1. says

    Once it was done, I played it again.
    I do think the composer stacked the deck, though, giving soothing new-agey stuff to Katie Couric, and not tracking *her* speech rhythms.
    Also: Contrary to the notion that “music is a language” — language is a music. Speech always has musical values.
    The Republicans started going Dada with Reagan. I thought Bush was the apotheosis, but Palin has trumped him. Strictly as an aesthetic phenomenon, the Republicans have been magnificent. Dick Cheney constantly reminds me of Oscar Wilde, especially Wilde’s dialog “The Decay of Lying”:
    Cyril: What is the subject?
    Vivian: I intend to call it ‘The Decay of Lying: A Protest.’
    Cyril: Lying! I should have thought that our politicians kept up that habit.
    Vivian: I assure you that they do not. They never rise beyond the level of misrepresentation, and actually condescend to prove, to discuss, to argue. How different from the temper of the true liar, with his frank, fearless statements, his superb irresponsibility, his healthy, natural disdain of proof of any kind! After all, what is a fine lie? Simply that which is its own evidence. If a man is sufficiently unimaginative to produce evidence in support of a lie, he might just as well speak the truth at once.
    * * *
    Great stuff, but for the tragic consequences.

  2. Michael Wittmann says

    I hate to be silly, but have to ask: beyond Custer, what other pieces of music do this? I’m thinking of the Bob Ostertag piece “All the Rage,” as an example. What others are there, where the music tracks the speaking voice so closely? (I just played Ostertag on my radio show 2 weeks ago, and will be playing Palin on Tuesday, in case you’re wondering about the source of this question…)
    KG replies: Doesn’t seem silly at all. I was about to update and admit that I stole the idea from Christian Wolff’s Accompaniments and possibly Reich’s Different Trains.

  3. says

    beyond Custer, what other pieces of music do this?
    Zappa’s “The Dangerous Kitchen.” I think Steve Vai did it with a phone message from his girlfriend back in the 1980’s. And Jason Moran has been using this technique quite a bit lately.

  4. Troy says

    There’s a Jason Moran piece called “Ringing My Phone” which applies the same technique but with a jazz trio. The source material is a Turkish girl talking on her phone. It’s a great choice – both the Turkish language and the fact that the rhythms come from a one-sided conversation (you can’t really hear the other person through the phone). This was recorded in 2003, I believe – still post-Gann, Reich, and Wolff.

  5. matt field says

    hermeto pasoal was doing this. jason moran said that he got the idea from HP.
    i know coltrane’s alabama was somehow related to martin luther king’s speech about the bombings in alabama. tho it may have just been the rhythmic element.

  6. says

    Peter Ablinger has a whole series of pieces like this. They are for piano and various speakers (either historical, or recorded specifically for this project), who have been recorded speaking (seemingly) about anything. These recordings are each analyzed, transcribed, and arranged for piano (even going so far as to include the clicks and pops of the recordings, and various other audible fidelity issues, in the piano part). Each recording, and its corresponding piano part, constitutes its own movement. Playback is audible during the performance of the piece itself, though mixed so evenly with the piano (also amplified) that it is difficult to distinguish the piano part from the recording of the speaker, and vice-a-versa. One tends to hear half of both at the same time, and cannot seem to ever isolate one or the other (at least, that was my experience when I saw Vicki Ray perform three of them this summer). They are amazing pieces, and definitely worth looking into. Unfortunately I cannot remember the name of the set, but if I see Vicki today I will ask her.

  7. says

    That’s a really nice little piece. “So healthcare reform and reducing taxes and reigning in spending” is especially good.
    Jacob Ter Veldhuis does this sort of thing a lot, too, although less strictly.
    I also do something related in my piece “God is a Killer,” but my source material is a baptist preacher, so he’s singsongy to begin with, and I autotune him to make him extra singsongy and stretch things to make him conform to my tempo.
    Theoretically you ought to be able to computer generate something like the Palin piece. There are programs that will extract note information from audio files, so you could run the speech through that to generate a midi file. Then you could have a program which extracts the timings and creates some sort of tempo map. Then you give the program some standard set of accompaniment styles, and have it guess at reasonable chord progressions that fit with the melody. Theoretically it should be doable, although not being a programmer I can’t say for sure and I certainly couldn’t do it.

  8. mclaren says

    Harry Partch’s music tracks the music this closely. Reportedly, ancient Hellenic music made a practice of this but that’s much easier than in a consonant-rich language like English because ancient Greek was a tonal language. English is nominally not, though does has some traces of tonal inflection. You can distinguish a difference in meaning twixt “Oh YEAH!” and “Oh yeah?” and a sarcastic “Oh yeahhhhh” by pitch even in English. Ex. 1 has pitch rising about a whole tone on “yeah,” while ex. 2 has pitch rising KG replies: Partch was probably a factor in my going this direction as well, though perhaps more from reading him than from the music itself.

  9. says

    In about 1979 – 80 I had ideas for a series of pieces for speaking drum set player, called “Drum Settings”, using poems by Lawrence Ferlinghetti. I did a home demo using poem 9, from A Coney Island Of the Mind, speaking the poem “naturally”, and tracking every syllable on the drum kit. You can write it out if you want to work that hard, but if you get the idea, you can just improvise it. It’s not that hard to do.
    I think the idea works – to a point. But it lost its charm for me almost immediately, and I abandoned the idea. I think there are better ways to set text.
    Sort of like the “talk box” thing that Frampton used in the 70s. There are better ways to sing than to play the guitar through your mouth.
    But the idea is worth trying until you realize how boring it actually is.
    We all have to try our bad ideas, and then suddenly someone comes along and shows us how to make it work! It can happen. I wasn’t interested enough. But I haven’t heard that particular device used in a way that is more than slightly amusing. I guess I am saying it’s – to me – a gimmick, not worth investing too much in.
    As for “The Dangerous Kitchen”. As far as I know – because I copied it for Frank from Steve’s transcription – was Frank improvising in his moron voice, and later Steve took it down into notation, just like he did with FZ’s guitar solos. They did the same thing with Jazz Discharge Party Hats.
    Like I said, amusing to a point, but I wouldn’t invest a lot in it, or base a piece on it.

  10. David Carter says

    in a similar vein is the 1969 piece “General Speech” by Robert Erickson which requires a trombonist to recite the speech through the trombone whilst executing precise musical passages.
    recording and details here
    KG replies: I’d known that piece in college, and had completely forgotten about it.