#3650: From Speech to Song

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Scott Johnson
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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. Plus, hear music from the vocal octet Roomful of Teeth, who perform Lansky’s “Idle Chatter” this Sunday, October 19th, as part of MOMA PS1’s day-long “Sound / Source.” Plus, Alvin Lucier's 1969 piece "I Am Sitting In A Room," another “hit” from this show’s pre-historic years, 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(S)

RECORDING

CUT(S)

SOURCE

Paul Lansky

More Than Idle Chatter

Idle Chatter, excerpt [1:00]

Bridge Records  #9050
bridgerecords.com

Scott Johnson

John Somebody

John Somebody, Pts 1 [5:19] & 3 [11:45]

Tzadik 8009 tzadik.com
(original 1986 release: Nonesuch/Icon Records)

Paul Lansky

More Than Idle Chatter

Not Just More Idle Chatter [8:05]

Bridge Records  #9050
bridgerecords.com

Roomful of Teeth

Roomful of Teeth

Sarah Kirkland Snider: The Orchard [4:46]

New Amsterdam NWAM 041
roomfulofteeth.org

Alvin Lucier

I Am Sitting In A Room

I Am Sitting In A Room, edited [15:25] (the John Schaefer radio edit)

Lovely Music, #1013
lovely.com