Monday, September 26, 2011

Metcalf Meets the Sonic Material of Christian Marclay's, Jukebox Capriccio

Static ping pongs in sharp crackles from R -> L and back to center, giving way to a tonal slide that seems to fold in and back on itself. This with an underbelly of unrecognizable voices moving at high speed (and backwards?) introduce a loud but distant series of clangs that are interrupted by rough low tones. A single high frequency note sounds. A "ba-dum-doom" breaks in and sits at the bottom, repeating on a steady rhythm. Other beats rise up on top and float between my ears, punctuated by high pitch squeals that stretch and compress. Other notes glide through the frequency range in short bursts and gradually become more consistent until they reach a crescendo and then fall away. I can't help but think of 70's film grain and a slick black suit, skulking behind corners, partly concealed in thick puffs of cigar smoke. "Ba-dum-doom" becomes a "doot…-…doot-doot…-…dot"". The sloping and squealing high frequencies return with a renewed vigor, a cloud of fragments and shards swarming the upper register. The rhythm intensifies, speeding up with the cloud then drops off, spaces out, echoes across the left and gives a little air-- "ba-dop-da-dop-ba-dop-da-dop", the ba-dum-doom coming back, but now, "maudd-muuuud-mooooood", the familiar but in reverse, resting on a deep "waa-waa-waa-waa-waa-waa" awash in color and reverb. a descending melody plays as a rapid beat jumps on top for only a moment and leaves you mid phrase. The composition has an incredible gravity, each listen (out of 15 or so) revealing new complexity, despite the jagged and chaotic--at times even seemingly random--structure. Over repeat listens the disparate elements are united in my mind by an intangible familiarity, each calling up cinematic images from different genres, musical and visual, embodying an emotional and sometimes social essence of a time or place. Does the power of this piece (and perhaps many remixes) rely on familiarity with a cultural language of image and sound? By extension, is any chaotic system just a system that we lack the language to unravel?

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