February 2015

Editor’s Note

By Mark Flaum

Welcome to the third issue of surround.

In this issue we have an investigation of the intersection of Erstwhile records and the Wandelweiser collective, two topics very close to the heart of surround. We have perhaps the largest piece featured on surround thus far, a detailed study of one of the most interesting musicians today by a close collaborator. We have an interview with a musician who will be unfamiliar to many of our readers, a review of the work of a musician more famous than any we’ve discussed previously, and a work about the music of an artist rarely recognized as a musician at all. We have two new entries in the Memorable series: one a contemplation of memory and musical performance, the other leaving all contemplation to the reader and presenting a photo essay of the aftermath of performance. And we have an interview with the owner of Potlatch Records, presented in his own words.

It’s this last piece that leaves me thinking about how my vision of surround is closely connected to a handful of labels, including Potlatch. In addition to the interview, we consider the co-influence of the Wandelweiser music collective (often represented by their Edition Wandelweiser label) with my co-editor’s label Erstwhile. The long-delayed release of Bob Dylan’s basement tapes is an illustration of the slow and messy obsolescence of the historical record label. While Toshiya Tsunoda’s work has appeared on a number of labels (see the selected discography included); his collaborator Michael Pisaro drives the Gravity Wave label. In previous issues we’ve written about several Kye Records releases and musicians associated with the label.

As something of an exercise in understanding record labels and the people behind them, I’ve gotten some help from Antoine Duluard to generate these word clouds of the Erstwhile and Potlatch labels. These two labels are of similar vintage and while Erstwhile has released more records, the areas of music they cover are quite similar including an early dedication to improvisation gradually widening to include some areas of contemporary composition. From the graphics you can see both feature the guitar and electronics quite heavily – perhaps these are the cornerstones of electro-acoustic improvisation. The electric guitar is fundamentally electro-acoustic, without pick-ups the sound of the instrument is all but inaudible. And electronics is a catch-all for a wide array of hand-made, modified, or broken devices that exemplify the creativity and versatility of the music.

You can also see from the word cloud Jacques Oger’s dedication to the saxophone, his own instrument from his days as a performer and still I believe his favorite. The focus on soprano sax in particular is interesting; I suspect that the clarity of tone appeals to musicians in this area of music. The small, portable size can’t hurt either. From the Erstwhile cloud you can detect Jon Abbey’s broad interests and impatience for repetition. You can recognize certain performers by their unique instrument choices. And if you look really closely you can see that Jon doesn’t like the saxophone very much.

I’d like to thank our authors for their contributions, as well as Toshiya Tsunoda, Richard Pinnell, Yuko Zama, Arek Gulbenkoglu, and Jacques Oger for sharing photographs and other images to be included here. I’d also like to thank Rebecca Flaum for helping get the whole site online.■