Audiophiles unite!

The New England Phonographers Union + the BSC
By SUSANNA BOLLE  |  August 19, 2008

The BSC's Bhob Rainey

This Tuesday marks the debut of the NEW ENGLAND PHONOGRAPHERS UNION, a loose confederation of sound artists and field recordists who work with untreated and unprocessed recordings of the rich and varied sounds around them. The hum of an electrical appliance, the whip and whistle of wind, chattering voices, the clang of machinery, and a host of ostensibly non-musical noises are all grist for the phonographers’ mill.

The project is modeled after the Seattle Phonographers Union, which was founded in 2002 and has spawned like-minded groups in New York, Chicago, London, and Montreal. Local Union organizer Ernst Karel says the first half of this first concert by the New England chapter will have various Union members performing short sets, with each piece flowing uninterrupted into the next. (He likens this to “a sequence of phonographic solos.”) In the second half, the phonographers will undertake a collaborative improvisation, selecting, cross-referencing, and mixing sounds from their individual collections.

Whereas their instruments are for the most part traditional, the BSC make music that is by no means run-of-the-mill. The line-up includes some of Boston’s most innovative electro-acoustic improvisers: BHOB RAINEY (soprano sax), GREG KELLEY (trumpet), JAMES COLEMAN (theremin), CHRIS COOPER (prepared guitar), HOWARD STELZER (tapes), VIC RAWLINGS (cello, electronics), MIKE BULLOCK (contrabass), and LIZ TONNE (voice). Large improvisatory ensembles are often ungainly creatures, but the BSC play with uncommon subtlety and cohesiveness. And though the music can be breathtakingly quiet, that doesn’t mean it isn’t intense. For their concert this Tuesday at the Piano Craft Guild, the group, lacking Bullock and Tonne, will be a lean, mean, streamlined sextet.

THE NEW ENGLAND PHONOGRAPHERS UNION | Mobius, 725 Harrison Ave, Boston | August 23 at 8 pm | $5-10 | 617.638.0020 | THE BSC + OPHIBRE | Piano Craft Guild, 791 Tremont St, Boston | August 26 at 8 pm | $5-10 |

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