Various Artists {A Simple Procedure}

KFJC - September 2019
KFJC DJs are masters of the “superimposition,” Cy Thoth’s term for a live mix of multiple records at once. So here’s an advanced challenge:

Choose 42 records. Cue up eight at a time. For each record, using a chart inspired by the I Ching, determine whether to press play, press pause, change its playback volume, or switch it out for another record.

Follow this simple procedure, and you’ll have performed John Cage’s 1952 work Imaginary Landscape No. 5. For this 2015 release from Estuary Ltd., label founder Mark Cetilia (of Mem1, recently added to our library), commissioned fellow artists to create 42 original works to be used as source material for a new imagining of Cage’s piece, here spread over two CDs.

In contrast to the jazz records Cage used to create the original version, Cetilia’s source material is far more abstract. Overall, the tracks on CD1 have a subtler feel – icy drones (T5), ocean waves (T6), glacier caves (T15), electronic birds (T10) and insects (T14), treated piano and guitar, organ (T20), and some serious ASMR mouths sounds (T3) – while the tracks on CD2 are propelled by livelier rhythms, from dance beats to dogs’ barks to noise textures.

At the end of each CD is an instance of Imaginary Landscape No. 5. For the first, Cetilia uses the 42 tracks each pressed onto a 7" record to create an analog version of the piece (CD1-T22). For the second, Cetilia used software to edit the original files to make a digital version (CD2-T22). Each landscape matches the material on its disc, with CD1’s analog version softened by a sea of surface noise, while CD2’s digital version cuts abruptly from one sonic idea to the next. -Lexi Glass

Neural - June 2016
A Simple Procedure is a celebration of the legacy that comes to us from Cageian experimentalism and is a re-imagining of a seminal piece by the master &emdash; ‘Imaginary Landscape No. 5’, viewed through the lens of contemporary musical practice. Cage’s 1952 work was made for a solo dance performance by Jean Erdman entitled Portrait of a Lady and essentially constitutes an information series: a block-graph timeline score that uses as its source any 42 phonograph records from which fragments are selected and played with several changes in intensity from “soft” to “loud”. Originally the result depended on a series of chance operations made using the I Ching as a guide. The composition is at times frenetic, with as many as eight records playing within the span of a couple of seconds, and at other times sparse, with only one or no records whatsoever playing (Cage had also specified that there should be eight performers). The Estuary Ltd label decided to commission 42 new works for this project featuring a broad spectrum of acclaimed performers and composers of experimental music. Among the many contributors artists we find Blevin Blectum & Ed Osborn, Gilles Aubry, Robert Donne & Stephen Vitiello, Yann Novak & Robert Crouch, Davey Harms, Ren Schofield, Ernst Karel, Donna Parker and Attila Faravelli, all experimenters who willingly offered materials to Mark Cetilia to follow Cage’s process, giving rise to two separate versions, one digital and one analogue: a procedure that ultimately proved to be not-so-simple, but one that certainly served its purpose.

Textura - December 2015
Founded in 2010 and overseen by Mem1 duo Mark and Laura Cetilia, Estuary Ltd. has a reputation for releasing provocative experimental works, and its latest release, the double-CD compilation A Simple Procedure, certainly upholds that tradition. In form and structure, it reminds me a little bit of the Modulation & Transformation and Electric Ladyland compilations Mille Plateaux released in the ’90s: in listening to each collection, you never knew what exactly you were going to get, but you knew your musical understanding would be profoundly altered by the time it was over. Forty-four pieces are presented on A Simple Procedure, and joining artists who’ve previously appeared on the Estuary Ltd. label (Blevin Blectum, Ed Osborn, Mem1) are familiar names such as Stephen Vitiello, Daniel Menche, Yann Novak, Robert Crouch, Steve Roden, Kraig Grady, Geoff Mullen, Keith Fullerton Whitman, and so on.

The release isn’t just an unrelated grab-bag of experimental pieces, however, but one rooted in the work of John Cage, specifically his 1952 Imaginary Landscape No. 5. Using the I Ching as a guide, he conceived of the piece, rooted in chance operations and equipped with instructions, as a blueprint of sorts for the production of any possible work — even if it was formally created for a solo dance performance by Jean Erdman called Portrait of a Lady (in Cage’s own words, “This is a score for making a recording on tape, using as material any 42 phonograph records”). In the spirit of his piece, the forty-two new works on A Simple Procedure were cut onto seven-inch vinyl discs using a Presto 6N lathe recorder from the 1940s, and Estuary Ltd. has issued each of the forty-two recordings as singles, with Mark Cetilia’s woozy realization of the Cage work (generated using custom software and the A sides of the forty-two records) included on the B side. Both analog and digital versions of Cetilia’s realization appear on the two-CD set (issued in an edition of 200 copies).

The limitless range of possibilities afforded by Cage’s instructions translates into a compilation that includes all manner of artistic expression. Some of these three-minute pieces are voice- or field recordings-based (Ido Govrin’s “French Beach,” Geoff Mullen’s “Spring Walk in Karlsruhe”); others feature acoustic, synthetic, and electronic sounds. Indicative of its stylistic sprawl, feedback studies, guitar and synthesizer experiments, piano deconstructions, noise explorations, spacey ambient-drones, mutant drum workouts, and gamelan miniatures all find their way into the release.

The open-ended quality of the material invites personalized projections, such that Area C’s “Porous,” for example, reminds me of the tense closing sequence in Full Metal Jacket. Elsewhere, Amnon Wolman’s “Untitled (For M&L)” glassily shimmers like some sci-fi soundtrack proposal, and Kraig Grady’s clangorous “The Skirmish of Birds in Cat Museum” lives up to its title. Rare is the piece that conforms to something resembling conventional song structure, though Val Martino’s acidy electro-funk cut “Nice Vice” does exactly that. Isolated moments aside, A Simple Procedure honours Cage’s spirit and sensibility in a way that would no doubt delight the game-changer were he still with us, and the release also impresses as a document of contemporary experimental practice.

The Wire - November 2015
John Cage’s 1952 piece Imaginary Landscape No. 5 was his first composition for magnetic tape, made with 42 phonograph records, a graphical score and a number of chance operations using the I Ching as a guide. Providence, Rhode Island label Estuary have chosen to revive Cage’s piece via the long route, commissioning 42 new works from artists including Blevin Blectum, Dalglish and Keith Fullerton Whitman, and pressing them to 7" records on a 1940s Presto lathe. This limited edition two CD set holds all 42 tracks, as well as two realisations of the piece by Mark Cetilia, one made with records and one made with digital files. Much good work here, from the granular noise of Daniel Menche’s “Vashon Ice” to the watery meditation suites of Christine Ödlund’s “Kvarken”... -Louis Pattison

Loop - November 2015
This work is based on a piece written by John Cage called ‘Imaginary Landscape No. 5’ for ’any 42 phonograph records. For this project 42 new works were made by a broad spectrum of performers and composers of experimental music.

This compilation was released in 2 CD set, in an edition of 200 copies featuring letterpress printed, die cut and hand numbered sleeves. The combination is analog and digital pieces in which electro-acoustic and software sound design are tools for the composition and improvisations, using field recordings, found objects, electronic devices, among others.

On the CD1 Blevin Blectum & Ed Osborn support digital parts, while Giles Aubry generates an atmosphere based on recordings of the environment and percussion on metal objects. Ken Ueno works with the voice to an almost imperceptible level. Andrea Pensado proposes a minimalist piece with synthetic sounds. Amnon Wolman with minimal resources create gloomy Wagnerian atmospheres. Ido Gavrin proposes a work sound sea recordings. Daniel Menche involved us with drones and noise. Geoff Mullen recorded a hike of a walker in the German city of Karlsruhe. The minimalist work of Yann Novak (Dragon’s Eye Recordings) and sound artist Robert Crouch unfold a drone with subtle melodic ambience. Norwegian Maia Urstad electronically manipulates the strings convening an area that captivates with its silence and reverberation. Kraig Grady offers a piece in which predominate different types of objects. Completing this first CD Mark Cetilia works John Cage’s ‘Imaginary Landscape No. 5’ piece in analog version.

CD2 starts with an electro piece of the eighties. Ren Schofield manipulated voices with analog devices generating a series of unconnected noises as well as Matt Underwood. Ernst Karel combines synthetic sounds and field recordings. Keith Fullerton Whitman and his analog manipulations offer a wide palette of abstract sounds. Extreme noise is deploying by [Power Monster]. Mark Cetilla finally closes this CD2 with ‘Imaginary Landscape No. 5’ of John Cage in a digital version. -Guillermo Escudero

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