The Found Music Review for August 2019

The Found Music Review for August 2019

 

Accidental uploads, archival curiosities, forgotten catalogue items, and more. It’s a new series dedicated to music in unexpected places. It’s the Found Music Review!

Before you ask, yes, the idea of “found music” is already flawed. There exist countless definitions of music, but most share some conception of 1) organized sound and 2) a performative context. It isn’t like found poetry, which can repurpose and recontextualize a newspaper clipping or a piece of a love letter. So no, music may never be “found” in that manner and be reborn as a new art, but it still may found! The combination of traditional archives and the enormous, world wide web gives us access to a catalogue of sound like never before. Clicking through digitally dusty Web 2.0-era blogs and sifting through page 19 and 20 of search results is a real rush, and it’s a kind of media consumption that can go overlooked. You may find endless MIDI covers of fighting game soundtracks, but you may also find new interpretations, new compositions, and new thoughts in new places. Here are few I’ve found recently:

 

Siming He (age 8) plays Bach’s “Boating Song,” recorded by Jason M.C. Han

 

Located within the depths of Wikimedia Commons, this personal recording of a student’s piano performance by his teacher immediately captured me. The teacher, Han, writes that he recorded the performance on a “lazy afternoon” and that the sounds of his father’s nearby cooking “were like boating tides.” He asks, “With a kid’s crying sounds, do you think it’s like a natural symphony?” Indeed, the way every sound seems to receive equal time is unusual and one of the delights of a nonprofessional recording. A child cries softly, then madly. The sizzling food swells, voices chat indistinctly, the piano bench creaks, horns honk, and the recording device clatters. The piano has no privileged spot in a concert hall, only one more sound among the many. Its humble air only makes it more interesting to follow, and it takes in the spirit of its surroundings. Han is right about it being a symphony—elements seem to follow the shape of Siming’s pauses. All randomness seems ordered by the piece so carefully played.

Beyond the environmental distractions, Han’s commentary gives some wonderful insight into Siming’s playing style. Han describes him as a clever boy for whom it’s hard to focus “and make a steady and silent song, through the soft and restless little hands … When playing this tune, he almost changed to another person – calming down … like a real boatman, musically boating for us.” I love the addition of this backstory, as it heightens the drama of this one, singular moment. We hear the stars aligning, weight and counterweight, two great forces held in perfect balance for as long as it takes to play this piece. And all this to access peacefulness! Speaking as a former child who fought against distraction to play sensible pieces on the violin, I can say that the mental battle to summon concentration is a hard-fought one. After all, an adult composing music has had decades to gather themselves and crush themselves into a space where they compose something stable and meditative. But what seems sensible to an adult seems nonsensical, boring, and endlessly pointless for a child interested in everything else. I do wonder if Siming transformed entirely, or if he funnelled his energy into this exercise with brute force. Either way, it results in a nervous energy accompanying what is a decidedly placid piano composition.

This all gets to the heart of a disembodied audio sample—even one accompanied by copious notes. Our only indicators are the audio itself and the text filtered through our passionate recorder. I thank him for recording this moment and sharing it, but I must categorically defer to the audio for my final thoughts. I can’t seem to source any variation of a piece called “Boating Song” by any of the Bachs in the Bach family, and Han admits that he has to check his notes. It doesn’t sound much like a Bach composition, but if it sounds familiar to you, let me know. In any case, I adore it, but might not feel so strongly toward a more thought-out interpretation by a superstar pianist.

 

Nick Pollack – Original Accordion Song

 

Nick Pollack original accordion song

 

Most people’s Christmas dream is receiving a visit from a gray-costumed man playing his own compositions. Well, this lucky family got to live that Christmas dream. I can’t find out much about Nick Pollack, but I appreciate his refusal to incorporate any holiday sparkle into the piece. It’s a hardy tune played for a crowd that makes no apologies and has no regrets. Even the person filming decided a few times through was enough and stopped recording. Did he go on for minutes? Hours? Did he come back? Did he appear in the fireplace? These are all questions we must answer for ourselves.

I heard an old accordion teacher say (with some bitterness) that everyone’s great-grandparents played the accordion, and at some point we substituted it for the guitar. The accordion is continually disrespected, despite its range and complexity. The absurd surroundings in the video certainly do it no favors, but I urge you to rethink your stance on the accordion. We don’t hate the guitar for its complicity in smooth jazz, and we don’t rule out the piano because even a cat can play it. So why demonize the accordion? If “Original Accordion Song” is any indication, we should be grateful we have accordion soldiers looking forward to a brighter tomorrow for the instrument.

 

Honorable Mentions:

Michael – My Song 3

It’s about cars. Listen if you don’t believe me, but it’s really, absolutely about cars. You might learn a few things. It sounds like Michael picked up the microphone a few times throughout the day whenever he suddenly remembered another fact about cars in the abstract. Whether alone or walking through a crowded hall, he committed to producing this short, but memorable song.

Animal Language – Arctictis binturong : Binturong – Viverridae

I challenge you to figure out what sort of animal makes this sound. It sounds like a Pokémon and sort of looks like one too, but it also sounds like an unhappy ghost. Ludwig Koch recorded this in 1938 so we could hear it on the British Library website in 2019.

 

Please feel free to submit your own finds for future consideration to info@rpm-media.org.

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