Friday, October 02, 2009

Bottle Music

For several years, during and after finishing music school in Ann Arbor, I had regular radio shows on WCBN-FM Ann Arbor, the University-owned, student-run community FM radio station. It was truly great radio, because it was largely volunteer programming, and the format was that vanishing format called freeform. In other words, you had a slot of time, and the programming was up to you.

I did a weekly world music program called Hemispheres, a weekly new music program called Horizons, and a regular if not always weekly late-night experimental program in which I composed pieces for radio, and performed them live. These were largely mixes, sometimes of original sources, but also of pre-recorded sources, including several mixes based on, say, Tibetan Buddhist chant, or experimental noise, or other even more exotic things.

My longtime partner in radio, and compositional collaborator, Stuart Hinds, and I put on regular radiopiece broadcasts that were basically composed mixes. But we also did completely original composed and improvised performances live on the air.

This was a regular thing on CBN, actually. I was involved with a group of fairly radical DJs on CBN, and we did several live shows of improvised and composed music. I also hosted live performances of Indian music, folk, and other genres, too. Once, I engineered and hosted a live performance by a favorite band of mine just as they were becoming nationally famous: Los Lobos. That was a fun evening, indeed.

One of the pieces that Stuart and I organized, composed, performed, recorded, manipulated live, and broadcast live was Bottle Music. This was live performance mixed with pre-recorded performance, then tapes of the live performance were manipulated and re-broadcast along with other live elements. We collected bottles for a month or so before doing the piece, a full carload to take down to the station. We set them as microtonally tuned sets in the performance studio beforehand, as the primary performance location, with other bottles in other setups around the building. We began by playing a composed pattern piece for tuned bottles, notated as patterns of relative pitch, which later became a free improv. There were mics set up in the secondary studio, tapes were recorded and manipulated in both production rooms, there were mics in the resonant spaces around the building—the studio was in the basement of one of the University buildings—including the bathrooms, stairwells, and lobby. The overall piece had both quiet and noisier sections, depending on what was going on at the time. By the end of the evening we were breaking the bottles, to finish the piece, along with the previously-performed and reprocessed elements. it was three hours of glorious cacaphony, live on the radio, in four sections circa 45 minutes duration apiece, and it was tremendous fun to do.

Three are several more of these pieces in my cassette archives, that I am gradually digitizing. Several large projects with SH/AD, and many more individual mixes. I also used the production studios at WBCN, in addition to the Electronic Music Studio at the University of Michigan, to create several tape pieces, several of my text-sound poetry pieces, and other works for electronic music and/or tape. I was a volunteer programmer at WCBN from 1980 through 1985; very fertile years for making new experimental music.

Bottle Music (1984)

composed, produced, and performed by Stuart Hinds & Arthur Durkee

additional performers: Hairy Beanball, Case Krell, Jeff Sinclair, Ben Quada,
Jeff Wechter, Mark Murrell, March Wells, Steve Austin

engineered by Art Durkee, Hairy Beanball, and Mark Murrell;
assistant engineer: Case Krell

first broadcast live on

WCBN-FM Freeform
11pm till 2am
5-6 June 1984

excerpt from Part I

excerpt from Part 4

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