Saturday, October 28, 2006

Music deconstruction through technology

(the article below first appeared in the July 31, 2006 issue of Tech Times, the infotech section of The Manila Times, where I am also its editor)


Experimental, avantgarde, soundart, noise. No matter how you label it, music deconstruction is definitely a part of modern art.

On July 22, the first compilation of such “music” materials from a cross section of Filipino musical artists was launched at Future Prospects, an art space located at the compound of the Marikina Shoe Expo in Cubao, Quezon City.“The S.A.B.A.W. [samahan ng mga baliw] Anthology is the result of existing materials collected from experimental musicians/sound artists who had been working in the Philippine underground (read: under-appreciated and under-funded) scene for the last 20 years,” according to underground soundart impresario and S.A.B.A.W. Anthology producer Tengal.

Although the arcade still has the usual shoe shops open at daytime, for some time now, the inner parts of the Marikina Shoe Expo compound is slowly transforming itself at night as a crash venue for Filipino artists, exhibiting their artwork, or simply hanging out with fellow bohemians in places like Future Prospects, Vintage POP, or even at Bellini’s, an Italian restaurant, which created a cult-status of sort for serving "terrific" pasta.

As for the S.A.B.A.W. event, an attentively curious crowd gathered to listen to what Tengal and his collection of music deconstructionists had to offer that rainy Saturday night. A number of these noise artists included in the album performed live, complete with their own electronic noisemakers.

“The project—conceived with the intention of not just publishing but also promoting innovations and experiments in music, is an attempt to fill a gap made real by the lack of critical appreciation and inaccessibility of soundart and experimental music for the past two decades,” said Tengal.

Local artists such as Arvie Bartolome, Ascaris, autoceremony, Blend:er, Blums Borres, The Children of Cathode Ray, Conscript, EAT TAE, Elemento, Foodshelter&Clothing, Inconnu ictu, Insomnia, Nasal Police, Pow Martinez, Tengal and Teresa Barrozo complete the roster of the excellent double-CD release. Most if not all of the artists mentioned used technology to create or deconstruct their brand of soundart—from computer hardware and its accompanying software, transistor radios and analog tapes, to kitchen blenders.

Music deconstruction

“Music deconstruction is not new,” according to Lirio Salvador of Elemento, one of the pioneers of industrial music and music deconstruction in the country. “It started with classical music; in the 20th century, artists such as John Zorn and John Cage [famous for his three-movement classical piece, ‘Silence’] made people to notice it,” he added.

Locally, Lirio made industrial music not only a feast for the ears but for the eyes as well. He creatively makes his own musical instruments from scrap metal, water pipes, and bicycle parts, to disposed electrical materials, to kitchenware — creating a visually engaging mesh-metal sculpture fit for an art museum rather than on a sound stage.

“It took almost 20 years [in the Philippines] for people to appreciate the existence of soundart, I won’t be surprised if it takes another 20 years before most of them actually understand it,” Salvador said.

Another pioneer of music deconstruction in the country, The Children of Cathode Ray, has been doing soundart since 1989. Group member Tad ErmitaƱo described their music as posted on the autoceremony blogsite (autoceremony.blogspot.com): “A Cathode Ray piece might have radios and 4-second cassette-tape loops feeding into a mix filled with drums and electronic percussion, effected guitars, synthesized pads and passionate raving in an invented language, which would in turn be augmented visually by video feedback, projections of exposed Super-8 abraded with a variety of kitchen implements, or VHS spliced on a pair of consumer VCRs.”

To paraphrase a familiar art adage: music is in the ear of the beholder.
-- Jing Garcia
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