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xmas in kentucky

dec 22, 2003.

'Xmas in Kentucky' is what I named the final ten minutes of the 'live chronicles' set I performed last sunday, december 14th (as part of the programme of Vert Pituite's ninth la belle soirée, in Les Voûtes), after having re-recorded it at home (on tuesday, december 16th).

Dog and Phonograph

[ It is was my holiday season's 'gift' ... for those that follow my monthly serial story Henrik Henegouws Hellevaart, in the Dutch online magazine Writersblock, it is has been available as a free download from a special gift page, between this december 22th and the appearance of the magazine's first 2004 issue, on february 16th, 2004. The page is in Dutch, but of course also SoundBlog visitors, whether Dutch reading or not, were welcome to take their free copy of XiK. Thanks for frequenting these pages. (note feb. 16th - The gift page is still accessible, but download of the soundfile has been unabled. Feel free to me for a copy by email, though!) ]

It was, once again, an interesting belle soirée, disappointing only in that there were far less visitors than on earlier occasions this year. I enjoyed very much Will Guthrie's careful table-percussion and electronics set [here's a review of 2 of Will's CDs in Dusted Magazine], and was impressed by the noise'n'energie of the duo 'Bobby Two', being Alexandre Bellenger (torturing turntables and stuff) and Arnaud Rivière (on prepared mixing table). Find it far more difficult, though, to place my own contribution in the proper perspective.

It was my third 'live performance' this year, and the first 'non-headphone' one. It was a pleasant surprise actually to notice that a cassette mix actually does pass pretty well over a higher volume speaker system. We had four speakers, posed as in the four corners of a trapezoïd, enabling a 'double stereo' projection. (Four channels would've been even better, maybe, but we did not have the equipment to make that work. And of course I did not prepare anything '4track' for the evening.) It sounded good. The sonic 'texture' of these dictaphone recordings continues to surprise me.

On the other hand, I still have not really worked out how to properly use them in a 'live situation'. Also this time - as on the other two occassions - I settled for what maybe is best described as a 'tape choreography'. I select beforehand the fragments that I will use, as well as their order. Improvisation only enters in the use I sometimes make of the radio built into one of my dictaphones, and (sort of a première) the playing around with the controls of (one of) the players.

LC3 'choreography' page 1
LC3 'choreography' page 2

Preparing the 'choreography' for the la belle soirée's performance made me feel like Beckett's Krapp, digging up spirits from the past. I even imagined doing a Krapp-like 'Live chronicle', sitting behind my table on a stage, going through my notebooks, picking out tapes from a box, playing them, and commenting. It's an interesting idea, actually, but of course that way the performance would become more of a theatre, or a lecture. What's happening in the Sound Chronicles of course is not me digging up memories and commenting while listening to recordings from years past. It rather is recordings that are commenting on recordings.

Meta-Krapp, if you allow me ;-) ...

Xmas in Kentucky reflects very nicely much of what occupied me while preparing the performance.

Because of the link with Beckett's play, I downloaded the recording of Krappp's Last Tape available from ubuweb (Donald Davis is Krapp). I also burned the files on an audioCD, as I wanted to give a copy to Erell Latimier (there's a piece by John Tilbury called Beckett as music on the accompanying CD, and an interview with Tilbury on Beckett/Tilbury in the second issue of her Phrênésie magazine [espace de l'expérimentation de la langue]).
And I wanted to listen to the play, while reading a Dutch translation that I found in an old literary magazine (Randstand 1).
But apparently something had gone wrong while burning the CD, as it got stuck at several spots, giving rise to an interesting sort of digital rumbling. I decided to make use of this 'accident', and recorded a fifteen minute 'improvisation' (manipulating the Krapp recording with the controls of the player) onto MD.

This recording then became the main ingredient of XiK.

A second ingredient is a dictaphone recording of a walk in the streets of Rome, in april 1999, followed by the shrill voice of a female tour guide somewhere in Vatican City, around the same time.

Thirdly, there's the output of a FORTRAN programme that I wrote (running on a PDP-11 computer at the Utrecht Institute for Sonology in february 1984, and producing 'random within certain limits' melodies) - 'straight on', at first run. Then, at the end, I manipulate the recording on cassette by hand (rewind, spool, stop, hick, et cetera).

As to the title: XiK of course refers to the

[ Complete text of Krapp's Last Tape :: Memories are made of hiss ]
[ Earlier related SB-entry: gaité lyrique ]

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