Interlude Docs

Doc 064: Bruce Russell

Bruce Russell_Interlude Docs II

I have maintained a notebook that I call my “studio log” for a number of years. I make notes inside about recordings and other projects. I also make more speculative notes from time to time, or at least I assume I do as the handwriting is mine though I often have no clear recollection of the circumstances. These pages are an example.

Dated November 2017, the general thrust is the description of an as-yet-unrealized project that I have been toying with for a while: a composition using processed recordings in which I read from T.S. Eliot’s poem “The Waste Land”, apparently related in concept to Luciano Berio’s electroacoustic composition “Omaggio a Joyce” (1958). The notes include potential titles, pictorial images, proposed sections of text to be read. In a way, it does not matter if I ever do this; the concept alone is pretty interesting, perhaps more so than the realization would be.

As I prepared to write this, I re-listened to the Berio piece and it really is quite a thing. It points in many ways to the 1965 realization of “The Return” by Douglas Lilburn, the first New Zealand electroacoustic composition. I’m sure Lilburn would have heard Berio’s work. Lilburn’s piece is based on a poem by his contemporary Alistair Campbell, bringing the circle back to modernist poetry and electronic sound.

Thirty-five years ago I started my performance career performing poetry with live noise, well before I had heard of either Lilburn or Berio. Some apples do not fall far from the tree.

The scribbled, solitary boxed note < white space = silence > could generate any number of works from any number of texts, like a Fluxus throwback. These pages then flip to consider how some Dead C. compact discs could be re-organized for release on LP. Pretty dull stuff in comparison, but again, not something that has subsequently happened.

Projects that are never realized are permanent in a way that the existing ones never will be. Suitably cared for, this book could last a couple of hundred years and generate who knows how many iterations from a single idea. Ideas can be permanent, but only until they are forgotten.

Bruce Russell is a New Zealand experimental musician and writer. He is a founding member and guitarist of the noise rock trio The Dead C and the free noise combo A Handful of Dust with Alastair Galbraith. He is the author of Left-handed blows: writing on sound, 1993–2009, the editor of Erewhon Calling: Experimental Sound in New Zealand, and the founder of experimental music labels Xpressway and Corpus Hermeticum.

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