, various mallets, various found objects, Reaktor, Audiomulch
This is dedicated to John Cage for his 100th birthday.
I wanted to turn Cage’s Second Construction (or at least one riff – the one that gets stuck in my head!) on its ear by replacing the Fugal structure with a plodding juggernaut whose parts fall off, another arm scoops them up, more parts dragging in the wrong spot. I played each line straight, without the swagger of the original to give it a “I programmed this clapping monkey to play this vamp” feel. By recording each track without listening to whatever was on tape, overlaying them with a few edits, the first four minutes ended up like a naive, messy drum circle (or first graders released into Guitar Center); instead of Charles Ives’s experience with the sound of two marching bands colliding, this is…yeah, you get it. I brought my tuned vases out of retirement for this one.
I have a row of various types of guitars leaning against the wall next to my workspace. If you pluck the strings, the vibrations carry into the drywall, creating a subtle, bassy amplification. I used my two loudest microphones (one for Minidisc, one cheap but effective and stereo) and put them up without really testing the signal. Okay, so you probably heard an out-of-place jingling a couple of times in Movement I. That would be my dog. During M II, she felt inclined to run up and down the stairs several times (she’s not sure what to do when I’m home all day). In the spirit of Cage (or his unintentional disciples such as the entire Bug incision label, Lee Patterson etc.), what is music? What is silence? If someone brought his / her dog to a performance of 4’33”, we would hear a jingling collar.
While mixing the work, I would forget about the dog collar recorded into the tracks and jerk my head around to say, “Hey dog. Oh yeah, that’s in the music. Duh.”
Compound this with my bad choice of wearing the loudest running shorts I own while trying to navigate between four guitars in a cramped space and voila! I also put a channel into a Reaktor patch (I can’t really relate this choice to any of Cage’s limited electroacoustic works, but the addition gives the piece 1) an otherworldly reality break 2) some of my own voice).
In anticipation of a yard sale, I put some things on the back porch. A few weeks later I bumped into one of these objects – the wine rack – nudging the metal leg across the cement with a “sludddgggyyyyscrape”, and figured I better preserve it – the whole thing has a lot of sonic character. This portion is my Furniture Music. Minidisc mic is pinned to the leg, creating an overly sensitive recording experience. And yes that squirrel hates when anyone hangs out in the backyard; yes there is the dog collar again; I keep promising to use the egg timer in a piece so here you go. The turntable uses that trick where you stuff a needle into the middle of the round plastic part that covers a stack of 50 CD’s (what is that called because I would love to say that word instead of describing it every time I use it). The plastic chamber acts as an amplification device to the needle gently applied to a record. I use a really fat needle to make the signal blurry. Sometimes (you hear this once) the metal resonates too hard and makes a loud siren-like blast. And there I am, out in the yard, banging on a wine rack and playing and egg slicer to entice a squirrel into being more than his usual agitated self. I hope my neighbors watched.