under this law the united states government will send checks every month to retired workers, both men and women, after they have passed their 65th birthday and have met a few simple requirements of the law.
given that electronic music has been around for more than six decades – depending on who’s counting – it’s safe to say that the novelty of electronically generated or processed sounds is wearing off. so it’s hard for us to imagine what listeners of french national radio must have thought when they tuned in to pierre schaeffer’s groundbreaking concert de bruits (concert of noises) on october 5, 1948. though a number of sources suggest that the feedback tended to be less than positive.
as noted above, schaeffer was not a musician, although he came from a musical family and had gone through some basic musical training. what schaeffer was was more of an electronics geek. in his day this was likely as not to mean that he worked behind the scenes in radio, a profession that found him working with some of the machinery he’d use to make experimental music.
schaeffer is often cited as the founder of musique concrét, which is fair enough, though there were others who had dabbled in the form before he did. he was not a fan of the 12-tone and serialist music that was all the rage at the time and he didn’t have much use for the early german electronic music whose composers essentially built their works from the ground up. musique concrét differed from these in that it worked primarily with existing sounds that were often subjected to various forms of processing.
schaeffer ’s groundbreaking radio concert consisted of five short pieces, which he called etudes (studies). though the name etude pathetique (etude on pathos) suggests otherwise, this one is arguably the liveliest of the bunch. working before tape recorders were readily available, schaeffer recorded his source materials on records and processed them - including using locked grooves to create loops – before playing them back on a makeshift chamber orchestra, of sorts, composed of turntables.
étude pathétique is a rather jaunty piece at times, one that uses sauce pans, canal boats, singing, speech, harmonica, and piano as its source materials. although aside from the sauce pan percussion that opens and closes the work, it’s the voice (and some well-placed rhythmic coughs) and harmonica that dominate. the latter is used to particularly good effect and i had to listen very closely before i realized that the banjo i was hearing at different points was actually a heavily processed harmonica.
based on a story by erle stanley gardner
the obvious attraction with granny get your gun is the fact the story is based on one by erle stanley gardner. apparently it's somewhat loosely based on his perry mason novel, the case of the dangerous dowager, though perry mason is nowhere in sight in the movie. i haven't read the book but it appears the adaptation here is a rather loose one and the wild west theme was added by the filmmakers.
may robson is the star of the show and the granny of the title. her name is actually minerva hatton and she's a wealthy old bird who made her fortune supplying miners in nevada. she plays amateur detective here, but with her bold, no-nonsense approach and her skill with a gun she's a far cry from the dotty old miss marple type.
the whole affair is pretty lighthearted, as so many mysteries of the thirties and forties seem to be. the plot, such as it is, finds hatton trying to find out who bumped off her former son-in-law, who's resorting to some nasty tactics to help win custody of his daughter. hatton takes the rap for the killing at first to protect her daughter, who would otherwise be a prime suspect, and that's about all i'll say about the plot.
not a bad effort and, at a little less than an hour, it can hardly be accused of overstaying its welcome.
from a story by stuart palmer
there are a few traces of a mystery in the smiling ghost, but things are played mostly for laughs with a few halfhearted chills tossed into the mix. which doesn’t make for great art but if you can put your brain on hold for an hour or so and take it as it comes you could do a lot worse.
lucky downing's luck has apparently been of the bad variety lately. when we see him at the beginning of the film he's fending off creditors and is therefore quite pleased when a wealthy heiress offers a tidy sum for him to pose as her fiancée for a month. when he gets to the requisite mansion full of eccentric relatives and starts to discover what happened to the heiress's previous fiancées he's not quite so pleased.
and so it goes, through various twists and turns and wacky antics until the baddie is finally revealed. if you're looking for something along the lines of palmer's hildegarde withers adaptations, such as the penguin pool murder or murder on a bridle path, look elsewhere. if you're simply looking for some good old-fashioned silly fun, look here.
ussachevksy was apparently the first of the pair to begin meddling with the tape recorders that turned up at columbia university around 1951, but fellow music instructor luening soon joined in and by the time of incantation the pair had a number of works under their belt, as well as a groundbreaking concert at the museum of modern art, in 1952.
incantation was composed (assembled?) the following year. it's a brief piece, clocking in at just about two and a half minutes. its distinguished from much of the electronic music of this pioneering era in that it sounds like a cohesive piece rather than a concret-inspired assemblage of sounds or an assortment of beeps and boops that take its cue from the serialists.
as with many of the duo's works, luening's flute and ussachevsky's piano are on display here. other sound sources include an alto recorder, bell sonorities, and a plate. but it's the vocals that are the centerpiece, eerie moaning vocals that wouldn't have sounded out up place in one of the low budget horror movies made later in the same decade by director william castle.
born at the turn of the twentieth century, luening got his start in music before electronic music existed. but around 1951 things changed. at that time he and vladimir ussachevsky - their names are often mentioned in tandem - were music teachers at columbia university. it was in 1951 that they laid their hands on a few tape recorders and began to fiddle around, something only a few of the earliest electronic music pioneers were doing at the time. luening and ussachevsky went on to establish the columbia-princeton electronic music center, in 1958, and luening served as director there until 1980.
low speed was first performed at a groundbreaking concert at the museum of modern art, in new york city, on october 28, 1952. the concert was broadcast live and later turned up on a 1968 lp that you can listen to here. the novelty of this sort of thing was still quite impressive in those days. it touched off a flurry of interest in this unearthly sounding music and luening and ussachevsky actually turned up on the fledgling today show, which had just gotten its start in 1952.
along with two of the other early electronic works he composed in 1952 (fantasy in space, invention in twelve notes), low speed takes luening's own flute playing as the basis for the composition. which is then subjected to various types of processing. which sounds relatively minimal to my ears and consists mainly of adding echo to the gentle tones and slowing them down. interesting to note that these tones sound more like they came from a synthesizer (a device that didn't really exist at the time) than a flute.
all of which hearkens back to aphex twin. which, admittedly, i haven't listened to for a while. but i seem to recall rather vividly at least one track that's a lot like this one. which may lend credence to the old dictum that the more things change the more they stay the same. or great minds think alike. or something like that.