Been a busy cut-n-paste beaver lately…in addition to my “Revolution 9” homage collage (see what I did there?), I made my second contribution to my friend Rex’s faboo 39-40 project (third, if you count that he covered one of my songs earlier), this time a structural cover of Saint Etienne’s “This Is Radio Saint Etienne.” (What do I mean by a “structural cover”? Read on…)
Rex is covering the entire Foxbase Alpha album—or rather, he and friends are covering the entire album—and he asked me to contribute. At first I was reluctant for reasons of time, but he pointed out that the album has a couple of short little instrumental interludes which would make for fairly quick work…so I committed to the shortest one, the opening track of the album.
My reaction to that track is that I don’t think its specific musical materials are really to the point; the track’s purpose is primarily to establish an effect, set up an atmosphere, introducing the rest of the album. So instead of covering its actual music, I merely sought to trace over its general outlines with something sonically similar even if musically dissimilar. (If you follow the link to Rex’s site above, you can hear the original.)
So, we have an opening with some chatter and some environmental noise, followed by music that sounds taglike: music to identify a product, program, etc. That’s interrupted midway through by more voices, the music resumes, and it ends.
Among the loose bits and pieces hanging around my hard drive in the wake of the “Grasses” project was a fragment (from the invaluable ubuweb site) from a 1921 piece by Italian noise pioneer Antonio Russolo, Corale and Serenata. (Ubuweb’s 1924 recording is also the sole surviving recording to feature the intonarumori.) I didn’t use it in “Grasses Are Longer Than Hair,” but I thought that bit fit the bill of being a sort of epigrammatic fragment, the sort of thing a political program in the 1920s might use. I ran the fragment in reverse (for no better reason than to sound different from the original), and then added some new parts for a cheesy organ and a fake cello section.
At this point, the piece became a little scene from a sound-movie: there’s some sort of large outdoor gathering, a political meeting perhaps, and the whole thing’s being broadcast by radio controlled by that political party. Italian futurist politics being not all that terribly pleasant and humane, a somewhat foreboding air was in order. I babbled in a made-up, vaguely Slavic “language” at the opening, announced the radio station’s name in the break in the middle (it’s actually intended to say “This is Radio 39-40” in homage to Rex’s project), and a brief few words at the end.
I treated the two new musical parts first by filtering them as if on an old radio and then added an “old 78 record” effect (which I should have done only once…wasn’t thinking and did it for both parts…so it’s a very scratchy 78).
But it wasn’t quite complete in my mind…So I put a blunt cut at the beginning and the end (conveniently obscuring my iffy ability to keep close time with the entrance of the sound file’s orchestra…which seems to have a rather unsteady tempo to begin with), and added the initial “click” sound (it’s actually from a sound effect of a Xerox machine…) and the closing brief fanfare fragment – which was also cut off dead, since I intended it to jumpcut directly to the next track on the album.
Monkey Typing Pool “This Is Radio Etienne” (Saint Etienne “cover” – for Rex Broome’s 39-40 project)