Category Archives: Music

A Forthcoming Live Appearance

I’ll be premièring a new solo improvisation at the Sonic Science festival in Bangor, part of the National Science and Engineering week that encourages people to think about science and engineering a bit more than they currently do. What will I be improvising with? Come and see. Rest assured it involves science.

Sonic Science
Powis Hall, Bangor University

16 March 2011
Starts at 7:30 pm
Free Entry!

More info at Risk of Shock, curators and purveyors of quality musical entertainment.

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Insipid Lyrics With No Real Life Application

Here’s another list. The title of the list is: A Theoretical Album, The Song Titles Of Which Are Phrases That, As Far As I Can Tell, Exist Only In Song Lyrics And Do Not Exist In Conventional Speech Patterns, At Least Not Where I’m From, Which Is To Say That In Writing These Lyrics The Songwriter Must Have Copied Them From Other Songs Again And Again Until They Become Tired Cliché, Sometimes Not Even Pausing To Think What They Actually Mean, Volume 1

1. Lips of Wine
2. Apple of My Eye
3. Rock of Ages
4. (Between the) Devil and the Deep Blue Sea
5. Thief in the Night
6. (Kisses) Sweeter Than Wine
7. Honey Pie
8. Lonesome
9. La la la la la la la
10. Fomentatious perflation hydrogenates your foetal cisterna, coagulating haemorrhage and your congenital hernia

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Love Will Tear Usk Apart

A second helping of hot provincial fun from the Song For Britain archives:

Harlow : Lionel Richie
Harlow Moray Looe (Gott Bay Hart) : Gene Putney
Harrow Dolly : Louis Armstrong
Harrow Moray Looe (Goadby Hart) : Billericay Nelson
Hayle To The Thief : Radiohead
He Was Rayleigh Sayin’ Somethin’ : The Velvelettes
Hillsborough Live With The Sound Of Music : Julie Andrews
Hitchin A Ride : Vanity Fare
Hoole You Run To : Heart
How Dorset Feel : Spacemen 3
Howle In My Shoe : Traffic
Hull Of The Moon : The Waterboys
Huntingdon High And Low : Aha
Hythe And Seek : Howard Jones
I (Hove Nothing) : Tom Jones
I Can Seaford Miles : The Who
I Cannock Get No (Satisfaction) : Rolling Stones
I Don’t Wanna Torquay ‘Bout It : Everything But The Girl
I Hear You Knockin : Dave Edmunds
I Kent Stand It : James Brown
I Still Havant Found What I’m Looking For : U2
I’d Rotherham Go Blind : Etta James
I’m Nottingham Mood To Say No! : Shania Twain
If I Were A Richmond : Topol
Ilkley-munication : Beastie Boys
In The Ayr Tonight : Phil Collins
Industry Stamford : Orbital
Ingoldmells Rock : Bobby Helms
Isle Of My Man : Billie Holiday
Isle Of White You Do To Me : Ike & Tina Turner
It’s Grimsby Up North : The Jamms
Kendal In The Wind : Elton John
Left To My Own Devizes : Pet Shop Boys
Let Derby Drums : Sandy Nelson
Lewes, Mistreated : Radiohead
Lil’ Darlin’ton : Count Basie
Lipglossop : Pulp
Live In Consett : Neil Diamond
Love Doncaster Thing : Jennifer Lopez
Love Is Like An Hitchin In My Herts : Diana Ross & The Supremes
Love Will Tear Usk Apart : Joy Division
Minster Mash : Bobby ‘Boris’ Pickett and the Crypt Kickers
Mold-y Old Dore : Lieutenant Pigeon
Mother’s Little Belper : Rolling Stones
Near Whitehaven : REM
Newark Can Say Goodbye : Gloria Gaynor
Norfolk’n Choice : Icons Of Filth
Oban Your Heart : Madonna
Oldham! I’m Comin’ : Sam & Dave
One Thing Leeds To Another : The Fixx
Over Andover : Nana Mouskouri

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Three Minute Pop Songs

Over the past few years I’ve been digitising my CD collection, and I now no longer own any CDs. Seeing all the tracks listed in iTunes made me realise that I have quite a few long tracks and quite a few short ones. And obviously quite a few medium length ones too. So I thought it’d be interesting to graph the distribution of song lengths, just for fun, and see if any patterns emerged. There are currently 35,043 tracks in my iTunes library, ranging from Otomo Yoshihide’s Isuzu, clocking in at a mammoth tenth of a second, all the way up to Vancouver New Music group’s reading of Cornelius Cardew’s Treatise (all too brief at almost 3 hours long). Here’s the chart, truncated at 16 minutes (nothing much of interest happens above this, so including the whole chart makes the peak at around 3 minutes less clear):

We all know about the cliché of the 3-minute pop song – 3 minutes being long enough to tell a decent story in a verse-chorus-verse format, but not so long that our attentions wander and we change the channel on our kitchen radios. Interestingly, the peak in length distribution of my song collection actually occurs at 3:02. I have 155 tracks clocking in at 3 minutes and 2 seconds, but only 127 that are exactly 3 minutes long. But what’s additionally interesting is the demographic of this 3:02 crowd – pop song length is not confined to pop songs. So as well as the usual crowd of indie rock classics, blues legends and easy listening pieces, we’ve got contributions from Russell Haswell, Alvin Lucier, AMM, CM von Hausswolff, Swans, Miles Davis, Thelonius Monk, Taku Sugimoto, Tod Dockstader, Hecker, Rehberg & Bauer, David Toop & Max Eastley and Annette Krebs & Andrew Neumann, none of whom are normally known for their chart-topping singles. This perhaps suggests a fundamental human attention span for optimum listening.

Other observations:
– 155 x 3:02 long tracks is 7 hours, 50 minutes and 10 seconds of non-stop music. What an awesome party that would be.
– There’s an interesting little cluster at the 10 minute mark. I suppose this is a result of the double figure of ’10’ being a psychological landmark for musicians – where no obvious verse-chorus-verse structure dictates the end of a song, it seems more worthy to fade out to give a nice big round number than a lowly, inadequate single figure.
– Other little peaks appear above the best-fit curve at other integer values – notably 1 (not shown here, because at 337 tracks it goes off the scale – largely a result of Fällt’s invalidObject series), then 2, 4, 5, 7, 12, but not really 6 or 9 (if you’re going to write a 9 minute drone, might as well stretch it out to last 10, eh?). Again, I’m thinking this is purely psychological. There’s something satisfyingly tidy about round numbers, and given the unstructured nature of lots of my music collection, precise timings are somewhat arbitrary.
– I made similar charts ages ago, back when I only had around 14,000 and 30,000 tracks in the library, and the overall shape of the distribution curve was very similar. At 14,000 tracks, the most common time was 3:06, but with 30,000 it was 3:00 exactly.
– Most interesting of all: the lengths I’ll go to to avoid doing any proper work.

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Musical Follow-ups

Imaginary responses to pop songs, sung by the people referenced in the original song. See if you can guess the original. There are no prizes, not even if you get them all right.

The Burning You Are Experiencing Is Actually Caused By A Viral Infection. I Can Certainly See A Slight Redness and Swelling, But It Is Not Possible For Me To See The Burning Itself – It’s An Internal Symptom Of The Infection, In Much The Same Way That I Can’t See The Pain Caused By You Stubbing Your Toe
Doctor

Boys, I Really Appreciate Your Concern And Your Efforts, Which, I Should Make Clear, Have Not Gone Unnoticed Even Though Sometimes I Don’t Always Seem Particularly Thankful Or Aware Of What You’re Up To, But It Really Is Time I Learned To Start Doing Things By Myself, So I Don’t Want To Sound Rude Or Ungrateful, But Maybe You Could Give Me A Break For A Little While, Let Me Do My Own Thing, See How It Goes
Nigel

Okay, Any Particular Requests? Or You Just Want Me To Start Jamming, Or What?
Mr Tambourine Man

Hi Guys, Yeah, Sorry, I’m Afraid You’re Going To Have To Give Me That Number Again, I Did Write It Down But I’ve No Idea Where I Put The Bit Of Paper
Rikki

Well, Generally Speaking, It’s The Number Of Occurrences Of A Repeating Event Per Unit Time. Is That What You Wanted To Know?
Kenneth

We Did! It Was Us
The Canine Liberation Front

Oh, You Know, Not Much, Same Old, Same Old
Pussycat

Don’t Be So Dramatic, I’m Only Popping Out To Get Some Milk, I’ll Probably Be Back In Half An Hour
Angelina

Yes, Speaking…
Vic

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Album Reviews

Sean Paul Tremens – For The Bees (CD / Concrete Rapture, 2009)
Small scale re-enactment of Stockhausen’s legendary Helicopter Quartet, performed by gluing tiny radio microphones to four African bumblebees kept in a large tupperware container. While impressed by the concept of Stockhausen’s original work, the practice left me somewhat cold; I wanted so much more than just a string quartet with vertigo. In that respect, Tremens’ work is faithful to that which it pays homage. In theory: both an amusing satire of a musical landmark, and a legitimate study of the recent trend for down-sizing. In practice: four bees in a tin. Utter nonsense.

Go! Go! Michigan! – Go! Lo-tech (CDr / Go Lie Down Records, 2008)
Once upon a time, Japanese ex-Fluxus artist Yasunao Tone pioneered the use of ‘wounded’ CDs – scratched, broken, painted-on discs played on customised CD players to dizzying effect. Before him, Boyd Rice pioneered the use of locked grooves on vinyl records to hypnotically unsettling effect. Before that, Pierre Henry, Pierre Schaffer and the rest of the musique concrete crowd pioneered the use of magnetic tape splicing to revolutionary effect. So, what’s left? How about wax cylinders? It’s almost too obvious. The results? Exactly as you’d expect given that the album consists of 10 attempts to play badly damaged wax cylinders of ineptly sung nursery rhymes. Thomas Edison must be spinning in his grave (at around 90rpm).

Various Artists – Greengrocery (LP / Institutional, 2010)
Surreal spoken word compilation. Eleven different people with fruit and vegetable agnosia attempt, without success, to describe the merchandise on offer in a North London grocery store.

The Olfactory Band – Arrivederci Aroma (CD / Home Improv, 2005, reissued 2010)
Collective of little known European improvisers, subjected to various overpowering odours in the studio during recording. Inevitably, the scents have a significant influence on the music: ‘Sweat’ is 5 minutes of itchy, claustrophobic and damp scribbling and scraping, whereas ‘Freshly Baked Bread’ is light, warm and yeasty. As a colleague discovered, it’s fun to listen to this for the first time without knowing the track titles and attempt to guess the smell. He got ‘Bad Eggs’, ‘Brand New Car’ and ‘Old Leather Shoe’ just about right, but was pretty wide of the mark for ‘Herring’, ‘Wet Dog’ and ‘Pavlova’. Entertaining and thought-provoking stuff.

The Khabarovsk City Radio Orchestra conducted by Ivan Skobrev Plays the Music of Mrs Vickers’ Year Three Music Class, John Masefield Primary School (CD / Vigorous Handshake, 2010)
An intense and atonal journey through 15 original compositions, varying in length from a brief 20 seconds (I Love My Cat, for 20 glockenspiels) to an exhausting 23 minutes (the relentless cacophony of Jemma Is Not Your Best Friend She’s Mine). Thoroughly hard work to take in one sitting, but ultimately worth the effort – repeated listens reveal many new details, layers and subtexts not necessarily appreciated on first pass. Would undoubtedly be interesting to experience in a live setting.

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Can’t Get You Out Of Minehead

Celebrating provincial life in Great Britain through the power of song, part 1. These are funnier if you’re familiar with the song, or the place, or ideally both. Thanks to Owen for invaluable input.

20 Forfar Betty Page : Snowboy
Aintree Sweet : The Beatles
All Things Brighton Beautiful : Mormon Tabernacle Choir
Alloa : Elvis Presley
Alnwick Get Your Gun : Squeeze
Babbacombe Mow Mow : The Rivingtons
Bacup Train : Al Green
Band On Durham : Wings
Bangor Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down) : Cher
Barmouth Strikes Again : The Smiths
Bass (Harlow Can You Go) : Simon Harris
Bat Out Of Hull : Meatloaf
Beeston Burden : The Rolling Stones
Beg, Steal Or Barrow : The New Seekers
Birmingham Rhapsody : Queen
Bootle-Icious : Destiny’s Child
Boston Cry : The Cure
Brand Newquay : Melanie
Brigg Time : Peter Gabriel
Brixham Mortar : The Jam
Burning And Luton : Bob Marley
Bury Me Beneath The Willow : Woody Guthrie
Can’t Get You Out Of Minehead : Kylie Minogue
Cambourne Eileen : Dexy’s Midnight Runners
Can I Get A Widnes : Marvin Gaye
Can You Seaham Me : Jimi Hendrix
Can’t Hadleigh Wait : The Replacements
Cathays Clowne : Everly Brothers
Cheatin’ Inverness’t Room : Lynn White
Chester Gigolo : Louis Armstrong
Chesterfield-ing : Bad Manners
Cold Torquay : John Lennon
Colwyn Bay-Ton Rouge : Garth Brooks
Crewe-el To Be Kind : Will Young
Daventry & Change My Mind : Ronnie Lane
Dirty Harwich : Lalo Schifrin
Drive Caerphilly, Dear : The Paper Chase
Dudley Good To Me : Beats International
Dunblane It On Me : Fats Domino
Egham My Face : Nine Below Zero
Eton Alive : Diana Ross
Even Better Than The Rhyl Thing : U2
Everybody’s Dorking : Fred Neil
Everything Hyde Do (Hyde Do It For You) : Bryan Adams
Fascinating Lytham : Fred Astaire
Fools Rushden : Vic Damone
For All The Cowes : Foo Fighters
Frome Frome Frome Frome : John Lee Hooker
Girlfriend In A Cromer : The Smiths
Goin’ Through Your Perth : Material Issue
Goole, You’ll Be A Woman Soon : Urge Overkill
Gwynedd Takes It All : Abba

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