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[F_MINOR] GG: Solitude Trilogy Question

Hello, Fm list. Newbie here, chiming in with some non-GG,  post-Idea of
North examples of the contrapuntal voice concept. [Warning: newbie post,
may include content previously talked into the ground long before the
newbie's arrival...] The two that come immediately to mind:

--the early films of Robert Altman, where the sound design often
included background conversations at near-equal volume levels to the
ostensibly main dialogue. Altman's purpose was to counterpoint the main
characters' dialogue with all the rest of the related or unrelated
conversation and other sound that surrounds us when we are in public
places (think the diner sequence in "Thirty-two Short Films," only
played w/GG doing an interview that would sit just a bit higher in the
mix than the surrounding conversation (+ Pet Clark) that GG is tuning
in). An example would be "The Long Goodbye," a problematic movie that
uses the contrapuntal voice notion in various scenes. "Nashville" and
"M*A*S*H" may also make use of the idea but "Long Goodbye" is the one I
definitely remember.

--the early recordings of the Firesign Theatre. Especially their
masterpiece "Don't Crush That Dwarf, Hand Me the Pliers." The four
maniacally verbal satirist-performers (now appearing regularly on
National Public Radio) used 8 and 16 track technology to weave
multitudes of different voices into dense tapestries of sound, with
further complication and layering added via incessant Joycean wordplay.
On first listening to these LPs (use was usually made of the A side/B
side structure, remember that if hearing CD reissues) people often
report disorientation, confusion, and difficulty in keeping up with the
multiple overlapping identities and narratives--like Kate Clunies-Ross
first hearing the intro to Idea of North on BBC3. Repeated listenings
gradually resolve some mysteries but always reveal new connections and
possibilities for interpretation. Firesign were quite up front about
their wish to expand on the near-extinct (in the USA) experience of
spoken-word radio, and for a while in the early '70s created a
syndicated radio series. The genre having gone the way of the passenger
pigeon in late '60s America, Firesign made LPs instead.

The trouble is, does it actually _work_? [Kate]

With the above two situations and with the denser GG contrapuntal voice
exercises, I find that the technique works for me in more than one way.
Sometimes the density/overlap leads me to loosen my insistence on
left-hemisphere-style meaning and take in the voices as sound, composed,
arranged and performed like chamber music. "Turn off your mind, relax
and float downstream..." Other times it's more interesting to try to
follow specific voices through the mix, attending to what is being said
more than the sound of what is being said, and enjoying the way the
words of one voice relate to those of another.

Of course, I have an advantage over Kate and thousands of others who
first encountered Gouldian contrapuntal voice works as radio programming
(or Altman movies in first-run theaters or Firesign Theater selections
on old-school "underground" FM or LPs). On CD or DVD I can repeat a
difficult passage--and/or entire works--as often until I finally feel
like I've plumbed it. I am hard put to imagine what the original CBC
audiences up there in Port Chillikoot made of GG's work on first,
evanescent, hearing. I seem to recall reading that a common reaction was
a sense of malfunction--people thought their radios were going on the
fritz or that multple stations were clashing signals (like when you're
driving out of one radio station's range and into that of another of the
same or nearby frequency).

One reason I'm perpetually fascinated by GG is that his work connects
with so many other things and that the larger world in turn seems to
consistently lead me back to GG's work....


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