Tone Glow 006: Eric Andersen
An interview with Fluxus artist Eric Andersen + album downloads and our writers panel on Katie Gately's 'Loom'
Eric Andersen is a Fluxus-affiliated artist whose intermedia works have been performed around the world. His limited cassette tape The Crying Space is getting reissued by Recital this month. I caught up with Andersen via email and we talked about crying, food, and Fluxus.
Joshua Minsoo Kim: In your own words, what is a “Crying Place”? And what’s the significance of crying to you—what draws you to it?
Eric Andersen: Please find the attached document. The most important aspect to me: Crying is the only human language that isn’t coded.
The following document is what Andersen sent. If viewing on mobile, please click on the image to get a larger view.
When was the last time you visited a Crying Space? What was it like?
It was in Seoul in 2016. Will transfer a video to you.
The following video is what Andersen sent.
Do you mind sharing the last time you personally cried, and the reason it happened?
Yesterday, when I had a divine Bouillabaisse.
Did you make the Bouillabaisse? If so, do you have a particular recipe that you follow?
Yes, I made the Bouillabaisse. Have a divine recipe, I never share. Got it from a Scottish Michelin Cook.
Crying is something that people are often reticent to do in public spaces, and sometimes in private as well. I imagine you allow yourself to cry freely when you feel the onset of tears. How has giving yourself permission to cry enriched your life?
In many cultures you are completely free to cry: Korean, in Southern China, Napoli, Vietnamese, Brazilian, Jewish, Inuit, Karelia, Ingria, etc. It just makes life easier and more gracious.
Back in the ‘60s, you collaborated frequently with Arthur Køpcke. What was it like working with him? Are there any particular memories that you cherish of the time you had with him?
It was great working with him until he disappeared into alcoholic fogs in the late ‘60s. Among others, we had a marvelous trip to Moscow in ‘64 where we performed works from the Fluxus network on the Red Square. We were observed by the anonymous police/army and cherished by the passers-by, but not arrested.
I know that George Maciunas was upset with you and Køpcke (among others) for having performed Fluxus concerts in the ‘60s he found disagreeable, so much so that he called you two “renegades.” What sort of shows do you think led to Maciunas being upset? Why do you think Maciunas was against them?
George suffered from the strange illusion that he had founded Fluxus as an art movement and that he was a leader of such a movement. It was never the case. Please read this article. George was neo-dada, the rest of us were InterMedia. George wrote to Nikita Khrushchev and told him to arrest us as renegades. He did the same in CSSR in the late ‘60s when Serge III was performing in Praha. Here, Serge III was actually arrested by the police. We did nothing special or horrible at the Red Square and the audience loved it. One piece was Paik’s pissing contest. The following year, I went to New York and George organized several things for me, designed a poster, and published a number of editions by me. He also gave me an apartment in West Broadway, in the same building he lived in. George never understood Fluxus.
You’ve organized two festivals—Festival of Fantastics (in 1985) and Excellent ‘92—that didn’t mention Fluxus by name. What was the reasoning behind doing so? Do you find aspects of Fluxus (their practices or otherwise) to be restrictive or at odds with your own approach to art?
It doesn’t make sense anymore to use the term Fluxus, since it was never a movement, but an international network. Most people have even died now. The network was never restrictive or at odds with any of us. We all tried to be as different as possible.
For Protected And Preserved MKE 2002 (Sennheiser Triaxial-Stereo-Mike), you instruct people to listen to the music while cooking food. You also once performed a piece that involved people eating cheese but only after cutting it precisely in half. What’s your relationship with food? Why does it show up in your work?
Sex is more important than food. Food is more important than art. Art is more important than the other stuff.
Can you describe what’s happening on the piece Le Chemin Des Larmes? Whose voices are we hearing, and where was this recording taken place?
In the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, a real radiophonic legend worked for The National French Radio: Jacques Albert. He produced a weekly 1-hour program for the section France Culture. “Le Chemin Des Larmes” was one of the programs produced by him in collaboration with me. At the end of the program you will find credits to all the materials presented. The main voices were him, me, and a French actress, whose name I don’t remember.
Was there a specific goal you had with this piece?
No, it was just great fun to work with Jacques Albert. He was a great professional.
You’ve made comments regarding the way in which artists construct their identity (“You don’t try to make a style, or to achieve some identity—I mean your artwork doesn’t try to achieve identity. You try to be out there in the waste open land and fool around”). Do you feel like you have any particular identity as an artist? Are there any particular ideas that you’re most drawn to when creating art?
I don’t find that the works I produce in any way belong or connect to me. I consider them merely to be natural phenomena. Consequently, a book has been published about my works, where I’m not mentioned. The title of the book is The Glorious Ways of Unproductivity, the author is the Swedish art historian Per Brunskog. If you have any idea about how it could be published in US, I’ll be most grateful.
When we initially started exchanging emails, you had informed me that you weren’t aware that Jan van Toorn had made the Slowscan release of your work. Given that you don’t feel like your work “belongs” to you, are you OK with this release having been created without your knowledge?
I knew Jan would publish the edition and I sent him the recipes. He just never sent me a copy. To be published without consent happens all the time. If I get to know about it and I don’t like the person, I’ll sue her/him. Although it has never happened.
Is there a piece of advice you’d like to give to artists?
Don’t forget to cooperate with others. We’s are more wise and clever than I’s.
Do you have anything lined up next in terms of art you’re creating, or just with life in general?
I’m preparing a Crying Space for Casa Morra in Napoli to open later this year. For my life in general, I would like to work more often in Korea and Japan.
Purchase Eric Andersen’s The Crying Space at the Recital website.
Every issue, Tone Glow provides download links to older, obscure albums that we believe deserve highlighting. Each download will be accompanied by a brief description of the album. Artists and labels can contact Tone Glow if you would like to see download links removed.
Eric Andersen - The Crying Place (Galerie J & J Donguy, 1991)
Limited to an edition of 50 cassettes, Eric Andersen’s The Crying Place was originally released in 1991. Recital is reissuing it alongside another Andersen piece, “Le Chemin Des Larmes,” for their upcoming archival release, the double-disc The Crying Space. To clarify: the audio provided for download here is the second disc on The Crying Space.
I’ve spent several weeks listening to this piece and I find it comforting because the professional mourner here sounds like my grandmother when she prays every morning. Having grown up in a Christian household, I’ve spent my fair share of time praying but it often comes out less like talking than singing. Even when I have a talk-like cadence, my prayers function as songs whose melodies I can hum later in the day. (I still remember some of the melodies I sang more than a decade ago, interestingly.) What The Crying Place made me realize is the inherent musicality that was present in my grandmother’s prayers all along, and how their crying-like tone imbues it with an added dimension of poignancy, release, emotion.
While Mattin & Taku Unami’s “Crying Duo” also features extensive audio of tears being shed, it contains far more “ugly crying,” making it feel like you’re awkwardly witnessing someone reckon with harrowing news whilst they’re trying not to make a scene. Here, the crying is more intimate and intentional (having a specific place to cry will do that) and the start-and-stop rhythms—both in the short term due to needing catch one’s breath, or when the mourner takes a break and converses with someone—make it hypnotizing. I like how normal the moments of repose are too, and how quick she’s able to engage in conversation after periods of crying. That you can hear roosters crowing, airplanes flying by, and other voices in the distance give this sense of crying as normal, nourishing act. I feel contented w when it’s all over, which I can’t say for most experiences I’ve had of hearing other people cry. —Joshua Minsoo Kim
Download link: MP3
Jackson Mac Low - Open Secrets (Experimental Intermedia Foundation, 1993)
There’s much to love about this collection of works from poet Jackson Mac Low (it should be noted that Anne Tardos plays a prominent role here too). Most exciting is the simple, resounding pleasure in hearing the vocal works—they allow listeners to become more attuned with the breadth of artistic capability in contrasting phonology, tone, volume, language.
Likely to be overlooked is the effective sequencing here: opener “1st Milarepa Gatha” primarily focuses on individual phonemes, and is beneficial to hear before “Milarepa Quartet For Four Like Instruments,” a piece that features four flutists in this recording. The winding and intertwining melodies share the same whimsicality of the vocal pieces, providing new perspectives with which to appreciate both types of works. When both come together on “Wind/Instruments,” one is more readily appreciative of the different inflections in tone and rhythmic deliveries that work alongside the instrumentation.
The nonsensical lines spoken in “Thanks” are most effective in providing humor (“grassroots phallic empiricism,” we hear at one point), both for the text itself and the mastery of language present (it’s not often I feel so much joy in hearing plosives and fricatives). Even more funny: the superimposing of four duo performances in “Phoneme Dance In Memoriam John Cage,” which finds performers delivering the phonemes present in John Cage’s name in random fashion. —Joshua Minsoo Kim
Takako Saito - Spontaneous Music (Edition Telemark, 2018)
In reading Takako Saito’s Dreams to Do, I found myself moved by her devotion to the game-like nature of her performances. The inclusion of simple and familiar objects, or clothing that Saito had sewed herself, feels inviting even just thinking about it. It becomes evident upon hearing Spontaneous Music that this constant question of observation versus participation looms over the listener. Of course, without any visual component, the strictly aural nature of these tracks scans differently than if you were watching something play out in a gallery space. Still, the difference between observation and participation mirrors, to an extent, the gulf between passive and active engagement, between hearing and listening.
In listening to “Kugeln,” a piece comprised of rolling marbles and clinking glass (its ramshackle found sound-cum-play akin to Rie Nakajima’s homespun automaton works), there’s a specific line of thought I have that forces a greater focus on the music: I hear how the performer is handling the different bits and bobs, which in turn makes me consider the tonal and textural components of these quotidian objects. The straight-ahead field recording piece “Am Rhein mit Hammer” has a similar effect; while the presence of a human isn’t always obvious, Saito’s penchant for participation makes me consider certain actions being taken place—is the performer the one who is causing the sound of moving water? of these machines to make repetitive noises? Even more, it sheds light on how every bit of noise is itself participating in the overall network of sound presented.
More than anything, what I’m left with is an appreciation for the inherent playfulness of sound. Of how charming simple vocalizing can be, as is evidenced on the latter four pieces in this collection. There’s a plainness to it all, especially given how quiet and static these pieces feel, but it nevertheless has a peculiarity to it, like something’s just unique enough to keep you listening. Saito fosters in the listener a patience, which slowly develops into a desire to be a part of the proceedings. A lot of experimental music can feel easy to make, but few glimmer with a childlike wonder. And several albums can feel childlike, but rarely do they question the listeners’ unwillingness to be and play and act like a “child,” without inhibition or fear or skepticism. There’s little pretense here, as with Saito’s other work; Spontaneous Music feels warmhearted, welcoming. —Joshua Minsoo Kim
Every issue, Tone Glow has a panel of writers share brief thoughts on an album and assign it a score between 0 and 10. This section of the website is inspired by The Singles Jukebox.
Katie Gately - Loom (Houndstooth, 2020)
Press Release info: Following remix work for Björk and Zola Jesus, productions for serpentwithfeet, and her debut album on Tri-Angle, American experimental musician and producer Katie Gately moves to Houndstooth for her sophomore album Loom, dedicated to her mother, who passed away in 2018. “My mother’s voice is in this record, her picture’s in the sleeve notes. This record is for her” says Katie.
Katie’s mother was diagnosed with an extremely rare form of cancer shortly after seeing Katie perform for the first time, and Loom was made during her mother’s illness. To solidify the enormity of a loss like this, Gately has added the seismic rumble and aural grit of real earthquake recordings in her productions – alongside her signature adventurous sound design and earwormy melodies – to signify how grief like this is like the shifting of the earth. “I felt like my world was being shaken,” says Katie. “I was losing the person who created me, and it seemed an appropriate time to sample earthquakes.”
Jesse Locke: At its core, Katie Gately’s Loom is a pop album. While it may be infused with ominous drones, sparse instrumental orchestration, and percussive shudders from indeterminate sound sources, the vocal melodies that provide its foundation would not sound out of place on releases from her former collaborators Björk and Zola Jesus. The use of sampled earthquake recordings is a hook that has been provided to press, but these seismic sounds are no more recognizable than others that are listed: “peacocks screaming, pill bottles shaking, a coffin closing, wolves howling, a shovel digging, a paper shredder, stone grinding, and heavily processed audio from her parent’s wedding.” We do not need to know the source materials, but merely listen to how Gately weaves them together into this intricate tapestry. The only context truly required is that this album is intended to be a tribute to her mother, who passed away from a rare form of cancer in 2018. Loom’s three wordless pieces—“Ritual,” “Rite,” and “Rest”—set the table for the moods she will convey, hovering in a liminal space between anguished and angelic. When she begins singing on the album’s standout song “Waltz,” twirling in a mournful 3/4 against a chorus of ghosts and glitching electronics, her plainspoken pain comes into sharp focus: “When you see me, I am already gone...”
Jeff Brown: Loom is an album of dirgey ballads and passacaglias that grind at a deliberate pace, replete with percussive stabs that add an air of darkness. Tracks are filled with countless sounds—organ, synthesizer, field recordings, processed vocals—but everything is balanced. Katie’s vocals constantly flow with every line, vacillating between a dry, direct voice to one processed with unique effects. The final track, “Rest,” sees her multi-tracked voice become a choir, its tone resembling a requiem or the Stabat Mater. On “Waltz,” Gately approaches the bleak subject matter of cancer treatment head-on, and it’s felt in the rich orchestration—comprised of sonorous vocals that blend with pizzicato strings—and the vulnerability of lines like, “When you see me, I am already gone.” This is an extremely personal album, but it also touches upon a universal experience: the loss of an important person in your life. Channeling all this into her work is a pure act; Loom is a snapshot of a person creating dissonant elegies while grieving.
Matthew Blackwell: Like the death of a loved one, Loom is urgent, upsetting, unpredictable. Unlike its subject matter, it is also intricately planned out, pristinely produced, incredibly pleasant. The press material makes much of Gately’s sound sources, which include earthquakes, a coffin closing, pill bottles shaking, and audio from her parents’ wedding. These sounds aren’t identifiable after one or two or even a dozen listens, however.
Far from the audio-collage gimmickry of Matmos or Matthew Herbert, Gately’s approach ensures that these disparate audial puzzle pieces fit together into the larger atmosphere of the album, more metaphorically resonant than literally so. The album’s centerpiece is “Bracer,” a ten-plus minute epic drenched in digital sheen. But its best moments are those quieter ones that allow Gately’s compositions to breathe, as in the spacious reverb of “Tower” or the delicately layered vocals of “Rest.” Both maximalist and minimalist modes are necessary though, as this is truly an album-length work meant to be listened to from start to finish. It communicates both the panic and the weariness that comes from grief, guiding the listener along a journey that is both singular and universal.
Evan Welsh: Grief sits at the center of a great many albums. Over the past five years or so, we’ve seen an influx of high-profile releases that confront ideas of mortality and loss: Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds’s Skeleton Tree, David Bowie’s Blackstar, Mount Eerie’s A Crow Looked at Me, Leonard Cohen’s You Want it Darker. An infinite spectrum of emotion and reaction comes after everything is torn down or shattered, and Katie Gately has managed to create a record that showcases so much more than just sorrow. Loom is an elegy that captures Gately’s entire world shifting without any means of it returning to its initial shape. Like the abandoned warehouse on the album’s cover, the music of Loom is a space that’s empty due to an immense loss, one that’s filled with anger and hurt and confusion.
“Allay” sets the tone with heavy drums, synthesizers, and layers upon layers of vocals and field-recording samples. Everything escalates on the following track, “Waltz,” as its sharp and aggressive edges create a sweeping, bouncy atmosphere that feels as though everything’s corroding around you. Then the anxious yet accessible bubbling of “Bracer” infiltrates, expands, and eventually overpowers the listener during its ten-minute runtime—it’s an early pace-setter for one of the best songs of the year. While it doesn’t feel like she finds closure or resolution on “Rest,” Gately allows herself some space to move back into her thoughts: a moment away from exhausting despondency. Despite the danceable rhythms and catchy melodies, Loom is an overwhelming experience—the density of Gately’s production allows for a visceral experience of the intense subject matter; she portrays pain honestly, and it can be difficult to listen to someone displaying their grief in all its enormity and weight.
Sam Goldner: I appreciate that Gately manages to channel industrial music while operating with a much more whimsical palette. The whole thing has this feeling of cabaret and drama, with Gately waltzing through these dirges as if she were leading some grand theater of the damned. “Bracer” is incredibly heavy, and songs like “Flow” sound like something Dracula would listen to in his free time. It is a little samey, though—there’s only so much pounding and lurching I can take—and a lot of it still falls into this apocalyptic, experimental electronic camp that I’m frankly completely sick of.
Loom was made in response to the passing of Gately’s mother, so it makes sense that it would sound so dark and tortured compared to her last album Color, which was incredibly playful. But I still think that record felt aesthetically freer than this; not only was Color manipulating its myriad sound sources into thrilling dance music, but it was zanier dance music than what most DJs are making these days. Loom, meanwhile, very much feels like monolithic music meant to be absorbed in solemn contemplation, even if it ends up sounding closer to what my fiancé described as the Floop music from Spy Kids. That said, I do appreciate Gately’s tactile approach to sound design. You can practically feel her music bending and creaking like some great, ancient machine, with every clanging metal sound balanced out by a fluttering woodwind or the soft ringing of chimes. It’s like the cover art in that way, capturing these adamantine textures to convey a hollowed sense of desolation.
Gil Sansón: Loom features an intriguing mix of ancient sensibilities within a modern pop template. It’s very much focused on Gately’s voice, which can imbue a song with a Northern European folk feeling at one moment and a dark, gothic flavor the next (its sonics bring to mind a kinship with This Mortal Coil and other acts on and related to 4AD). There’s a very nice balance between the sweet timbre of Gately’s voice and a lingering sense of impending menace—a song like “Bracer,” for example, features a sense of drama that reminds of the murder ballad. The record shows an affinity towards bleak spaces, as can be seen from the cover itself, showing an abandoned warehouse with no text. The music reflects this while being rather ambitious with its arranging—the aforementioned “Bracer” is a long epic with a baroque arrangement, standing out from the sparseness of the other tracks—and the album’s dynamic flow never becomes as claustrophobic as it could be given the subject matter and approach.
The gothic pop leanings here bring it close to the realm of the musical; at times, the orchestration may feel contrived, trying too hard to sound current, and the listener may be left wanting more of those short interludes in which things are kept to a minimum without diminishing the drama. The dynamic between the more hectic pieces and the calmer, purely vocal interludes makes for variety and contrast, with hues of emotion and intensity carefully explored and sequenced. A rather gloomy subject matter and atmosphere delivered with pop hooks and timbres, but always focused on the voice: Loom could be longer, but it leaves the listener wanting more.
Joshua Minsoo Kim: I was enamored with Gately’s self-titled debut upon release, but everything since has left me surprisingly cold. Loom is no exception, unfortunately, but it’s never been more clear as to why I’m unmoved by her music now. For one, she’s shifted away from incorporating electroacoustic tropes in her dense sound collages, and the inclusion of unimaginative deconstructed club-adjacent sounds (and sound design) makes this dead on arrival. (I’d readily admit, though, that they pair nicely with some of the carnivalesque instrumentation, albeit more in theory than in practice.) More devastating is how Gately is writing relatively straightforward songs now—even though her debut sometimes had lyrics that were clear and discernible, the textural utility of every element took primacy. As such, things felt more immersive, immediate. There was a sense of surprise with which she arranged and blended noises. Here, every stomp and howl feels like it comes pre-packaged with its importance and function. Worst of all is how there’s a forced grandiosity to these tracks that’s never justified: they’re never dark enough, theatrical enough, pensive enough.
Leah B. Levinson: Gately’s background in sound design is readily apparent in the impressive soundscapes and machinations she conjures within her arrangements. The downside is that this potentially cathartic material comes off as overly precise and all-to-considered. Although this is an album surrounding a loss, it feels to me like less a listener’s glimpse at a therapeutic outcry or witness of a necessary experiment, than a monolithic enterprise that hardly gives room for a listener to lean into and relate.
That said, this compositional attention does give rise to a few inventive and brilliant moments tucked within. The outwardly sprawling arrangement of “Bracer” is refreshing, breathing life into the track as it shifts without compromising dynamics or pulse. A buoyant clarinet counterpoint and synth pads bubble up, threatening to burst forth as the composition turns over itself across the latter half of the track’s ten minutes. The stuttering and halting verse of “Tower” makes brilliant use of some disjointed and inventive melodic phrasing, jolting forward through the section. “Flow,” a highlight for me, is suddenly bright, providing equal tension and repose as its melody shifts through different modalities in a really natural and effective manner.
The album’s inventive compositional structure, dark tonality, heavy thematic content, and evocative production ought to set it up to parallel an Arca, Lingua Ignota, or Eartheater affair. Unfortunately, it lacks many of the aurally challenging textures and dissonant harmonies that illuminate their works. The album feels as though it’s coded for darkness without delivering on the threat; ultimately, the result is a feeling of tedium.
Sunik Kim: Katie Gately’s Loom is an unfortunate amalgamation of multiple outdated 2010s music trends: deconstructed club production with hyper-IMAX cinematic sound design, witch house vocal sampling and chopping à la Purity Ring (or, of course, Gately’s prior label, Tri Angle), and Björk-indebted art pop focused on texture, atmosphere, and adventurous, searching vocals. I’m not sure we need more of any of these things in 2020, but I still welcome a well-executed genre exercise. That, this is not: the production sounds like a parody of the already-parodic deconstructed club sound, lacking that genre’s once (possibly) redeeming quality—sonic “impact.” For an album that screams tension and drama—with plenty of build-ups and drops only slightly removed from the EDM songbook (“Tower”)—its percussive moments (“Bracer”) feel forced rather than cathartic, muffled in a mushy sea of Dead Can Dance-lite reverb and bizarre, “creepy” circus melodies (“Waltz”), while the music’s relentless push-and-pull structure exhausts rather than excites. At its worst, Loom feels like a series of strict commands to feel a specific emotion at a specific time; inevitably, I end up feeling nothing at all.
Our writers do more than just write for this newsletter (wild, I know). Every now and then, we’ll take some time to highlight some things we’re up to that we’d love for you to check out.
Still from Aurélia Steiner (Vancouver) (Marguerite Duras, 1979)
Tomás Cabado released an album with Catriel Nievas at the tail end of 2019 titled historia de la luz: cuaderno de guitarra on Edition Wandelweiser Records. He also has an upcoming duo album with Christoph Schiller called unconscious collections that’s out on Another Timbre at the end of the month.
Leah B. Levinson has just released a new album under the name Cali Bellow titled The Killers. She calls it, “An album drawing elements of camp and horror together via vampire mythology, industrial soundscapes, and a bedroom pop process.”
Jordan Reyes has a new release out on Whited Sepulchre at the end of the month called Fairchild OST + Borderland EP. That album is out on February 28th. His American Dreams record label is releasing an album from Mute Duo called Lapse in Passage, also out on the 28th.
Matthew Blackwell has launched a newsletter accurately titled Tusk is Better than Rumours. He promises to publish “primers and album rankings of experimental and ‘outsider’ musicians.” Its most recent issue came out today and is a primer on Eliane Radigue’s work. The issue before that was a primer on Sean McCann’s record label, Recital—how serendipitous!
Sam Goldner has launched a newsletter called Letters from Sammo. Its most recent issue features his thoughts on some albums, as well as an op-ed entitled “The Problem with Ambient Music.” There’s also a mention of Sean McCann here, which I guess confirms that he’s our Man of the Year.
Jesse Locke has a new podcast called Tracing Spaces that features interviews with “ambient, electronic, and experimental luminaries.” Short versions of each episode are available for free, while Patreon subscribers can access extended versions and other bonuses for $5 per month. Interview subjects include Suzanne Ciani, Steve Roach, and Don Slepian.
Jonathan Williger has written an album review for Pitchfork on Deep Listening, the beloved album from Pauline Oliveros, Stuart Dempster, and Panaiotis. With a score of 9.2, it’s the highest rated release on the site so far this year, which means something I think!
Thank you for reading the sixth issue of the Tone Glow newsletter. We hope you enjoy what we do.