Saturday, August 22, 2009

Scream Song

The artist LeRoy Stevens has always thought that human screams were an intriguing sound, and I guess they kind of are. So, he spent six months (from October 2008-March 2009) going around Manhattan to every single record store, where he asked employees at each one to tell him their favorite scream from a piece of music ( I can't help what these employees thought about the question. Personally, I wouldn't be able to think of a favorite scream off the top of my head. It's not exactly like walking up to someone and asking what their favorite ice cream flavor is). He ended up with screams from heavy metal, punk and rock 'n roll, but also opera, the blues and rap. Stevens ordered them according to when he received the selections (so it was pretty random), and pressed the three-minute collection onto a 12-inch vinyl disk. The finished product is.. well.. interesting. At first I thought it was unpleasant, -I guess because I associate screams with pain or otherwise negative experiences- but by the end, the screams turned into sonic phenomena, rather than screams (like It's gonna' rain all over again!). It has 74 screams, some of which are supposed to be "easily identifiable", like the opening howl from The Who's "We Won't Get Fooled Again" or Iggy Pop's bellow from The Stooges' "TV Eye," (but seeing as I'm not familiar with any of these songs, I couldn't recognize a one). If you would like to listen, I think you can hear the collection of screams at Just search for LeRoy Stevens or "screams" and you're sure to find it.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

And another one bites the dust...

Les Paul, the guitarist and inventor who changed the course of music with the electric guitar and multitrack recording has died today of complications from pneumonia at the age of 94. As an inventor, Paul helped bring about the rise of rock 'n' roll and multitrack recording, which enables artists to record different instruments at different times, sing harmony with themselves, and then carefully balance the "tracks" in the finished recording (or, as in the case of many experimental artist, to not do so). Les Paul, earned 36 gold records and 11 number one pop hits from 1949 to 1962, and many of these songs used overdubbing techniques that Paul had helped develop.
A tinkerer and musician since childhood, he experimented with guitar amplification for years before coming up in 1941 with what he called "The Log," a 4-by-4 piece of wood strung with steel strings. He then proceeded to take it to a nightclub and play it, where he was called a complete nutter by everyone there. However, in 1952, Gibson Guitars began production of the Les Paul guitar. Pete Townsend of The Who, Steve Howe of Yes, jazz great Al DiMeola and Led Zeppelin's Jimmy Page all made the Gibson Les Paul their trademark six-string. Over the years, the Les Paul series has become one of the most widely used guitars in the music industry. And they called him a nutter... :)