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FRITH, FRED: The Technology of Tears
With an all-star line-up that features Tenko, John Zorn and Christian Marclay (with guest Jim Staley on trombone), Technology of Tears started life in New York in 1986 as a dance commission by Rosalind Newman. Fred took this opportunity to experiment with Henry Kaiser's brand new synclavier (the absolute state-of-the-art sampling and processing technology of the time - Henry had to take out a second mortgage on his house to buy it). It was the sophisticated sampling that fascinated Fred, and the piece is characterised by technological "comparisons" between real and virtual voices which constantly merge into one another. Tenko and Zorn tear through it all with breathless intensity. Parts two and three, which follow, couldn't be more different, for them Fred adopts a completely different methodology, playing everything himself mostly on low-grade instruments, then inviting turntablist Marclay to add plundered parts. Here is a completely different approach to "sampling": exploring dense layers of quotation intercut with melodies formed using random editing processes (with subsequent transcription and re-performance). Lastly there is Jigsaw, a later work, also made for Rosalind Newman, reflecting the frustrations experienced making Technology... where, every time Fred would complete a stable version, Rosalind would ask for changes (incidentally, sending the recording way over budget). This time Fred decided to make a modular piece that could be re-assembled in any way requested - and having no pre-determined structure at all. The original composition consisted of dozens of musical cells, each recorded separately in increments of between 3 and 12 measures; all at the same tempo, and in the same key. The idea was to play the elements separately and then ask Rosalind how she would like them constructed. Ironically, the test assembly, made as demonstration of what was possible, won instant approval, and no reconstruction was ever necessary.