An Enigma

Setting aside whether I should have parted with £1.49 for this (especially as at some previous time it had been sold for 19p)…I wonder what this object is about. Who was responsible for it and why? Was it on the way to becoming something other than useless when the process was interrupted? And w45001hy was B. A. Robertson anyway?

Radio 201.4 [JN]

Since the beginning of this year I have been making one compilation CD each month. The tracks on each mix come from CDs from charity shops (mostly from my local one) and I exclude music bought elsewhere…that is the only constraint. The mixes tend to be combinations of the popular and the obscure so include jazz, pop, noise and anything else that I like. Many of the charity shop CDs are bought on spec so I am never sure if they will make the cut…sometimes only one track will work in the context of the mix, sometimes none. I send the CDs to various friends who I think might enjoy them. Think of this particular compilation as being in the spirit of a mixtape…specifically a C60. It almost works as two 30 minute sides with ‘run out’ as the last track on Side 1. All the cuts here come from recent (as in this year) 7”s…not all singles or 45s…there are some tracks from EPs and some play at 33 1/3 rpm. The same constraint applies…all are from charity shops but on this occasion a good few come from an Oxfam in Slough.

 

Track 1. From about 1967…the summer of love.

Track 2. I didn’t know that The Red Flag shared its tune not just with Oh Tannenbaum but also with the State song of Maryland. How far was Ken Colyer’s tongue in his cheek when he said this was an arrangement of Maryland, My Maryland? Just what were Colyer’s political affiliations and/or sympathies?

Track 3. More tongue in cheek?

Track 4. This is from one of those Melody Maker EPs that came free with the paper. Also on the side with the Fall is a track by Zodiac Mindwarp and the Love Reaction. The other side, which features the Cocteau Twins and Hollywood Beyond has been given a coat of white emulsion by its previous owner. Why would you do that?

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Track 5. The B-side of Shipbuilding.

Track 6. Never heard of ‘Big Toe’…slightly awkward…especially that slurping/breathing sound that runs throughout.

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Track 7. The B-side of Superstition. The single version fades out with about a minute to go and before the redemptive line…’you’ll have it good girl…’ Sad.

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Tracks 8 and 10. Six separate tracks over two sides of a ‘single’.

Track 9. The run-out groove from Clarence ‘Frogman’ Henry’s But I Do.

Track 11. From a flexidisc issued by the RSPB. 1976.

Track 12. See Track 3

Track 13. Thank you Steve Winwood.

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Track 14. This came in a sleeve for The Dave Brubeck Quartet in Europe –No 1. So it is neither Wonderful Copenhagen nor Like Someone in Love.

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Track 15. From an EP The Art of Lotte Lenya, Vol 2. With Orchestra conducted by Roger Bean.

Track 16. Dundee’s answer to Scott Walker.

Track 17. Didgeridoos!

Track 18. From a record on the Stagesound label…so scratched that it has been a long time since it convinced anyone.

Track 19. A short mix based on the record that was inside the sleeve of the RSPB flexidisc. Open University catalogue number P912, The Pre-School Child, Disc 2 Making Music.

 

 

 

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Mouvement Perpetuel

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This is one of two private recordings I bought recently in a St Andrews charity shop. The other was recorded at Levy’s Sound Studios, Bond Street, London W1 sometime in 1956. This one has no date though maybe the code S.V.12/37. is an indication. I suppose the date of 1937 would fit with the design of the label but I don’t know anything about the history of this kind of recording and I can’t find out anything about Sona-Vox Studios. The piece of music, as you see from the label, is Poulenc’s Mouvement Perpetuel (actually the first of three movements) performed by Miss M. McKendrick.This is the recording of Miss McKendrick playing the piano in a room that no longer exists at 186 St Vincents Street, Glasgow.

The two tracks on this side are separated by a silent locked groove.IMG_5679

 

This music was used by Alfred Hitchcock in his 1948 film ‘Rope’. In this section of the film Farley Granger plays fragments of the piece (in a room that never really existed) while he is being quizzed by James Stewart.rope

 

 

 

On Re-watching/Re-listening to L’Atalante

julesOf the various films I watched over the last two weeks a number seemed to be significantly concerned with sound. I watched Woman of the Dunes by Hiroshi Teshigahara with a fully integrated soundtrack of sounds and music by Toru Takemitsu. I saw Jules Dassin’s Night and the City, with its two separate scores – one created for the British release by Benjamin Frankel and one for the USA by Franz Waxman. And there was L’Atalante.

Made by Jean Vigo in 1934 I had never considered this to be a film ‘about’ sound…maybe writing here has made me tune into these things in a more concentrated way. The story deals with the marriage of a young barge captain (Jean, played by Jean Dasté) to an innocent country girl (Juliette, Dita Pardo) and their subsequent travails as they argue, separate and re-unite. The narrative is beautifully simple and moving but it is also about modernity (the pull of the big city) and about a fragile way of life. Juliette is charmed by a pedlar who offers her an illicit trip to Paris and soon after she goes off alone to see the city. On her return the barge has sailed and she has to try to make her own way.

Music and sound thread in and out of the story throughout. The opening scene as the couple walk from the church is marked by both snatches of music and the sounds of the canal. Bells, clangs and whistles are a recurring theme in the soundtrack. Even the pedlar/one-man-band jangles as he runs off after trying to seduce Juliette. But Juliette and Jean are characterized largely by silence. He is dumbfounded and she is awestruck.

The eccentric mate (Père Jules, Michel Simon) who acts as a foil to the starry-eyed lovers has an exotic collection picked up on his travels. In one scene he shows Juliette the objects he keeps in his cabin and the sound of the music boxes merges into the music of an automaton conductor. He shows her his gramophone but ‘it’s broken…needs some work’. In fact he has already been seen examining a record offered by a passing junk man…looking closely at the grooves as if he could summon sound out of them. Then, later, he is seen running his fingers around a record and the sound of the accordion is heard…it is, of course, the cabin boy playing a trick but he says: ’…laugh, but there are things as weird as playing a record with a finger…’. And magically this seems to fix the gramophone as it now works and is used in a parade around the deck of the barge in an attempt to cheer up the despondent captain.

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Père Jules decides that he must go and search for Juliette in Paris if the captain is to be saved. He walks by the ‘Palace Chanson’ where music comes from a gramophone horn in the street (visually echoing the one back in the barge) and realizes this is where he will find Juliette. She is inside listening to songs on a proto-jukebox as if, like Jules, she too had been craving the sound of the record and the gramophone all along. As Juliette steps down into the cabin there is the sound of a single bell and a whistle welcoming her back.

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