It might seem a bit of a cheat to include this in a blog about sound. Last week I visited Housman’s bookshop in Kings Cross and, as ever, I went down to the basement where all the book are priced at £1. (That basement has special resonance for me because I am convinced that I spent a night there in 1971…but that’s a different story.) I found this magazine from 1974 with its beautiful cover design by Richard Hollis. It exhibits the patina of use in the form of a faded edge and Haringey Libraries stamps that is at odds with the rigorous typography and layout. I hope that the scan allows a reading of the poem….that goes some way to justifying showing this here.
Here is a track from an album made in New York in 1958. The record is a piece of anti-Soviet propaganda called, as you see, ‘Dreams of Golden Prague’ and its sleevenotes bemoan the influence of communism on Bohemia and suggest that the terror imposed there is merely a preliminary to a take over of the ‘Free World’. The rant on the back cover occupies the space where one would normally expect to find performer credits so I don’t know who is playing. The front cover meanwhile shows Golden Prague through a rose-tinted glass. I took the liberty of ‘improving’ this track which I believe is called ‘Vērím-tango’. (Those accents are wrong). I’m interested in how a simple shift of the sound can change the nature of a song….in this case adding echo has, I think, brought a much needed sense of melancholy to bear on the tune and its delivery.
I made a ‘film’ on my phone as I crossed between Manhattan and Roosevelt Island on the tramway. Then I re-shot the film through a mirrored box that I found one night on the King’s Road in Chelsea. I looked for songs that were exactly the same length as the footage (4’46”) and tried out various combinations. The juxtaposition of ‘No One is Lost’ by Stars (a kind of disco-rock crossover number) with a kaleidoscopic view of New York, the Williamsburg Bridge and the East River worked…it looked like a proper pop video. I had initially wanted the two things, sound and image, to work together equally, or maybe more accurately I wanted an equal mismatch. This version made it look like the film was a response to the song….when Vimeo decided that I was in breach of copyright (what’s that?) I decided that the balance was all wrong anyway. The day after this setback I had to go to Tooting in south London and in the covered market I made a recording of caged birds in a pet shop. Behind me was a man talking very insistently into his mobile phone. In the spirit of disconnect I decided to use this recording as my soundtrack instead of a song. Here is the film:
Sorting through some records last night (in the R and S sections) I was reminded that it is nearly April 12th and the 44th anniversary of Yuri Gagarin’s pioneering flight into space. I have posted the 45 of his transmission previously (here). The following is a fairly rapid selection of space-related tracks that I bumped into last night.