Wendy Carlos

Mixtape #44 : Spring

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For my April mixtape, i’ve gone for a seasonal theme, exploring music that references and/or alludes to aspects of spring. While all the seasons are, by their nature, in a continual state of flux, i’ve personally always tended to think of spring and autumn as being ‘transitional’, more obviously progressing between opposite poles of light and warmth. Therefore, i’ve opted for a quite polarised collection of music, some of which can be heard from a cheerful, upbeat, thank-god-it’s-not-winter-anymore angle (Syd Dale, Barbara MorgensternJohn ZornThe Bad PlusDeerhoofVeljo TormisHenry ManciniC Duncan) while others are more reflective and contemplative (Clint Mansell, Wendy CarlosGalina GrigorjevaKim CasconeGreg HeadleyAndrew LilesClara Iannotta, frostbYte, Haruomi Hosono, Shigeru Suzuki & Tatsuro YamashitaHelen GrimeKeith BerryMichael OlivaShane CarruthScott WalkerPaddy Kingsland). Brian Reitzell is something of an odd one out, in full-on sinister mode, while John Oswald‘s madcap overclocked version of the Rite of Spring is one of my favourite sections from his gleefully demented Plunderphonics album.

Starting the mix, and at half-hourly intervals, i’ve indulged my love of birdsong by including some (from the British Library‘s collection) that are particularly appropriate to the season of spring in the UK, beginning with a wheatear followed by a nightingale, a swallow and finally a cuckoo, which brings the 90 minutes of seasonal sonification to an end. The mixtape can be downloaded or streamed below; here’s the tracklisting in full, including links to obtain the music. The cover artwork is a photograph i took in the early spring of 2012, at Painswick Rococo Gardens; those of you who know your flowers will recognise, carpeting the ground, a multitude of snowdrops, a long-established symbol celebrating the season of spring. Read more

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Mixtape #31 : Autumn

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For the latest 5:4 mixtape, i’ve opted to explore music associated in some way with this time of year. Autumn is arguably the most poignant of the seasons, the ostentatious eruption of its gorgeous colours militated against by the pointed melancholy of its inevitable transition into the wastelands of winter. My infinitely greater namesake, the poet E. E. Cummings, often indignantly pitted the season against his beloved, despite its beauty:

cruelly,love
walk the autumn long;
the last flower in whose hair,
thy lips are cold with songs

for which is first to wither, to pass?
shallowness of sunlight
falls and,cruelly,
across the grass
Comes the
moon

Composers are no less affected by autumn, and the choices in this mixtape testify to the conflict it brings about. Something of its sheer loveliness can be heard in the still profundity of Celer, Brian Eno, Gunner Møller Pedersen (whose massive 6-hour A Sound Year is well worth exploring) and Darren Harper, as well as in the transfixed ecstatic overload of Belong. Autumn’s raw physicality finds expression through the exploration of field recordings in tracks by Manrico Montero, Scott Taylor, Steve Roden & Machinefabriek and Ennio Mazzon. The flipside of this can be heard in heartfelt ballads; i’ve included four hugely contrasting incarnations of the finest of them all, Joseph Kosma’s Autumn Leaves, by Mantovani, Emmy Rossum, Coldcut and The Flashbulb. Its melancholic lyricism is taken to the apogee of expressive force by Richard Strauss, saturated with an escapist surge by Andre Kostelanetz, and given a playful tilt by both Kalevi Aho (whose theremin sounds strikingly like a human voice) and Max Richter‘s subtle reworking of Vivaldi, rhythms made irregular and harmonies enriched with more romantic flavours. The seriousness of the season receives fittingly wistful treatment from Tor Lundvall and Wendy Carlos, while Takemitsu‘s engagement is almost shockingly aggressive. The inclusion of tracks by EL Heath and Kenneth Kirschner are (im)pertinent red herrings, both simply composed during this time of year but, wittingly or otherwise, fitting well into its general tone.

A little over two hours of autumnal bliss and brooding; here’s the tracklisting in full: Read more

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