Sunday, December 03, 2006

1973 In Calliope's Splicing Frame

Posted by olvlzl.

Yesterday morning NPR’s Weekend Edition had a bit of would-be funky pastiche of audio clips from commercials and other places. It was all right but it put me in mind of a much better made, much more interesting and much earlier piece done by the too little known American composer, Ruth Anderson. The 1997 revision of her 1973 piece SUM (State of the Union Message) was put out on the CD Lesbian American Composers by the late and lamented CRI label*.

SUM is about the most fun of any avant-garde music I’ve heard. With it’s clever editing and manipulation of sampled radio and TV commercials and other bits, subtle structure and sly, period gender-bending it’s got the feel of a condensed day at Coney Island. Or, since the closest I’ve gotten to that is the bizarre spectacle of the old peer at Old Orchard Beach, it’s how I’d imagine Coney Island used to be. And isn’t that what radio is all about? Well, the piece does end with a calliope, after all. It’s concentrated, surreal nostalgia.

CRI is gone and it’s catalog which went to New World Records, hasn’t yet been reissued. Though there are intentions to do that, it is too bad that this piece and other works which could be, aren’t available in some lower overhead format. I’ve only heard a few of Ruth Anderson’s pieces and I’d like to hear more. I might even look into something faster than dial-up if they were available.

* If you are interested, you who might be able to find one of the few remaining copies, the disc is Lesbian American Composers, Composers Recordings Inc, CRI CD 780.