Archived entries for FridayFrequency

That’s Franz Nicolay, formerly of The World/Inferno Friendship Society and The Hold Steady singing a song off his “”Saint Sebastian of the Short Stage” EP. The song is the story of Hollis Mason, a character from the seminal graphic novel Watchmen.

Franz does a brilliant job of capturing the naive, but impassioned an ultimately tragic life of the character. Some of the lyrics are just perfect.

“I believe that I can solve the world’s hurt from underneath this hood.”

“But if the choice is cynicism, rage or giving in…
Well which world would you rather live in?”

“The game has changed, I’m obsolete, it’s a strange world for heroes.”

Franz also has a new album out any day now – “Luck and Courage“. You can get more info at his site, or if you’re an eMusic subscriber like me, get an advance copy of the album today.

Not simple a frequency this time. I couldn’t find just the audio of this interview, so you get to look upon the face of a brilliant, but shattered man.

Sixty five years ago today, the Enola Gay, a United States Airforce bomber out of Tinian in the West Pacific dropped a nuclear gravity bomb, called Little Boy, on the Japanese port city of Hiroshima. The Japanese had seen the Enola Gay and her two escort planes coming. They had even raised the air raid alarm. But after seeing that there were only three bombers, the raid was called off and no fighters were scrambled. The Japanese felt that it would be a waste of gasoline to engage the bombers, and three of them could do no serious damage to the city.

At approximately 8:15 local time a second sun exploded over the Hiroshima.

The world was never the same again.

Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds

This has been your Friday Frequency.

Boris, aka boris, and BORIS, is an experimental rock band from Japan. They specialize in making sounds that musical reviewers try to categorize as “stoner metal” or “stoner doom metal”.

I don’t know what any of that means.

However, I do know that Boris is batshit crazy.

You see, there’s not just one Boris. There are three Borises.

BORIS – all uppercase, is the more listenable mainstream stuff. The track I’m going to have you listen to below, “Pink”, is an example of this kind of music. Loud, rough, but there’s melody and pop there at the core.

Boris – uppercase B, the rest lowercase, is more experimental. Long, slow waves of feedback appear. Traditional song structures may fade away into explorations and thematic fugues. You’ll probably find yourself wondering if they’ve fallen over dead against an amp on at least one track.

boris – all lower case, makes “Boris” seem downright coherent and bubble-gum. This variety of Boris often appears in collaboration with other noise artists like Merzbow. This stuf is unintelligible to most, and it can even be physically painful to listen to. Be wary of people who listen to this kind of boris.

But, BORIS is excellent. And this is one of my favorite tracks of their’s. The hard-rocking “Pink”.

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This has been your Friday Frequency.

In 1916 WC Handy’s Beale Street Blues was the first piece of blues music to be printed and distributed widely in the United States. It exposed the rest of the country, and the rest of the world, to the blues music that was coming up out of the Mississippi Delta, and to the song’s titular street.

If you’re familiar with the musical structure of the blues, you might have trouble hearing what ties Handy’s work to that of Son House or Robert Johnson, but listen to the phrasing. The traditional three bar blues is still there, just “whitified” for popular consumption. Because of Handy and his ability to turn poor, Southern folk music into something for everyone, blues would skyrocket in popularity, meld with jazz and ultimately give birth to rock and roll. Everyone from Cab Calloway to Buddy Holly to the Beatles to Public Enemy can look to Handy and say what they did started with him.

And all because of one short, dirty street in Memphis, Tennessee.

You’ll see pretty browns in beautiful gowns,
You’ll see tailor-mades and hand-me-downs,
You’ll meet honest men, and pick-pockets skilled,
You’ll find that business never ceases ’til somebody gets killed!

If Beale Street could talk, if Beale Street could talk,
Married men would have to take their beds and walk,
Except one or two who never drink booze,
And the blind man on the corner singing “Beale Street Blues!”

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This has been your Friday Frequency.

There is a sixth dimension beyond that which is known to man. It is a dimension as vast as space and as timeless as infinity. It is the middle ground between light and shadow. And it lies between the pit of man’s fears and the sunlight of his knowledge. This is the dimension of imagination.

Countdown for blastoff… X minus five, four, three, two, X minus one… Fire! From the far horizons of the unknown come transcribed tales of new dimensions in time and space. These are stories of the future; adventures in which you’ll live in a million could-be years on a thousand may-be worlds.

That is the introduction to X Minus One, a radio show that NBC broadcast in the mid to late 1950s. X Minus One would take works of short science fiction and turn them into radio dramas. That period of time was the gold age for short scifi. Magazines and quarterlies were king, the pulp printers were raging, and the Internet wasn’t a glimmer in anyone’s eye.

This meant that X Minus One had some of the best writers in history to cherry pick stories from. Isaac Asimov, Philip K Dick, Ray Bradbury, Harlan Ellison, and Robert A. Heinlein all had stories adapted by the show, along with dozens of other writers churned out over a hundred episodes for the show. X Minus One laid the ground work for shows like The Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits.

Today’s Friday Frequency is going to be one of my favorite episodes of X Minus One. Robert A. Heinlein’s “Universe”.

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(Note: The piece is a half hour long, so it might not buffer properly. If that’s the case, you can just download the file here.)

Thanks to an irregular, but not to infrequent rebroadcasting of the series, every episode of X Minus One has been preserved, and all of them are available online. There are podcasts that air them, and archives where you can download MP3 recordings. This particular one came from archive.org.

This has been your Friday Frequency.

Planets make sounds. Did you know this? And I’m not just talking about sounds like volcano eruptions and the crashing of waves, I’m talking about sounds that register on a cosmic scale. The sounds of something called their “Aurora Mechanisms”.

The aurora mechanism are probably known to most as those lovely lights at northern and southern latitudes of our planet. The crazy dance of color and light, high in the sky. But those auroras aren’t unique to earth. They exist in some form on every planet in our solar system and are the result of particles ejected from the sun, called solar winds, colliding with the magnetic field of a planet. The particles excite elements in the atmosphere, creating ions. Those ions react and produce photons, along with high frequency plasma emissions – super radio waves, essentially.

The Cassini space craft passed within several hundred million miles of Saturn back in 2002, and was able to make a recording of those super radio waves using something called the Cassini Radio and Plasma Wave Science (RPWS) device. Basically, it the RPWS is a radio receiver that records plasma emissions instead of slower radio waves. NASA was surprised to find that Saturn was exceptionally noisy, emitting sounds that would seem to imply that Saturn’s aurora mechanisms were numerous and mobile.

Would you like to hear what Saturn sounds like when they downshift the plasma frequency into radio waves and then compress 27 minutes of variance down to roughly 70 seconds?

(Don’t worry about any of that, think of it as you would the color retouching they do on those x-ray photographs of far-off nebulae.)

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That right, folks. Saturn sounds like the score to the 1956 scifi classic, The Forbidden Planet.

There is no part of me that doesn’t take comfort from that.

This has been your Friday Frequency.

(…wait, you all knew those NASA photos of things in space don’t really look like that, right?)

Goblin started off life as the Italian prog-rock band Oliver, only to have their named changed to “Cherry Five” in an arbitrary act by their record label. They were sort of your localized Italian version of King Crimson and all those other bands that required their listeners to be incredibly high to “get it”.

They were saved from going down in history as a band no one would remember by a spat between horror film impressario Dario Argento and Giorgio Gaslini, a composer that was working with him on the film Profondo Russo. Gaslini had called the band in to record some some music for the soundtrack, and after his firing, Argento dumped the entire score on their hands. He gave them just two days to turn the project around. One to write, one to record.

Changing their name to Goblin for the score, the group would score their biggest hit yet. The score to Profondo Russo would stay on the charts for more than a year and sell over a million copies. The group had cemented a place for themselves in cinematic music, and as a partner to Dario Argento.

But this isn’t about Profondo Russo‘s score. This is about Suspiria’s.

Suspiria was released in 1977 as was the opener for what Argento refers to as his “Three Mothers” trilogy. The movie is filled with stark contrasts between dark and color, decay and ornate finery. The brutal deaths in the movie are the stuff of horror movie legend. But, you know what stuck out more than the cinematography or the gore or the acting? The music. The insane blend of orchestration Goblin produced for Suspira was far scarier, far more stirring than anything Argento could come up with. Goblin’s score made the movie.

Here are my three favorite pieces from the soundtrack to give you an idea of what Goblin was doing

Suspiria

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Witch

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Sighs

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The combination of Argento’s auteur filmmaking and Goblin’s soundtrack has made Suspiria into what is general acknowledged to be one of the best horror movies ever made. Hopefully after hearing a bit of Goblin, you’ll understand why.

This has been your Friday Frequency.

This is a story of generations, of war, of momentum, of language, of music. It all starts in Central Asia. That nexus of the world where bits of Turkey, India, Russia and China smash into each other, making something that is the child of all of them, but unique unto itself.

The Roman Empire had pushed out into the world. Following in Alexander’s footsteps, they had marched over the ends of the Earth, bringing roads and the concept of the large world to isolated peoples. The steppes of Central Asian were the farthest reaches of the Empire, and the home to the people that would one drive it to its end.

When the Roman Empire contracted, opportunistic warlords rose up its wake. Goths, Vandals, Huns spilled into the cracks. The spoils of former oppressors were theirs to take. They pushed into the heart of Europe, and ultimately settled there. Roman and Germanic cultures were supplanted by invader’s, creating a pocket of the East, smack in the middle of the West.

The Eastern influence was reinforced when the last spasm of the Mongol invasion petered out in Bulgaria. The Mongols had fought for so long, and come so far from home, that they didn’t know how to get back. Luckily, they found a group of people that weren’t so different from them and settled down. Two cultures, far removed from their homes, merged into one, making something new.

Now that we’ve gotten the history lesson out of the way, what does all of that mean and what does it have to do with music?

Well, it means that you’ve got a language and a music theory in the middle of Europe that doesn’t match anything around it. The folk music of Hungary and Bulgaria has more in common with Chinese opera than it does with anything in Europe.

The specific example I’m going to give you is the Bulgarian Women’s Choir.

This is Pilentze Pee (Pilentze chante) off the Le Mystère Des Voix Bulgares – Volume 1 record.

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Just on a surface level, you can feel the mystery that permeates this music. But if you apply a knowledge of history, and understand just who these people are, and why their music sounds like this, then you can start to peel the music apart, layer by layer. You can hear all the history that came together to make this amazing sound happen.

Here is Mar Stanke le (Chant de moisson thrace), a slower ballad off the same record.

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Lastly, just to show you that these impossible people are still rolling new bits of culture into themselves, here is the Bulgarian Women’s Choir performing “Oh! Susanna” on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson.

This is your Friday Frequency.

I’ve been banging around ideas for a more regular feature on the Brain Release Valve, since things like ThisBrokenWorld and I Dare You To Watch This are sporadic as all hell.

Note: That is not a cue to the world at large to start dumping tons of bizarre shit onto the Internet, there’s enough of that as it is.

Starting this Friday, and hopefully every Friday after, I’ll be posting something I’m calling “Friday Frequency”. I’ll take a piece of audio, most likely music – but there are a few radio dramas/speeches/etc I’ve got designs on, post it here and give you a few hundred words about why I find it interesting. This won’t be a review or me saying “You should like this because XYZ”, but rather me pointing out the context or the elements of the piece of audio that I find interesting. The idea is not to make you want to go out and buy a record, but simply to make you curious about what I’ve posted and find out more for yourself.

Hopefully it will be short enough to keep things punchy and fun without me spiraling down into some half-mad fugue where I rant for a few thousand words about Ulver’s musical evolution.

Friday Frequency. Starting this Friday. Hope you like it.

EDIT: Changed from Frequency Friday to Friday Frequency. Allowed for a better ending bit.



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