Fred's '88 SST release, one of his finest instrumental releases, with Tenko, John Zorn, Christian Marclay in an intense mix of melodic, rhythmic and technological brilliance.
Technology of Tears
Label: Recommended Records
Released in: USA
The Technology of Tears was commissioned by Rosalind Newman and Dancers and first performed at the Joyce Theater, New York in February 1987, with design by Pier Voulkos and animation by Pierre Hébert. The title is taken from a poem by Zbigniew Herbert, which is printed on one of the gatefold sleeves, is about the problems of commercially exploiting genuine tears.
The music uses a vast repertoire of oddly metered, shifting rhythms and samples. Tenco provides a fierce vocal presence, with a strong cry and discussion from John Zorn's alto sax, while Marclay drops the needle for other unexpected sounds and interventions - Frith does all the rest. The pieces, intended for dance, easily stand alone apart from their performance counterpoints. Each is a journey filled with a mix of compositional, improvisational, and rock leanings, with literate references to form. They put strong rhythmic tension together with equally strong melody and an oddly street-wise swagger, using a wonderfully cynical sense of fun to glue it all together. And, of course, the pieces use technology, a great blend of synthetic and natural sources that make for an unusual and memorable album. This is New York City Fred Frith right after Skeleton Crew, an active member of the exploding downtown scene, mining many creative avenues with great result. Highly recommended.
• Show Bio for John Zorn
"John Zorn (born September 2, 1953) is an American composer, arranger, producer, saxophonist, and multi-instrumentalist with hundreds of album credits as performer, composer, and producer across a variety of genres including jazz, rock, hardcore, classical, surf, metal, klezmer, soundtrack, ambient, and improvised music. He incorporates diverse styles in his compositions which he identifies as avant-garde or experimental. Zorn was described by Down Beat as "one of our most important composers".
Zorn established himself within the New York City downtown music movement in the mid-1970s performing with musicians across the sonic spectrum and developing experimental methods of composing new music. After releasing albums on several independent US and European labels, Zorn signed with Elektra Nonesuch and received wide acclaim with the release of The Big Gundown, an album reworking the compositions of Ennio Morricone. He attracted further attention worldwide with the release of Spillane in 1987, and Naked City in 1989. After spending almost a decade travelling between Japan and the US he made New York his permanent base and established his own record label, Tzadik, in the mid-1990s.
Tzadik enabled Zorn to maintain independence from the mainstream music industry and ensured the continued availability of his growing catalog of recordings, allowing him to prolifically record and release new material, issuing several new albums each year, as well as promoting the work of many other musicians. Zorn has led the hardcore bands Naked City and Painkiller, the klezmer/free jazz-influenced quartet Masada, composed over 600 pieces as part of the Masada Songbooks that have been performed by an array of groups, composed concert music for classical ensembles and orchestras, and produced music for opera, sound installations, film and documentary. Zorn has undertaken many tours of Europe, Asia, and the Middle East, often performing at festivals with many other musicians and ensembles that perform his diverse output.
Zorn's compositions cross many genres and he has stated "All the various styles are organically connected to one another. I'm an additive person-the entire storehouse of my knowledge informs everything I do. People are so obsessed with the surface that they can't see the connections, but they are there." For Zorn "Composing is more than just imagining music-it's knowing how to communicate it to musicians. And you don't give an improviser music that's completely written out, or ask a classical musician to improvise. I'm interested in speaking to musicians in their own languages, on their own terms, and in bringing out the best in what they do. To challenge them and excite them." "-Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Zorn)
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• Show Bio for Christian Marclay
"Christian Ernest Marclay (born January 11, 1955) is a visual artist and composer. He holds both American and Swiss nationality.
Marclay's work explores connections between sound, noise, photography, video, and film. A pioneer of using gramophone records and turntables as musical instruments to create sound collages, Marclay is, in the words of critic Thom Jurek, perhaps the "unwitting inventor of turntablism." His own use of turntables and records, beginning in the late 1970s, was developed independently of but roughly parallel to hip hop's use of the instrument.
Christian Marclay was born on January 11, 1955 in San Rafael, Marin County, California, to a Swiss father and an American mother and raised in Geneva, Switzerland. He studied at the Ecole Supérieure d'Art Visuel in Geneva (1975–1977), the Massachusetts College of Art in Boston (1977–1980, Bachelor of Fine Arts) in the Studio for Interrelated Media Program, and the Cooper Union in New York (1978). As a student he was notably interested in Joseph Beuys and the Fluxus movement of the 1960s and 1970s. Long based in Manhattan, Marclay has in recent years divided his time between New York and London.
Citing the influence of John Cage, Yoko Ono and Vito Acconci, Marclay has long explored the rituals around making and collecting music. Drawn to the energy of punk rock, he began creating songs, singing to music on pre-recorded backing tapes. Unable to recruit a drummer for his 1979 performances with guitarist Kurt Henry, Marclay used the regular rhythms of a skipping LP record as a percussion instrument. These duos with Henry might be the first time a musician used records and turntables as interactive, improvising musical instruments.
Marclay sometimes manipulates or damages records to produce continuous loops and skips, and has said he generally prefers inexpensive used records purchased at thrift shops, as opposed to other turntablists who often seek out specific recordings. In 1998 he claimed never to have paid more than US$1 for a record. Marclay has occasionally cut and re-joined different LP records; when played on a turntable, these re-assembled records will combine snippets of different music in quick succession along with clicks or pops from the seams – typical of noise music – and when the original LPs were made of differently-colored vinyl, the reassembled LPs can themselves be considered as works of art.
Some of Marclay's musical pieces are carefully recorded and edited plunderphonics-style; he is also active in free improvisation. He was filmed performing a duo with Erikm for the documentary Scratch. His scene didn't make the final cut, but is included among the DVD extras.
Marclay released Record Without a Cover on Recycled Records in 1985, "...designed to be sold without a jacket, not even a sleeve!" Accumulating dust and fingerprints would enhance the sound. A review in Spin at the time cited Marclay's "coolest theatrical gesture" in his live performances of phonoguitar: the artist strapped a record player onto himself and played, for example, a Jimi Hendrix album. In Five Cubes (1989), he melted vinyl records into cubes. In the 1980s and early '90s, he invented album covers. The Sound of Silence (1988) is a black-and-white photograph of the Simon & Garfunkel single of the same title. In a series of cyanotypes (2007–09), white negatives against a blue background, he unspooled cassette tapes.
Thom Jurek writes that "While many intellectuals have made wild pronouncements about Marclay and his art – and it is art, make no mistake – writing all sorts of blather about how he strips the adult century bare by his cutting up of vinyl records and pasting them together with parts from other vinyl records, they never seem to mention that these sound collages of his are charming, very human, and quite often intentionally hilarious."
Marclay has performed and recorded both solo and in collaboration with many musicians, including John Zorn, William Hooker, Elliott Sharp, Otomo Yoshihide, Butch Morris, Shelley Hirsch, Flo Kaufmann and Crevice; he has also performed with the group Sonic Youth, and in other projects with Sonic Youth's members."-Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christian_Marclay)
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Label: Recommended Records
Catalog ID: ReR FRO11
Squidco Product Code: 9841
Recorded at Noise, October 1986. Digitally re-mastered by Paul Zinman at New York Digital, August 1987.
Originally released on cassette, LP and CD on the SST label as SST-172 with additional material not included on this release.
Fred Frith-guitars, violin, field recordings, all other instruments
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1. Sadness, Its Bones Bleached Behind Us 13:18
2. You Are What You Eat 18:46
3. The Palace Of Laughter, The Tecnology Of Tears 10:16
4. Jigsaw 14:48
5. Jigsaw Coda 3:07