In April 2016, my Aunt sent my siblings and me an email asking if one of us would like to take some of my grandfather’s memorabilia off her hands, since her children were not interested. I was the one that accepted and found myself with approximately 250 cassette tapes spread over about 23 binders. They included tapes that Grandpa was surely making when I would visit him as a child. My recollection was of him recording music off the radio, using a reel to reel tape recorder, a cigarette dangling off one corner of his mouth, squinting in the smoke, one eye trained on me, asking what instrument I was planning to become proficient in, as he prepared to verbally annotate the recordings via his microphone. In those days, my grandfather surely saw musical content as free and did not bother to concern himself with any copyright issues associated with what he was doing. As it turned out he was creating an audio library for a friend or colleague named Edward; someone to whom he had actually willed the collection to. Edward never received the collection. I don’t know his last name, or where he might have lived. Maybe it’s all for the better. Despite Grandpa’s meticulous cataloguing of the material, most of it can be found free on the internet today. Much of that is better sound quality than what my grandfather was able to get off the air from Niagara Falls New York, Toronto, Buffalo or other stations he could find. When he died on January 1, 1982, he was still in the process of creating this special musical library for his friend.
I looked at the mound of binders on the floor and calculated how long it might take me to copy all the content from them to my PC. Easily six months I estimated. It took me almost ten. I ended up with 213 hours of classical music, one hour of Grandpa providing commentary, introductions, and unfiltered opinion, and another twenty-three hours of music and radio broadcaster voice fragments. Some of it is ripe for interpretation and experimentation. No sooner had I completed the initial sorting of the material, then I rolled up my sleeves to see what interesting sound pieces I could make to both acknowledge his labour, honour his memory, and have some audio fun.
The piece you can listen to below, I call Greatness and Fame. Evidently, his favourite flutist was Sir James Galway and he devoted a lot of time recording pieces that Galway was featured in. My grandfather seems to idolize and be awe struck by him, asserting him as a powerful, wealthy, and superior craftsman of his art. Grandpa himself was a musician in his youth. He was a member of the Toronto Symphony and the CBC Orchestras in the 1930s. He played a variety of woodwind and brass instruments. He gave it all up, though to go into the retail clothing business. So what happened? What if there was a little frustration and perhaps sour grapes that he, himself, never became world renowned?
For this piece I used some of my grandfather’s tape audio of Galway playing and cut out some parts. I then overlaid audio of my grandfather introducing some of Galway’s performances that he had recorded. Best listened to with headphones.
In February 2015, I visited the National Gallery in Ottawa. At the exhibition called “Canadian Biennial 2014” I wandered into an installation by Kelly Richardson. The sound that went along with the video installation filled the room. I was spellbound.
“As part of Shine a Light, Kelly Richardson’s recently acquired large-scale video installation Mariner 9 will be presented in the Contemporary Art Galleries. Mariner 9 presents a 48 foot by 10 foot panoramic view of a Martian landscape set hundreds of years into the future, littered with the rusting remains from various missions to the planet. Despite its suggested abandoned state, several of the spacecraft continue to partially function, to do their intended jobs, to ultimately find signs of life, possibly transmitting the data back to no one.
Mariner 9 was created using scenery-generation software employed by the film and gaming industries in combination with technical data from NASA’s missions to Mars to produce a faithful artist’s rendering of Martian terrain, populated by the debris from centuries of exploration through real and imagined spacecraft in the centre of a dust storm”
Equipment Used: Zoom H2 Recorder with Roland CS-10EM Binaural Microphones.
Spring waterfall over ice and rock #2. By the side of the road – March 23 2015 11:09am Prince Edward County. It was sunny and very very cold -10c. Equipment Used: Zoom H2 Recorder with Roland CS-10EM Binaural Microphones.
Water rumbles beneath the snow and ice with birds on Lake Ontario March 23 2015 12:13pm Prince Edward County. It was sunny and very very cold – 10c. Equipment Used: Zoom H2 Recorder with Roland CS-10EM Binaural Microphones