Ellen Band-Audible Visions

90% Post Consumer Sound

Reviews of Ellen Band's CD:
"90% Post Consumer Sound"

Available on XI Records

CLICK HERE for MP3 sound clips and information about purchasing Ellen's CD online.

The Wire
From Issue 207, May 2001
Review by Barry Witherton

Adventures in Modern Music

When Morton Feldman claimed he didn't push his sounds around, Stockhausen prodded, "Not even a little bit?" Ellen Band doesn't transform her source sounds, in the sense of making radical alterations to their timbres, pitches or textures, but she does manipulate them through multiple repetition, overdubbing, even mimicking in different media, thus affecting, and directing, our perceptions of everyday noises. There's nothing here to settle the vexed question of what processes need to be applied before sounds become music, but these pieces certainly constitute some interesting debates.

Band is as much sound sculptor as composer. One of her most fascinating projects involves creating sound portraits, which grew from sonic self-portrait assignments she gave to students. She asked, "If I could hear someone's life, what would it sound like?" The pieces on this album are like portraits of objects or locations or, in the case of Closet Bird, represented by an eight minute extract, a canary. This, the oldest piece here (1976), was realised with one canary, two reel to reel tape recorders, and no further technological intervention.

Railroad Gamelan (1992) - a title derived from the opening passages centred on railroad crossing bells - suggests analogies with some of Reich's early work, as well as harking back to the methodology of the musique concrète pioneers. Gradually the crossing bells are joined by train whistles. track sounds and passing traffic. evoking the experience of waiting for a train to pass.

Swinging Sings (1992) for tape and violins has instrumentalists Band and Adele Armin interacting with the squeak and creak of the swings. At least half of the input comes from the consumer/listener's experience: empty swings in an autumnal garden, bored kids aimlessly killing time in an asphalt wilderness, the sinister absence in some Halloween clone flick... or just a generator of raw material for a composition?

Radiatore (1998) is perhaps the most disconcerting piece. leaving aside any subliminal anxiety about the availability and cost of plumbers it might generate, but the starkest is Minimally Tough (1997) for leather jackets. It's a binaural recording, thus introducing another element of determination into the way we hear and relate to Band's intriguing work.

Visit The Wire online at: www.thewire.co.uk

The Downtown Music Gallery
New York City

Ellen Band's amazing world of sound is composed by layering groups of sounds in a very musical fashion. In Railroad Gamelan, we hear the click-clack of the tracks, track crossing bells, train horns and other down by the tracks ambience. Swinging Sings features Band and Adele Armin on violins playing along with very microtonal children's swings in the park. Starting with swings gently swinging, the violins eventually join in until there is a swirling mass of sound. Bubbling, spitting and drooling radiators are the sound source for Radiatore and all kinds of bird sounds for Closet Bird. The binaural recording of Minimally Tough is remarkable. With headphones, one really does feel like they're in the middle of a group of people wearing new leather coats. I feel like I'm being shrink wrapped.

Visit the Downtown Music Gallery at: www.dtmgallery.com

Independent Electronic Music

This is debut album Ellen Band, released in February 2001 - needless to say, a long overdued one, because she is active since mid 70s. As a student, she learned from Pauline Oliveros and David Rosenboom, and worked later with such worldwide renowned composers as David Dunn, James Tenney and Ed Osborne. Her specialization was violin playing, but the source of inspiration was always hidden beneath the environmental sounds, both natural and artificial. So, commonly speaking, this album is devoted to exploration of potential energy of these sounds, but also to interaction with traditional composition. Here, the objective reality is zoomed to aural hallucination limits, and traditions of minimal music are projected onto the variety of soundscapes. The resulting work is very different from laptop models in terms of surreal and abstract textures, they are also more physical because of real density, intensity and timbral richness. Consisted of five long tracks, each of them is concentrated on the single sound pattern taken from everyday life: railway, radiator, birds etc. Creating somehow mysterious aura around these ugly things, Band scrutinizes soundevents, looking through the lens of studio facilities, pushing you into the utmost concentration state, where the emotional strength is comparable with larg-scale orchestral music effect. Taking a good experience from futurist school, Fluxus artists, and avantgarde composers from John Cage to Philip Corner, she creates psychoacoustic images, explicating the unique features of each single moment, photographed in sound, listening to own perception, feeling exclusiveness of eventful snapshot.

Visit the Independent Electronic Music web site: iem.nigilist.ru

Musicworks: The Canadian Journal of Sound Exploration
From June 2001 Issue
Review by René van Peer

Celebration of sound

The first time I came across the work of Ellen Band was on number six of The Aerial, the "journal in sound" edited by Steve Peters of Nonsequitur in Albuquerque. Her contribution was called Railroad Gamelan, and was built from sounds that mark the approach and passing of a train - the bells at a railroad crossing, the whistles, and the clatter of the train itself. Piling looped recordings of these elements over each other she had created a piece that was immediately recognizable as railroad ambience, and was at the same time strongly reminiscent of the interlocking patterns of the Indonesian gong and bell sets. Listening to this piece felt like being in two different worlds simultaneously - one where the sounds derived from, and one emerging on the impulse of the sounds. Or, to put it differently, it was possible to perceive both source and result for what they were. This may seem pretty basic. Fact is that I have had it happen to me only occasionally. Too often pieces built from found materials fail to become an integrated whole, remaining on the level of assorted components instead. Recognizable elements bundled together rarely give birth to new pieces.

In this collection of sound works they invariably do. Each of the five pieces is a delight in its own right. From the opening sounds of Railroad Gamelan to the final creaking of leather jackets, so dry it makes your throat ache for water, it's playful brilliance throughout. All pieces start from a single concentrated idea that creates immense resonance in its implementation.

In Swinging Sings Ellen Band plays on the notorious similarity between a screechy violin and rusty hinges. Three protagonists, a duo of screeching violins (one acoustic and one capable of live processing) and a swing in a playground, crank out a hair-raising piece of shrieking hell. And yet, following their interplay is absolutely captivating. At first the three sonic strands run so closely together that they become a tightly knit plait, glistening at every curve. Later on they move apart and it gets easier to make out at least one of the instruments - especially when strings creak in protest to the harsh treatment they get. Against the agitated scribbling of the acoustic violin the regular piercing squee-squeek of the swing has a surprisingly soothing effect. The other violin creates mirror images of the swing, pushing the sound further and further away from the source until it unfolds into a broad hazy expanse.

Radiatore explores the disturbing musical life cycle of a heating system. Panting excitedly it rears up its head like some alien organism. It starts ticking, gurgles with increasing vehemence, until the narrow chambers teem with hotly reverberating pops, pats, puffs, hiss and metallic plops. Finally the din subsides, dying down to a weak but persistent moist squeak. What Ellen Band celebrates in these pieces is how rewarding attentive listening can be. Musicians know this from experience - an attentive audience can elevate them and their music to a different level. As 90% post consumer sound successfully contends, this holds good for any sound and its source; and what's more, Band proves that this very intimate and private experience can be conveyed to others. She makes inanimate objects come alive, transforming them before your very ears, and yet taking them as they are at the same time. It is the simultaneity of these ostensibly divergent perceptions (interpreting them as sounds and as music - even though arguably in this state they are neither) evoked by her work that gives it its profoundly poetic quality.

Other Music Update
March 21, 2001

Ms. Band's work takes everyday sounds and makes them into songs, or imitates everyday sounds with the instruments at her disposal. I first heard her on an edition of "The Aerial" (a very good CD series that collected experimental radio pieces) and her piece was transfixing (and reproduced here). She took the clangs at a railroad crossing gate and layered them -- as if played by a gamelan orchestra. Plus sounds of motorcycles whizzing by and hydraulic bus-door brakes (sniffs) became a complementary drumkit. A mesmerizing piece that lets you hear ordinary sounds in an entirely new way. Another piece on this collection makes a swingset in motion become an entire ensemble, squeaks resonating against each other in a remarkably eerie and birdlike chorus. Yet another, made of the tiny taps and steam noises of a radiator, could have come right from the Cologne school -- or she makes a bird into a million clones of itself, building repeats of twitter and stutter like mechanical robot birds on the fritz. She doesn't have to teach the world to sing, she hears the songs that are already there, just shaping, plumping and amping them up into a nearly human form.

Visit other music at: www.othermusic.com

Playboy Magazine
July 2001 Issue

There are plenty of noises in our everyday lives, but most of us don't listen to them. On 90% Post Consumer Sound (XI Records), Ellen Band augments recordings of radiators, swings and train crossings to create remarkable music.

Sonoloco Record Reviews

Click here for the review featured on the Sonoloco Record Reviews web site.

The Village Voice
Consumer Guide by Kyle Gann

Band's wonderfully tactile work could be disposed of as a pleasant exercise in natural sounds, but if you'll keep your ears open until the end of each piece, her layerings of locomotives, violin sqeaks, canaries, and radiators accumulate until the sound is quite something else; she makes process pieces not found objects, though the distinction gets blurred. The final track, Minimally Tough, is a bianural recording to be heard on headphones, and worth the trouble: Its multitudinous creaking of leather jackets will convince you that you're being slowly smothered in bubble wrap.

Vital Weekly
Weekly experimental music reviews & announcements
Review by Frans Deward, Staalplat

Ellen Band is a US composer who studied music with Pauline Oliveros and David Roosenboom and has worked with a.o. David Dunn. She is 'deeply inspired by the infinitely complex textures, rhythms and colours within the so-called ordinary sounds of everyday life' and this CD with five of those compositions shows us what she is been doing in this field. What I like about these works is that the title of each composition tells you what it's about. 'Railroad Gamelan' leaves nothing to imagine or wonder about: railroad signs that are looped or spliced together in a rhythmic vein so that they sound like a gamelan. Without having to worry about possible meanings, you can sit back and enjoy it. 'Radiatore' is another one. I imagine a dozen or so contactmicrophones attached to a central heating radiator, each picking up a different sound, which are cleverly mixed into a minimal soundscape. 'Swinging Sings' is less clear but is duelling violins: an irritating high pitched sound from the violin. Noticing that this piece was recorded at the Persepolis Studio in Toronto, I was immediately drawn to link Band's piece to Xenakis' piece 'Persepolis' bearing that same intense character. The last piece is the strangest: very soft, paper being ripped apart at great pace. Very nice stuff here.

Foreign Language Reviews

Blow Up: Rock E Altre Contaminazioni
Mensile n.35 - Aprile 2001
Gino Dal Soler

Benche il nome di Ellen Band, canadese di Toronto, suoni per noi del tutto nuovo, si tratta di un'autentica veterena che vanta studi con Pauline Oliveros, David Rosenboom, James Tenney, Jon B. Higgins, nonche collaborazioni con David Dunn tra gli altri. Impegnata inoltre nel campo delle installazioni/sculture sonore, video e live performance fin dalla meta degli anni 70. Questo suo esordio per la XI di Phill Niblock e dunque puro paesaggio sonoro/arte sonora con implicazioni "psicoacustiche" di alta rilevanza. Cinque lunghi brani creati a partire da field recordings e poi costruti e montati con estrema attenzione fino a renderne la struttura assai complessa, densa di dettagli. Basti ascoltare Railroad Gamelan (il titolo indica la fonte...), i 19 minuti di Radiatore, i superbi intrecci di violino di Swinging Sings o la conclusiva Minimally Tough non troppo distante dai mondi Gunteriani ... (binaural recording indica il sottotitolo, da ascoltare assolutamente in cuffia...) per capire il talento di Ellen Band e la sua abilita nel trasformare i suoni familiari del quotidiano in nuove forme d'ascolto, percezione, memoria, semplice esperienza del suono.

Il Manifesto
Aprile 2001
di Mauro Carli

Suoni e rumori catturati con un registratore dalla vita di ogni giorno e suoni e rumori provenienti da altre situazioni. Le percentuali sono gia annunciate dal titolo del disco : 90% Post Consumer Sound (XI Records 2001). Ma un elenco dettagliato delle riprese stereofoniche non e riportato. Qualche indicazione salta subito fuori consultando i titoli in scaletta e ascoltando in cuffia (e un consiglio di fabbrica). Traffico urbano, voci, treni in transito, campane e metallofoni vari, radiatori, acqua, canto degli uccelli, rane, grilli, oscillazioni a bassa e alta frequenza ecc. (Railroad Gamelan, Radiatore, Closet Bird) piu due violini in Swinging Sings (quello acustico di Ellen Band e quello elettrico di Adele Armin) e un'azione di cinque performer alle prese con computer industriale e robot dentro Minimally Tough. Ellen Band ci fa sapere che prendre un mondo di suoni apparentemente banale e lo transforma in qualcosa di nuovo, un genere di "surrealismo sonoro" dentro irresistibli forme sonore.

E David Dunn, ancora nelle note interne, presenta questo lavoro come la convergneza di due tradizioni dell'arte sonora del '900. Una e l'emancipazione del rumore e l'altra arriva dall'irriverenza e dall'apertura che abbiamo conosciuto in Satie e negli artisti Dada, nel movimento Fluxus e in Cage. Ellen Band non usa alta tecnologia. Non altera i suoni registrati. Li assembla con un'idea di composizione molto precisa e esalta il loro aspetto ordinario. Caratteristiche molto rare nella produzione "ambientalista" e rumorista attuale. Negli ultimi anni ha anche prodotto numerose installazioni e sculture sonore. Questo e il suo unico cd circolazione e la produzione porta la firma di Phill Niblock. Ellen Band ha studiato con Pauline Oliveros, David Rosenboom, e James Tenney a Toronto e lavorato con David Dunn, il poeta Jerome Rothenberg, e Ed Osborn negli Usa. Sound artist e compositrice. "Cacciatrice e raccoglitrice di suoni" di talento ma ancora tutto sconosciuta.

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