FRED FRITH AND HELEN MIRRA // Kwangsi – Quail (LP)
HELEN MIRRA . printing press, acoustic guitar
FRED FRITH . aboriginal rainsticks, bass mbira, charango,
music box, shoes and other objects, voice
A Kwangsi – moss (18:13)
B mulberry – quail (17:11)
Like every Helen Mirra’s creation, the frame of this collaboration of the artist with Fred Frith has a conceptual character, but what we have here couldn’t be more praxis-oriented – in such a way that this LP seems to be an improvised music document. Mirra wrote an index for a W.G. Sebalds novel, and used a section of it as the score of this live recording, going from the name “Kwangsi” to the noun “quail”. And no, the steel-string acoustic guitar heard through both sides of this LP wasn’t played by Frith, but by Mirra herself. This time, the former Henry Cow member switched his guitar (and bass guitar, violin, keyboards, all his usual instruments) for a variety of objects, including his shoes and something so puzzling as a pair of aboriginal rainsticks.
The result is a kind of bricolage music. There’s some similarities with Frith’s own graphic score interpretations assembled in “Stone, Brick, Glass, Wood, Wire”, but this is clearly an opus coming from Mirra’s minimalist mind. And that means there’s less consideration for the conventional factors of “musicality” and a much radical focus on the materials, being these invariably organic, rough and crude. It all sounds like a Lilliputian world magnified by a microscope. A mysterious, intriguing and fascinating world with only two citizens – one emphasizing a different perspective of what we think is “sound art”, and the other revealing a less known side as a noise producer.
Recorded live at Eucalyptus Press, Oakland, California, 26 March 2004. While in residence at the Center for the Book at Mills College, H M hand-set an index which she had written through W G Sebald’s novel, The Rings of Saturn. In the midst of letterpress printing, H M and F F played a concert using as their score the portion of the index then on the press. Recorded and mixed by Ernst Karel.
Published coincidentally with the book Edge Habitat Materials (Chicago: WhiteWalls 2014) and the exhibition Edge Habitat (Lisbon: Culturgest, 7 June – 14 September 2014).