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Michel Waisvisz (1949-2008)

june 20, 2008.

"Michel Waisvisz died peacefully in his home last night after fighting the mean cells in his body for the last eight months.
He was born on the 8th of July 1949 and lead STEIM as Director for 27 years. He left us on a day when artists and friends from around the world gathered downstairs to perform for a full-house season-closing concert ..."

STEIM June 19, 2008 ...

WaisviszOn monday july 14th, 2008 parisian Radio Aligre FM's indispensable Songs of Praise emission will be dedicated to Michel Waisvisz and his work. Part of this tribute will consist in the performance of a Cracklebox Sinfonietta, live in the Radio Aligre studio. For this live tribute we want to bring together as many 'parisian crackleboxes', and their players, as possible. Now we know the whereabouts of quite a few, but surely not of all crackleboxes here in Paris. So if you are in or near the french capital on july 14th, have a cracklebox and are willing to bring it along with yourself to Radio Aligre (Paris XI) and participate in the Cracklebox Sinfonietta, please leave a note or send an email ...

(added june 24th, 2008: The picture (click to enlarge) shows Michel Waisvisz in the early 1970s. It was illustrating the 1972/73 programme of Psychopolis de Vrije Academie (Sociaal Creatief Centrum voor Visuele Communicatie), The Hague (the Netherlands). The text in the bottom-left corner reads: "... dit is uw leraar ...", or, in english: "...this is your teacher..." :: From the archives of Yvonne Oerlemans, Amsterdam.)

[ Classic album: Michel Waisvisz - Crackle (LP, 1978) ( hattip Mutant Sounds ) ;
Read: Michel Waisvisz - Touch Sound (WMMNA)
Michel's crackleboxes in public action : Ministry of silly crackles ]

[ Barraques à freaks (Rue 89) - Attention au son, les Crackle Boxes passent à la radio (july 9th, 2008) ]

[ Next related SB-entry: Michel's Song of Praise ]

tags: michel waisvisz, cracklebox, kraakdoos, songs of praise, steim

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"Sing Laping, Sing !" (foundtaping in brussels_ i)

june 18, 2008.

[ podcast :: sbpc 20 ... s ]

It is a little over a year ago that I set up a small working space at Recyclart in Brussels, located at the site of the Chapelle-Kapellekerk station, right under the tracks of the belgian railways.
brussels From monday june 4th until thursday 7th, 2007 I went foundtaping ( * ) in the quarters around the station (which is still in use, but only as a stop for a few local trains), and elsewhere in Brussels.
After Found in Maastricht, in Berlin and in Cologne, the tapes and tape debris that I'd picked up in the streets of the belgium capital during my stay at Recyclart were to constitute the fourth in this ongoing series: Found in Brussels. But it is only now that in my systematic chronological completion of the Found Tapes Exhibition I came to the tapes that I collected there in Brussels a year ago. chapelle brussels Partly that is because indeed it becomes more and more difficult to reserve enough of my time to go through the so very time-consuming process of restoring the picked up tape-clods ( ** ). And partly it is due to the fact that the preparation of the Brussels acquisition took far more time than the average item in the exhibition ... Notwithstanding the fact that I did most of the disentangling and re-winding already there, as part of my 'foundtaping' project at Recyclart, early june of last year.

It is but a short walk from the Chapelle/Kapellekerk station to the Vossenplein (in flemish), or place du Jeu de Balle (in french), a square that since 1873 is famously home to a flea market. During my wanderings on foot through the brussels neighborhoods, I took care always to pass by the place du Jeu de Balle along with the municipal cleaners that came to remove and wipe away all that got thrown away or simply left behind at the end of the daily market.
Flea markets provide fascinating images of a city and its population. Wandering there and looking at all that's for sale, all that before was kept and used within the confines of someone's - man, woman, family - home, one stands face to face with one big random collage of memories and memorabilia. It is a parade of history at its very smallest, at its most personal and private level, and through the many - mostly as ordinary as they are 'worthless' - objects and documents reflects a range of events varying (in order of predominance) from personal to local, via national, on to global ...

brussels brussels
brussels brussels

Now, of course, tapes that off and on I buy at flea markets (like Pierre Delhumeau's collection of cassettes, that I got at the market in Montreuil) are not included in the Found Tapes Exhibition. On the other hand, tapes that - broken or not - are left behind or thrown away at the end of such a market, I do include, whether broken or not. And, for obvious reasons, indeed in the aftermath of such market days one is very likely to be able to pick up tapes and tape debris ...

vossenpleinThus of the twenty items included in the 83rd (Found in Brussels) acquisition of the Found Tapes Exhibition with tapes picked up in Brussels at the time of my residency at Recyclart, six were collected on and around the place du Jeu de Balle, after the daily market had ended, and before the cleaning services could wipe them away. If you click the street sign, there appears a satellite image of the place du Jeu de Balle, with indications of where approximately on the square I picked up tapes that are included in Found in Brussels ...

When I walked across the already mostly empty square on the afternoon of tuesday june 5th, I noticed a man who was looking around for a cardboard box. He picked one up near one of the trees surrounding the square. He looked inside the box. He checked its dimensions, and tapped on the sides, to make sure it was solid. The box seemed to suit him, but it was not totally empty. So he folded back its top flaps, and turned it upside down ... A whole bunch of cassette tapes came tumbling out. The man didn't even give them a second look. He just gave the box one more good shake to make sure that he had emptied it of all of its content. Then he walked away with it.

cassettesI picked up the cassettes. There were sixteen of them. And an interesting and curious lot it proved to be ... (#475) ... a fascinating bit of 'micro-history'. Also because of its formats (the old and - to me - unknown brands of cassette, see the picture), but mainly through its contents.
All of them did once belong to the same person, and were surely part of an even larger collection of tapes. As in the case of the french priest Pierre Delhumeau, they must have ended up on the market because the person that owned them died, and part of his belongings thereafter spread out. Almost as if suddenly they got a 'life of their own'.

It led them on, from the place du Jeu de Balle to Recyclart, to Paris, and on to Amsterdam, where at the end of this april I began finishing the documentation of my foundtaping in Brussels, and listened to all sixteen previously owned tapes that together make up the four hundred and seventy fifth lot of the Found Tapes Exhibition ...

Here are three more images that you may click in order to view a larger version. A very useful option in this case, as it will enable you to read what is written on the two cassette covers, as well as on the little piece of paper that was folded away in one of the other cassettes.

Have a look. It'll give you a first idea of what's on the tapes ...

singtape singtape singtape

On the back of the cover in the third image there is a red capital 'W', and written: Musique anglaises - disques de willy. Also in the first image we see on the back of the cover (as on that of several of the other tapes) this red capital 'W'. 'W' surely stands for 'Willy'. It seems to indicate that the music that we hear was taped from Willy's records.

lily ponsWilly's records, with topnotch performances by former world stars of the opera, and the classics of the overly famous anglo- and francophonic crooners from the mid 20th century, were taped onto an early cassettetape machine. Maybe that early cassettetape machine had been a present. Or maybe it was bought to precisely this purpose: use the newly acquired machine to record Willy's records, and put together a collection of cassettetapes containing the music contained on the records. With the cassettetape machine came a microphone, that was used first and foremost to preface the recorded music with spoken announcements. Sometimes there's a comment. But always short. One phrase. A few words. Nothing much. Nothing long.

But the voice without doubt is that of the owner of the machine, and of the cassettes. The voice on the cassettes, the voice of the 'recorder', is that of a man. A Walloon. And I am prepared to guess that Willy, to whom belonged the original records with, exclusively, singstar music, was his wife.
Sometimes, though ever so rarely, we hear a woman's voice speaking.
Somewhere on one of the tapes the woman asks: "C'est quoi que tu chantes ?" ('What are you singing?').

I like to think that's Willy's voice ...

Willy's not a young voice. And neither is her husband's. I imagine he just retired. He and Willy like listening to music. And they like birds. But apart from that, Willy's husband never was a man with a hobby. That's why he got himself - or was offered - one of those new cassettetape machines. It was that abundance of time that now suddenly had come on his hands, and that spread out before him like the sea on a calm sunny summer day waving out from the Ostend beach. It was all that time that made Willy's husband become sort of an 'early adaptor' avant-la-lettre ... He began filling cassette tape after cassette tape with the music of Willy's gramophone records, pretty much the same way today's buyers of another next generation laptop computer fill up their iTunes-or-something with the contents of their CDs ...

Willy's husband played back Willy's records on a record player. He then recorded the music onto cassette by placing the microphone that came with the cassettetape machine near the record player's loudspeaker(s).
Sometimes while listening to the cassettes I closed my eyes and tried to imagine the brussels apartment, or small house, where these tapes were recorded. The picture is not very clear. But I do know that the record player was placed not too far from where the birdcage was. Willy and her husband liked birds. That's why they kept them at their home. At least one. In a cage.

heartful

Heartful Bird - "The birdie's lright chirping will relax your lady and mind and bring you lack ta the great nature, where you can entirely freed fram worry and enjoy a mament of rlacidity." [sic]

Now here is what makes this collection of cassette tapes even more intriguing to me: I already told you how Willy's husband is doing all of the recording with a microphone. And all the time, with each and every record, the bird is singing along to the music; whence on the cassette tapes together with the music of Willy's records there is always that same sing bird ... Or singing ... it is more of a periodic squeaking ...
The shrieks reminded me of the electronic sound produced by the mechanical 'Heartful Bird' that you see in the picture, and that I bought in a chinese gadgets shop on the Amsterdam Albert Cuyp market. Reason enough to show you its picture together with the curious textual description printed on its box; the Heartful Bird also sings 'real songs', like the theme of Beethoven's 'Ode an die Freude' ...

Willy's and Willy's husband's domestic bird squeaks along to all of their music. It squeaks with Beniamino Gigli, with Joseph Schmidt, it twitters along to vocal acrobatics of Lily Pons, its noisy shots hit Maurice Chevalier, Fred Astaire, Bing Crosby ... bref, all of them ... Of course Willy's husband must have known that he was recording the bird along with the music. I guess he didn't mind. Maybe he considered it something this new technology simply could not avoid. Maybe he even wanted to. Or was it a sound that his mind had learned to ignore, to filter out? Willy and her hubby must have been listening all the time to music accompanied by the squeaking of their bird. So what they eventually listened back to on the cassette is just how playing music at their home sounded like ...

But did they ever listen back to the cassettes hubby recorded? Did they bring the cassettetape machine along on their holidays? Did they go for a holiday every once in a while? Did they take the bird?
When they played back the cassettes at home, of course the bird will have squeaked along to the sound of the cassette. Shrieking along to the music and along to itself ... Oh, if only I could have been there to record that ... to then play it back again, for the bird to squeak along to the music and itself twice; and record that again ... and so further ... (Consider it a score. Call it: 'Heartful Bird' ... :-) ...)

On (just!) one of the tapes there are several minutes where we hear only bird's song, passages that must have been recorded intentionally. It is much more varied than the usual squeaking, so I'm not sure if it's the same bird. Maybe there are more? Maybe these were recorded somewhere else? Maybe Willy and hubby had a garden where they kept more birds ... Sadly I know near to nothing about birds, so I am quite unable to tell what bird it is; or what birds they are ... Maybe there's a listener somewhere out there that can fill us in ... ?

You can hear Willy, hubby, Willy's records and the bird(s) in s "Sing laping, sing !", which is the title of this SB entry's podcast. It is a rather long track, almost seventeen minutes long, built exclusively from extracts of the sixteen cassettes recorded by Willy's husband ( *** ). "Sing laping, sing !" has an awful lot of squeaking in it. Most of that comes from the birds, some of it is Lily Pons. I could not resist the temptation to extend Lily's high d, and her (even higher :-) e-flat to make it sound and sound and sound and sound until ... well, until, I guess, it no longer sounds 'human' ...

Willy's husband not only put Willy's records on his cassettes. He also recorded from the radio. But his method remained the same. Also when recording a radio program, he put the microphone in front of the loudspeaker. One of the cassettes in lot #475 contains long parts of a program dedicated to Jacques Brel. There are live recordings, there is Brel playing the guitar, talking about his self-chosen exile, about Belgium; there's concerts, more interviews ... and all the while the house-bird keeps squeaking ... At the end there's the announcer. "Jacques Brel qui est mort, je vous rappelle," he says, "ce matin à l'aube dans une clinique de la région parisienne ..."

It was the 9th of october, 1978.

- next: " Le Chasseur " -

notes __ ::
(*) I came across this funny neologism for the first time about a month ago, when Agnès Aokky wrote me an email, asking for some information, as she wanted to write a short article on foundtaping ... When we met a few days later, and ended up doing some sort of a 'table dance' along the pavements of the parisian Palais de Tokyo and the Musée de l'Art Moderne, I learned that by foundtaping Agnès meant all of the pretty divers artistic activities using 'found footage' as its material. Here is what she wrote, in her Barraque à Freaks - Foundtaping : les trésors des cassettes jettées à la poubelle .[ ^ ]
(**) Keeping up with the found tapes exhibition, with this blog, and the bulk of the other activities that it reports upon, provides enough work to occupy at least three persons full time. Unfortunately it hardly generates enough money even to enable one of them to do it part-time ... :-( [ ^ ]
(***) As such it almost, though not completely, corresponds to the parts in the (two part) Found in Brussels montage (fotex83) that are built from material of found tape lot #475. [ ^ ]

tags: found tapes, foundtaping, brussels, birds

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