Who does not love exploring the musical warp and weft of minimalist music? I know I do and Steve Reich is a particular favourite.

In the good old analogue days I would make a large (room size) loop of magnetic tape and run that through half a dozen assorted old tape recorders arranged around my room – with some intricate Meccano constructions to keep the tape taught and moving. With some recorders set to play the sound and others to record the sounds played a sound recorded as the tape passed through one recorder would be replayed when that portion of tape reached the next tape recorder and re-recorded on other tape recorders. Thus building interesting delays and overlaps of sounds.

Reich’s experiments revealed that two loops containing the same sounds could be started playing together but one, from slight mechanical variation, would slowly fall behind the other thus creating interesting shifts in the combined sound. He used this technique for both constructed tape pieces and composed pieces such as Clapping Music

As we moved from the analogue world to a digital world one no longer had to mess about with bits of tape. Reich once observed that where he would spend a month splicing bits off tape together to construct a piece you could now do the same thing on your laptop over a couple of evenings – while watching TV.

One of the best tools for such sonic experimentation is Reaktor which has a an extensive library of User created instruments – several of which are inspired by Reich’s work such as..

Reich Tape Looper:

and It’s Gonna Grain (a play on Reich’s It’s Gonna Rain) and Reichatron which I used for Purple Shift – using two identical loops with one slowly drifting out of sync until it completes its orbit and ends up back where it started

https://soundcloud.com/duncan-moran/purple-shift

Reich’s Music for 18 Musicians is one of the greatest pieces of music ever composed:

But of course the repeating patterns of minimalism is not everyone’s idea of good music and the maximalist Frank Zappa found it ripe for parody with Spontaneous Minimalist Music Composition…

Who does not love listening to Duke Ellington’s classic tune Caravan? I know I do and with its driving rhythm and ample opportunity for noodling one never tires of hearing a new version. The tune was written by Ellington and Juan Tizol in the 1930’s. Here they (Ellington – piano, Tizol – valve trombone) are performing it in the 1950’s…

The Mills Brothers vocalised it..

..and countless others have created their own variations…

The Carpenters (Karen drumming)…

Guitarists Les Paul and Chet Atkins

Drummers Buddy Rich (with Harry James)

and Gene Krupa

…and it was featured in the recent film Whiplash

Such was the tunes popularity that bands were often requested to play it. Frank Zappa alludes to such a request on the first Mothers of Invention‘s album Freak Out! in the song You’re Probably Wondering Why I’m Here and again in America Drinks & Goes Home on their next album Absolutely Free.

One may surmise just which Caravan with a drum solo was being referenced in the request. As John French recalled “Every lounge act in the sixties played Caravan with a drum solo. It was as standard as Louie Louie later became and achieved the status of a “running joke.” and Zappa related the origin of the quote “When we worked at a gig in El Monte some drunken buffoon in the audience requested it: ‘I wanna hear Caravan with a drum solo!’ There are certain things you remember from your career, like that line.”

But for my money it could only have been the definitive version of Caravan with a drum solo by The Ventures recorded live in Japan in 1965

While rummaging around some back-up discs I came across the Tune Tote movie I made a couple of years ago. The audio comes from a show that [wikipop]Frank Zappa[/wikipop] did with Les Carter on [wikipop search=”KPPC (defunct)”]KPPC Radio[/wikipop] in 1968:

A longer audio extract from the show reveals Zappa’s part time job at [wikipop]Wallichs Music City[/wikipop] (around 1965) and his thoughts on the [wikipop]PlayTape[/wikipop] audio cartridge players:

Motorhead died on Christmas day.  A teenage schoolfriend of [wikipop search=”Frank Zappa”]Zappa[/wikipop] in the late 1950s, swapping records and performing in early bands such as The BlackOuts and The Omens. He moved into Zappa’s studio with Zappa living there for six months in the early 1960s and became a musician/roadie with The Mothers.

Here he is (in sunglasses) blowing up a storm and shaking his tambourine with The Mothers in 1968:

And briefly reminiscing in a BBC documentary.

Obituary in The Guardian

 

 

A splendid selection of 1966 – 1968 [wikipop search=”The Fillmore”]Fillmore[/wikipop] recordings from Wolfgang’s Vault today.

On the 24th June 1966 [wikipop search=”The Mothers of Invention”]The Mothers[/wikipop] were supporting [wikipop]Lenny Bruce[/wikipop]. Bruce was not on his best form and would be dead by August. In 1969 [wikipop search=”Frank Zappa”]Zappa[/wikipop] would release an unedited recording of Bruce at the December 1965 Berkeley Concert (This has subsequently been reissued several times and can be found on [wikipop]Spotify[/wikipop]). Zappa was a fan of [wikipop]Sea Shanties[/wikipop] and had owned [wikipop]A.L. Lloyd[/wikipop] and [wikipop]Ewan MacColl[/wikipop]’s Blow Boys Blow (another Spotify link). He had given the record to [wikipop]Captain Beefheart[/wikipop] which led to a long running dispute between the two as to whether it was a gift or a loan. The record included the song The Handsome Cabin Boy

which Zappa often used in concerts as the theme for an improvisation: