Oct 6, 2006


Two things in an interview with sound improvisor Evan Parker struck my antenna:

1) The discussion of foxes being active in the city at night. This reminds me something emphasized by Morgan during a Portland Surrealist Group meeting-- that creatures are here in the city making their own space and that this could be looked at in a surrealist light. Articles on the Flying Stone Blog (http://pdxsurr.blogspot.com) reflect on some of these matters (see Interview with Morgan Miller; Base Poetics; Paranoiac-Critical Coyote).

I'm enlivened by encounters with night creatures in the city, though these are usually brief compared to the experience of the Trafalgar foxes. This brings to mind a possible future inquiry on human-animal relations within the city as experienced by surrealists. For my part a squirrel recently ran up to a friend and I while we were walking by a cafe, paused by our feet, then climbed on my knee as I knelt down. The squirrel made eye contact, then jumped on my shoulders for a few moments as I stood up, before calmly wandering down the other side of my body.

2) Insect sounds have given me hypnotic memories from childhood visits to my grandparents' backyard, where cicadas began their pulsing drone at dusk. I would find and sometimes collect their pristine, translucent shells, left clinging to the bark, when I climbed trees.


Monastery Bulletin: What's that squeaky sound? You got a pet mouse in your pocket or something?

Evan Parker: No, it's the woodwork, the bench...

(The next minute of the recording is drowned out by the noise of the coffee machines being cleaned with high pressure vapor.)

MB: Are this kind of sounds especially interesting to you as a musician, daily life sounds?

EP: Oh, I think I've got an ear for - maybe a bird sound, or some mysterious sound in the middle of the night. Maybe foxes. We have foxes, a lot of foxes, even in the city, because of all of those little gardens and cemeteries, the foxes find it easier to live in the city now than in the country.

MB: Maybe because there's no fox hunting in the city! We had a very close encounter with a fox at three in the morning on Trafalgar Square...

EP: They've moved in. And they're very relaxed, and more and more cool now. More at night of course than in the daytime. But you see them in the daytime sometimes. The later in the night, the more confident they become. It's like they're asking you: what are you doing up at this time? This is our time! And they stand there, they don't run away anymore. (The squeaking sound catches our attention again. Evan shifts back and forth to get some more signal.) Yeah, you're right, it's coming from here. Nice little squeaks.

MB: Sounds more like a cricket now... Do you feel a kinship with the music of insects? Some of your records have been favorably compared to insect twitterings.

EP: There's fantastic recordings from this French guy, Jean Roché, and he's for years been making recordings of bird songs from all over the world, but also sometimes insects. So there's some very good records of cicadas and crickets and... This guy started in the age of LPs, and he had various series. So some of them were edited like concerts. Some were more like classic species identification, so each track was to identify a particular species - or a survey of a particular region. And then when he liked a particular individual bird, then he would make an EP and say: this bird is a virtuoso and must be featured as an individual, this is beyond the generic or the species type, this is an individual bird with a very special - so he did a very interesting series of records, and gradually they're being transferred to CD. And also now he has younger people working, making new recordings with digital recording. It's a lot easier to do now than in the old days, going to the jungle with an analogue tape recorder.

* The longer interview this excerpt came from can be found here, under the sub-title 'Shopping with Evan Parker.'


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