#3650: From Speech to Song

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Scott Johnson

For this New Sounds, listen to works that begin with speech, but incorporate sampling, delays, and other electronic manipulations, like Alvin Lucier's 1969 electroacoustic classic "I Am Sitting in a Room," and Scott Johnson's "John Somebody" (1980-82) for electric guitar, woodwinds, percussion, and tape. Hear two parts from "John Somebody" (remember that guy?) by New York-based composer Scott Johnson, who invented the "speech-melody" technique, by taking bits of recorded speech and approximating them with musical notes, creating melody from the rise and fall in pitch of casual conversation. Also, those looped samples- "You know who's in New York? Remember that guy, J—John somebody? He was a… he was sort of a…" - were actually hand-cut & spliced by the composer, fashioning loops from the analog tape. Also of note, “John Somebody,” an early “hit” on New Sounds, is actually not about John Schaefer, contrary to local legend.

There's also music from Paul Lansky's "More Than Idle Chatter," made with the sounds of human speech fed into a computer as well as music from the vocal octet Roomful of Teeth. Plus, hear Alvin Lucier's 1969 piece "I Am Sitting In A Room," another “hit” from this show’s pre-historic years, which actually uses a room's natural resonance to produce the music over time as the initial utterance decays. Listen to the condensed John Schaefer radio edit for this show, since the piece’s full run-time would take up nearly an entire program.

PROGRAM #3650, From Speech to Song (First aired on 10/16/2014)  

ARTIST: Paul Lansky
WORK: Idle Chatter, excerpt [1:00]
RECORDING: More Than Idle Chatter
SOURCE: Bridge Records  #9050
INFO: bridgerecords.com

ARTIST: Scott Johnson
WORK: John Somebody, Pts 1 [5:19] & 3 [11:45]
RECORDING: John Somebody
SOURCE: Tzadik 8009 tzadik.com 
INFO: (original 1986 release: Nonesuch/Icon Records)

ARTIST: Paul Lansky
WORK: Not Just More Idle Chatter [8:05]
RECORDING: More Than Idle Chatter
SOURCE: Bridge Records  #9050
INFO: bridgerecords.com

ARTIST: Roomful of Teeth
WORK: Sarah Kirkland Snider: The Orchard [4:46]
RECORDING: Roomful of Teeth
SOURCE: New Amsterdam NWAM 041
INFO: roomfulofteeth.org

ARTIST: Alvin Lucier
WORK: I Am Sitting In A Room, edited [15:25] (the John Schaefer radio edit)
RECORDING: I Am Sitting In A Room
SOURCE: Lovely Music, #1013
INFO: lovely.com