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172
Chapter 8
And whilst each musician had an individual repertoire of techniques and sounds, a
certain number of shared materials were nonetheless evident - these commonalities most
visible in the work of drummers and percussionists using zithers (bowed, hit, prepared,
plucked), chime bars (often bowed to produce high, pure, sine-like tones), Tibetan
‘singing’ bowls (also bowed) and marbles (rolled across the surfaces of drums, sometimes
rotating the drums themselves). As well as being hit, drumheads would be massaged or
scraped with a variety of materials including polystyrene, sponges and steel wool, and
placing cymbals on top of a drum (and using the drum as an resonator) was common
to many musicians, as was the use of chopsticks, rubber beaters, twigs and straw (as
beaters). Some used megaphones or ‘contact’ microphones to amplify drumheads and
cymbals, and most came armed with a barrage of small percussion items - ranging from
tambourines, woodblocks and bells, to squeaky toys and even a (creaking) door hinge
from a local hardware store.35
Electronic Musicians
As shown on page 160, electronic music had a considerable influence on the development
of instrumentalists’ sound- and noise-based materials and, before looking at musicians’
use of recording in practise sessions, this section looks at how electronic musicians
developed, practised and selected their materials - this functioning somewhat differently
to their instrumental colleagues.
Just like instrumentalists, electronic musicians chose their materials based on taste,
and identified the need for new materials whilst performing. However, the materials
in this case (with the exception of ‘no-input’/feedback mixing desk-performances, and
when source-sounds were taken from live instrumental performance) were drawn from a
variety of pre-recorded sources, both self-made, and commercially available.36 JD Zazie
told me:
I use a lot pre-recorded material like field recordings... [and] I work with
layered memory. I play something myself, then I record it, then I play it
myself again, and I record it. This process could go on with no end. I stop
when I feel happy with the rough open structure (kind-of dirty, with no
beginning, no end)...[and it’s] ready to be written on a CD, in order to be
manipulated in real-time during the live set.
35
There were also three main setups of percussion instruments - a more-or-less conventional drum kit
(often plus a bag of self-chosen ‘toys’), a set-up inspired by Neue Musik (concert bass drum turned on
its side, and prepared with everything from marbles to cymbals, hit and scraped across the surface) and
table-top setups consisting of ‘toys’ and ‘objects’ alone.
36
Sadly, an investigation into ‘no-input’/feedback mixing desk-performances was beyond the scope of
this study. See p. 162 for more on JD Zazie’s setup. It is also important to note that ‘Live-Sampling’ was
relatively rare, with most electronic musicians acting independently of their instrumental co-performers
and not processing their sounds. Performances of instrumentalists who processed their sounds
electronically took place mainly in electronic/noise/drone venues such as Loophole and Madame
Claude.