60 MIN



In the late nineteenth century two facts conspired to change the face of music: the collapse of common practice tonality (which overturned the certainties underpinning the world of art music), and the invention of a revolutionary new form of memory, sound recording (which redefined and greatly empowered the world of popular music).

A tidal wave of probes and experiments into new musical resources and new organisational practices ploughed through both disciplines, bringing parts of each onto shared terrain before rolling on to underpin a new aesthetics able to follow sound and its manipulations beyond the narrow confines of ‘music’. This series tries analytically to trace and explain these developments, and to show how, and why, both musical and post-musical genres take the forms they do.

In PROBES #37, we consider the revolution ushered in by the thermionic valve and, in particular, the disorienting but transformative changes electrical amplification brought into a world until then predicated solely on acoustical laws. We then examine the cybernetic entanglement of its mirrored portals (the microphone and the loudspeaker) through the generative instability of feedback which, it turns out, has accessible expressive powers…

Musical references

01 Gregorio Paniagua, ‘Anakrousis’, 1978
02 Woodrow Wilson speaks
03 David Thomas, soundcheck (excerpt)

04 Frank Sinatra, ‘In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning’, 1955
05 Gary Kellgren’s (censored) whispering that was meant to be on Frank Zappa’s ‘Only in It for the Money’ (excerpt), 1967
Motörhead, ‘The Hammer (live in Newcastle)’ (excerpt), 1981
Blossom Dearie, ‘Someone to Watch Over Me’ (excerpts), 1959
08 Karlheinz Stockhausen, ‘Mikrophonie I’ (excerpts), 1964
09 Daniela de Paulis, ‘London to Rome’ (excerpts), 2008
10 Henri Chopin, ‘La Digestion’ (excerpt), 1974
11 Jimi Hendrix, ‘And The Gods Made Love’ (excerpt), 1968
12 Johann Sebastian Bach, ‘Toccatta and Fugue in D Minor’ (excerpt), from Walt Disney’s Fantasia, recorded by Leopold Stokowski in Fantasound, a one-off stereo/multi-speaker system launched at vast expense (and quickly mothballed) in 1940, a prescient experiment that had to wait another decade to be followed through (excerpt), 1940
13 Janet Cardiff, recording of ‘The Forty Part Motet’, 2001
14 Gordon Monahan, ‘Speaker Swinging’ (excerpt), 1982
15 Ulrich Eller, ‘Circle of Drums’ (excerpt), 1989]
16 The Beatles, ‘I Feel Fine’ (excerpt), 1964
17 Robert Ashley, ‘The Wolfman’ (excerpt), 1964
18 Hugh Davies, ‘Quintet’ (excerpts), 1968
19 Steve Reich, ‘Pendulum Music’ (excerpts), 1968
Alvin Lucier, ‘Bird and Person Dyning’, live performance in Berlin in 2009 by Yvonne Harder (excerpt), 1975
21 The Beatles, ‘It’s All Too Much’ (excerpt), 1967 – BB King live in Montreux (excerpt), 1993 – Jimi Hendrix, ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ (excerpt), 1969 – The Mothers of Invention, ‘Get a Little’ (excerpt), 1969
22 Neil Young, ‘Arc’ (excerpt), 1991
23 Gregorio Paniagua, ‘Anakrousis’, 1978

Curated by Chris Cutler. Image: Janet Cardiff "The Forty-Part Motet", 2007.

All rights reserved. © by the respective authors and publishers.

Research Probes Chris Cutler sound + technology
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