But it is part of my cannon. I have a database of restaurants, and I have my pieces. When I write a new piece, I just reach into the bag and pull a name out. Next thing I know, people are taking shots at me because— Taking umbrage with the cultural appropriation of it all. This particular CD also has been pirated and distributed online.
A Schubert lieder sung by a Japanese pop singer in English that is kind of like my Bolero. This is the one piece that more than any other that people mention that they identify me with. Do you remember which Schubert lieder? I am a Schubert fan, but we can talk about that off the air.
Carl Stone Talks Sampling and His Self-Described “Process” Music
That sample alone that I used from a Japanese singer Akiko Yano really cut my ear when I listened to the original version. So the use of vibrato and so on is very very different from what you would hear from a classical lieder performer or operatic singer. You mention a female pop singer. That seems to be a motif that comes up frequently in your compositions. I would know those vocals anywhere just because of the generation from which I come. First of all, I am attracted to the female voice generally speaking more than the male voice.
So a lot of the work I do uses a female vocalism as a starting point, and a lot of that can be pop music. How do you go about collecting them?
When I travel, unlike tourists who might have a camera strapped on, I walk around with a portable recorder looking for interesting sounds. Sometimes there are certain places that I know should have interesting sounds. And I especially like urban soundscapes, so when I go to a city, I will always have my recorder handy. I think I mentioned earlier that I lived in Tokyo for six months back in the late 80s, and at that time, I had a portable digital recorder.
I collected many, many, many hours of recordings, which I brought back and then used to make a piece which was commissioned by the radio in Japan. Eventually it came out on a CD on an Italian label, ironically. The Japanese and the Italians. All we needed was a German.
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Took the words right out of my mouth. Do you deal with the Zoom? Do you things in stereo? Tell me all about it. For a while I was traveling around with two four-channel Zoom recorders. I had specially built a contraption that allowed me to mount both of them so I could do eight channel recordings just by walking around with one grip.
But you work with whatever tools you have. I was recently in Bangkok, and—this is kind of embarrassing to admit—the batteries on my regular recorder had run out, but then I came across in the course of a few hours three different sounds that I really wanted to capture. One was a European Baptist preacher standing, shrieking at the top of his lungs in a very busy intersection, trying to convert people. Another was an extremely drunk Thai woman who was actually being arrested by the police and was clawing at them and spitting in their face and so on.
The third was just some marketplace sounds. I just whipped out my iPhone and used their voice recorder program. What a day to lose battery on a recorder. I teach my students—I do a course in location recording—and one of the first things I tell them is a story of how I was out in the woods and there was an owl in a tree, and it was absolutely gorgeous. I got out my recorder and I pointed it there, and the battery was completely dead, and the owl flew away, and that was it, you know? It was only for your ears. It was only for my ears. For some reason with field recordings, they tend to show up in one piece and one piece alone.
Other pieces—if people examine them closely, they will find the same samples showing up in different guises and different contexts, but each one is completely different. The process that I use will be completely different, but the material may be the same, and it has to do with the way that I work. What happens if you plug this Schubert in, or what happens if you plug this Aqua in?
What happens if you plug this shamisen music in? The results are different even though the process is the same. They are an important part of the musical construct. One thing I want to mention—I want to talk a little bit about Phill Niblock. There are other composers like Alvin Lucier who I think deserve the moniker as well, and Phill Niblock is one of those. He records instrumental sounds from very often classical instruments like bassoon, clarinet, trombone, violin—whatever—and he edits them very carefully to remove all the attacks.
Composed nine years later in , "Shing Kee," which like most of Stone's compositions is named for a restaurant he patronized, is the digital half of the pair that finds Stone dabbling in more traditional computer music concepts, namely deploying an algorithm by which to generate music on its own although "Sukothai" achieved this through analog means, its framework could easily have come from the dialogue surrounding computer music at the time.
This time around, we find Stone subjecting a 5-second snippet taken from a recording of Japanese pop singer Akiko Yano singing "The Linden Tree" by Schubert" to the glories enabled by digital time-stretching, wringing all of the latent weirdness from this traditionally normalizing effect in the process. Not that the otherworldliness ever really goes way as Stone first gradually speeds up the loop to fit the original time grid before he seems to do away with temporal units altogether, stretching and compacting Yano's vocals before the song once again throws a curveball.
By swiftly switching to the other half of the sample, Stone creates something of a mirror effect for the song's second half as the sample starts at a brisk pace until tripping and then stumbling over itself due to Stone keeping the fragment length constant while gradually widening the time unit, causing the piece to melt away into a temporal blackhole until a gentle piano enters the mix part for a refreshing coda.
Commencing with what, at this point in the compilation, seems like another microscopic examination of the voice, an extended vocal loop quickly speeds up into a rapid stutter before the sample bifurcates, the spoken phrase "testing " phasing in and out of itself, creating intricate aural braiding. Eventually these disparate vocals arrange themselves in some kind of William Gibson-approved tribal chant, the apparent ethnographic sample source transformed into a sidewinding symphony of flickering, disembodied voices, which are female-sounding as Stone is clearly applying substantial vocal pitching to render gender meaningless.
As the minute piece enters its final third, Stone reveals his classically-derived third act, tongue firmly in cheek. The ritualistic mantras morph into a chopped-up frenzy of orchestral samples, displaying Stone's steady hand in organizing chaos as he hones on certain, dare I say it, grooves, which are quickly dismantled by the waves of loops and samples all competing for attention in the mix until the piece exhausts itself in a flurry of sampled percussion and vocal snippets.
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The above piece and the following two can be streamed via The Wire. Moving on two years from "Dong II Jang," 's "Shibucho" presents another sample collage while also utilizing generative looping techniques as an opening rattle slowly unspools itself to reveal the timeless Motown tone in the opening guitar line to The Temptations' "My Girl. Rather than seemingly throwing his sample source into the digital blender, Stone teases out an endless array of sepia-toned samples, pairing and layering them on top of one another to discover sonic treasures within the source material itself.
While this piece could easily have rested on the many golden-layered loops picked from the vocal-led Temptations sample, Stone is restless as ever, bringing in a pre-pubescent Michael Jackson's siren wail to allow the Jackson 5 to take center stage. The triumphant groove of "ABC" takes over, Stone cutting it to pieces and reassembling them into an ethereal, unnatural waltz with Jackson's klaxon soaring over this computerized ballroom shuffle.
At once manic and meditative, the album's first half succeeds in presenting the primary tropes and techniques in Stone's arsenal, setting the stage for its undeniable centerpiece, the minute "Kuk II Kwan. If anything, "Kuk" is the most traditional sounding of any of Stone's work presented up to this point in the compilation, sounding like it could have come from the GRM studios and even maybe the hands of Pierre Schaefer or Pierre Henry, but it stretches the ideas of these sampling pioneers into something resembling a frantic short film.
But, as demonstrated by the preceding four compositions, much of what is heard in "Kuk" is derived from techniques developed by Stone himself, particularly the layering of the barking dogs that he developed in both "Sukothai" and "Unthaitled. This serves to further muddle our perception of Stone as an anti-musical miscreant intent on displacing our conceived sense of pacing and telos, as his pieces rarely build to any logical climax.
Boasting a clever sequencing structure, the curators create something of an overarching parabola that starts and ends at the beginning of Stone's career. In particular, he's clearly fascinated by poly-tonal constructions and the texture you can create through the envelope filter's ability to stretch and confuse one's traditional sense of time as it relates to notes played. While it's unknown if Stone was at all familiar with the work of Eliane Radigue at the time, it's hard not to feel her influence, or at least identify Stone's passing interest of the spiritually-tinged drone mantras he and arch-minimalists like LaMonte Young and Radigue were coaxing out of their hardware.
Unlike "LIM" this piece feels a little more clear in its objective, assured in its steady builds and changes to create a heady piece of synthesizer-aided meditation. He also weaves in alternate performances of the sample source that Stone had treated with his layering effect, creating a jaw-dropping composition that is freed of its algorithmic constraints, enabling Stone to gently guide its tonal layers.
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One listening to either "Unthaitled" or "Sukothai" would not likely realize the jaw-dropping simplicity of either's foundational concept, especially since both achieve a degree of sentience, undulating and morphing into shimmering patterns overseen by Stone's steady hands and ears.