too much typing—since 2003



A week or so back, I posted two tracks from the 1980 compilation Miniatures. Those tracks were downloaded from E-Music, but E-Music was missing several tracks, so I went looking for an actual, physical copy. I also found that Morgan Fisher (whose absurdly varied musical biography made me think there were at least two people of that name...), who compiled Miniatures, had issued a sequel in 2000. The concept of both albums, of course, is extremely short pieces - generally a minute or less.

It's interesting to compare the two editions. While the 1980 Miniatures featured primarily British and European artists, by 2000 Fisher had solicited contributions from all over the world. And while the earlier edition had featured a handful of tracks that were just plain noisy (like that Half Japanese track), and a whole bunch that were humorous, witty, or somewhat bizarre in that odd sort of avant-gardish notion of "humor," very few of the tracks on the 2000 release are humorous or noisy. On the other hand, the 2000 release does feature a broader range of sounds...even if they're mostly pretty polite in comparison with some of the rudeness on display in the first edition (say, recordings of two men smacking their lips and chewing food with gusto in between throaty, Rabelaisian French murmurings). Taking the place of humor in the 2000 edition, more than a few tracks express a sort of spiritual sense (perhaps arising from the project's initiation as a millennium-themed project, a theme that was eventually abandoned although it shows up on several tracks). Before you run screaming to high ground (world music? new-age spirituality?), the degree of musical curiosity and exploration is still pretty high. Cheesy exoticism and wet-noodle sap-heartedness are equally avoided.

A few examples: From the first edition, Fisher's "Green and Pleasant" is entirely a tape-manipulated construction of the popular British hymn "Jerusalem." I can't take this entirely straight...especially not with the pitch droop at the end. Moving toward vaguely avant-gardish, slightly creepy humor, we have two numbers: Ivor Cutler's dour "Brooch Boat" and Mary Longford's odd little "Body Language." And (possibly the shortest piece from either collection), Andy Partridge's immortal "The History of Rock'n'Roll" (I guess now it might be ten seconds longer).

There are some fine examples of humor and cleverness from the second edition, such as Phillip K. Bimstein's popular "Garland Hirschi's Cows" (trivia: Bimstein led '80s Chicago new-wavers Phil 'n' the Blanks...). That sort of sample manipulation is done more cleverly and tunefully in Hermeto Pascoal's "Feira de Asakusa (Asakusa Market)" - which somehow finds synthetic avant-garde jazz in the chatter of an elderly Japanese market denizen. Avant-rock weirdos show up, too: here's Scott McCaughey and the Minus 5 with "Came Saw Stayed," and Chris Butler, with a tiny tiny reduction of his very own world's longest song ("The Devil Glitch"), here titled "Have a Nice Century! (1/52,596,000th of a Century)."

Okay, so I'm suspicious of the word "spirituality" - and far less so of the word "humor" - but without making too much of whatever might have favored one over the other in Morgan Fisher's life, I can say that the two are by no means opposed. In fact, I think this last track brings them quite close together: it's an excerpt from a 12-minute film by Jane Campion featuring similar brief "vignettes," entitled "Passionless Moments."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Could you post "A Swift One" by Martin Chambers if you have access to it? I haven't heard Miniatures in 20 years and would love to experience that one again, but not enough, apparently, to go seek it out myself when I can just make lazy requests of you instead. Thanks for the memories,