Monday, June 1, 2009

2000 : 01 "Vinyl Coda III" by Philip Jeck

The Aesthetics of Decay. Artists as diverse as Bill Morrison, Andrew Goldsworthy, and Jeremy Bushnell have addressed it in their work. I thought it would be interesting in the first year of a new century to look at an artist and a piece of music that consciously looks back at a medium that, while certainly outdated, is still revered among some audiophiles for its warmth, physicality, and ritualistic aspects.

I first heard of Jeck through his Vinyl Requiem installation in 1993, which was a performance for 180 Dansette record players which he salvaged from old junk shops and trash bins. Each turntable spun, simultaneously, a different scratched, warped, and sometimes broken piece of discarded musical history. Warbly opera singers balanced atop the echoes of distant marimba patterns, melting string quartets dissolve into a patina of surface hiss. Layer upon layer of sound and memory was piled atop of each other, until it became a dense thicket of loss and rebirth. However, not merely content to set the Dansettes off spinning and let them go, Jeck does quite a bit of manipulating of the sounds, balancing unintended surprise with artistic vision and forethought. In fact, it wasn't until the Vinyl Coda series of concerts for Dutch radio in 1999, eventually released on CD in 2000 and 2001, that Jeck mastered this difficult medium, able to sculpt these excavations of buried music from the last century into something more than nostalgia, transcending their original sources and combining them into a new coherent piece that challenges a disposable culture's fixed notions of temporality and progress.

This excerpt is from Vinyl Coda III, recorded at the end of the last century (November 28, 1999), released in 2000.

Darren DeMonsi

Listen: Philip Jeck >> "Vinyl Coda III" (An excerpt: minutes 32 through 42.)

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