Wednesday, July 8, 2015

The Free Box Tapes #14, 15, & 16, & 17: Eclectic Boogaloo

I recently spent a long afternoon clearing the dense towers of papers, notebooks, and bric-a-brac from the top of my second-string desk.  To pass the time, I turned to some of the neglected Free Box Tapes for a soundtrack. 

Henry Threadgill, Carry the Day (1995) / Jon Jang & The Pan-Asian Arkestra, Tiananmen! (1993)

Sixty-Four Words: The project had stuck on this one; I didn’t know quite what to make of it. The Jang album is a fusion of conventional jazz with traditional Chinese music. It’s more middle-of-the-road than it sounds. The Threadgill toys with world music in a jazz format, but experiments freely with tonality. It’s more challenging than it sounds, and sometimes makes me feel a little carsick.

Disposition: I don’t think I’ll ever love these, or even ever listen to them again, but for now I will retain the tape on probation.

Steely Dan, Greatest Hits (1978)

Sixty-Four Words: I dismissed Steely Dan pretty breezily the last time we encountered them in this project, but I wouldn't say no to having a collection of their familiar radio hits as something to play in the background of an occasional rainy afternoon. I think “Deacon Blues” is a good song. Unfortunately, it turned out that the tape was missing. It was just an empty box.

Disposition: I used the tape case to replace a broken tape case.

GP GM Klotz: Biographies (1980) 

Sixty-Four Words: OMG! It's really Grandpa and Grandma Klotz, narrating their biographies in response to a questionnaire that their granddaughter, Karen, sent them for a school project. It is awesome. Grandpa is not nearly as into it as Grandma. They are both articulate, intelligent, and more candid than they would have been if they knew their tape would end up with a stranger. It's found gold!

Disposition: The tape broke when I tried to rewind it, but that’s easily mended. One could have a lot of fun with this treasure! There are plentiful clues that would allow someone with the interest and a modest budget track down the descendants of the Klotzes, and send them all copies of the tape. Or, one could rip the tape to their computer, and sample the narrative to have the couple make utterances that are poignant or evocative (or vulgar, I suppose) over an ambient soundscape. Whee!

Steve Reich: Tehillim (1983) / the Desert Music (1985

Sixty-Four Words: I like the idea of Steve Reich more than Steve Reich compositions. Often I forget that I’m listening to music and think that I’m suffering a headache instead. On this tape, the sound quality is quite poor, and there are choral parts, which is not perhaps playing to Reich’s strengths. I’ll give it a few more listens and report back if there’s an epiphany.

Disposition: As noted.

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