always to less and less

A while back, someone pointed me toward a large file (37-minute flac file) which featured a medley of various avant-classical works and a few rock songs. That mix – titled “Long Shadows” after a Meredith Monk piece that opens and closes the mix, and assembled by Tim Rutherford-Johnson – works pretty well, although I kind of think the rock tracks foreground themselves a bit too readily (particularly the Curve track). At any rate, it reminded me of a mix I’d first done on videocassette* years ago. I put together a whole bunch of droney, ambient, oozy stuff from a range of genres, and with few exceptions tried to avoid beats (and definitely avoided sung vocals in English, which brings the listener right back into the world when I want them in the world the sound has constructed). I later redid that mix – now titled A Thousand Falling Pianos – in slightly reduced form to fit it on one CD: the tracklisting is up at Art of the Mix.

Most of the selections appear only in excerpts, and while I took great care in choosing which part of a piece to use, and exactly when to crossfade things, with the exception of those few seconds during the crossfade only one piece was audible at a time. With one exception: it occurred to me that it might be interesting to add some chanting from the Gyuto Monks CD that Ryko put out in the early ’90s over the closing track of Material’s William S. Burroughs-narrated album Seven Souls, “The End of Words.” (I used the version from the original 1989 issue, since I don’t have the reissued version of the CD.) I left in a couple of seconds of the crossfade at the end of this blend that segues into David Sylvian’s “Answered Prayers” – because the rise in pitch, along with the blend of voices, is one of my favorite moments in the whole mix CD.

A little later, putting together a more song-oriented mix (tracklisting also up at Art of the Mix) but one still emphasizing texture (a lot of dreampoppish stuff included), I somehow decided it would be a fine idea to take the 4th untitled track from Labradford’s E Luxo So and plop Neil Young’s “Soldier” on top of it. On the surface, this makes no sense…I think what my unconscious had in mind was that (a) the Young song is kind of abstract and spacey, and (b) because it sounds as if it was recorded in a huge barn with a crackling fire nearly foregrounded in the mix, it already had a rather ambient cast to it. I was fortunate in that (more props to my unconscious brain which presumably remembered this) both tracks are in the same key. (Unlike the Material/monks mix, whose tonic incongruities give it a nice edge, at least to my discord-loving ears.) Anyway, I did a bit more looping here compared with the Material/monks mix (which was pretty much a straight layering, as I recall), as described in the notes on the mix at AOTM.

I don’t think I’m quite ready to hop the DJ train here – but I had fun making these. I hope you enjoy hearing them.

Material + Gyuto Monks: “The End of Words” + “Mahakala” excerpt
Labradford + Neil Young: E Luxo So (track 4, excerpt) + “Soldier”

* For a while, before recordable CDs and after my then-current cassette deck had died, I used videocassettes as an audio storage medium. It was advantageous when making very long mixes like the original version of this one (about two hours) but deeply clumsy to find things, since indexing never seemed to work exactly. I’m curious if anyone else ever used videocassettes in this way…



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6 responses to “always to less and less

  1. Tanya Jones

    I’ve used videocassettes to record radio output from digital stations (via a satellite digibox). It’s helpful when there’s a lot of content.

  2. Anonymous

    I used to work @ a colleg radio station and we used Hifi VHS machines to record stuff. I started using them for personal stuff @home. I used a binder for all these recordings and had a page for each tape.

    Hard to find stuff though.

  3. jon manyjars

    I had a friend who loved Pink Floyd, and he would listen to their albums on VHS at night because he could have hours and hours of their albums playing end-to-end without having to get up from his waterbed. Yuck. It was during that era between the record changer and the CD player.

  4. Phil

    Being as I initially found your site through those mp3s you posted of “The Eyes of a New York Woman,” I thought you might be interested to know that Pynchon’s got a new epic coming out in December:

    I still don’t know if I ever officially thanked you for those tracks, by the way. So thank you. Very much.

  5. 2fs

    You’re welcome! Great news about Pynchon – curiously, I was just thinking the other day, hmmm, I wonder what he’s been up to. Of course, given the time between Gravity’s Rainbow and Vineland, it’s still early days yet…

  6. Tim R-J

    Hey Jeff, only just got round to listening to these, but they sound good – particularly like the first one.

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