Monday, 25 February 2008

RED MOON (musick & other arts)


Original Issue: 1999 Sonoris (SON-22)

Reissue: 2007 Sonoris (
SON-22) Buy it here!

Margot-meter: 4,5 moons / 5

1. The Radio

From Ampersand Etcetera

This short but dense work from Steve Roden was created in 1996 but has thankfully been given eventual release by Sonoris. The original brief (for the 1996 soundculture festival) was a piece for radio using the radio as a source, which Roden has captivatingly done.

There are essentially four movements to the 18 minute piece. The opening is a complex layering of loops of static, some clicking percussion and some choral singing (1 and 5 seconds). Each of these is only a few seconds long and interact smoothly - the static sounds like waves on a shore, and a call (birds or the radio) the gulls flying over. The static and choir fade, leaving the percussion to become more prominent, and its intricacy foregrounded. This is actually made from his grandfather's radio 'bowing the tiny battery cables…clicking the on/off switch, turning the tuning knob…plucking the battery holder spring [and] striking the radio speaker screen against the microphone': in this section the springs start being played. Against this background is a solo voice, which turns out to be Roden singing restructured word fragments, based on a poem of 1991 called ... 'the radio'. His voice is sweet and clear, after the drifting choral particles.

In the third part, the two 8 second fragments of talking under static are cutup and play over the radio-percussion creating a strange dialogue of spoken protowords which eventually echo over the static sea; the final few minutes are quite melancholic as the static waves crash on the shore, echoed and phased, then silence, a click and its over.

Roden indicated to me that he ‘totally loves this piece’ and I can understand why.
This is a beautiful sound work/piece of music (in that broader meaning of music that people like Roden explore). Its density, intricacy and beauty remind me of artists who work only in miniatures: as explored in the Roden ‘special issue’, he works in bounded musical forms, yet creates pieces in there which are expansive and could stretch infinitely despite their limits.

‘The radio’ is a prime example of this - each section could be left to continue further and further, delving into its focused world, and the whole disk could be left to repeat, the narrow passage of its composition gradually expanding to encompass the world.

Perhaps I exaggerate, but this is a magical, beautiful piece that should not be missed.


Margot said...
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Anonymous said...

Je ne connaissais pas ce disque. J'imagine cette musique comme l'ombre de la lune pleine sur la face d' une mystérieuse fille du pays des rêves ... Très belle.


Margot said...

you never miss the opportunity to make me happy with your comments :-)

Anonymous said...

thank you!