Blenders and Beatboxes

I was fortunate to be in London last week. Not only did I have a fantastic work week with Amnesty International, but I took a couple of days off for sight seeing and music experiences.

Working with Sam, Marco, and Nat from CivicActions was a wonderful experience. Every chance I get to work face to face with other CivicActions folks makes the work ever more enjoyable (and quite honestly more productive).

But enough about work. Let's talk about London. What amazed me, is that Ether09 started right as work finished up. What a line up! And although London is pricey, I found some free events which blew my socks off.

Blenders and Other Bits

Ujino and the Rotators were great. Band members include vinyl albums with pieces of colored pencil glued to them (the pencil pieces were about 1 cm tall and glued vertically, think player-piano), a blender, a sander, light bulbs, drills, and so on.

This could have been a painful experience. Using unexpected things as musical instruments or modifying a musical instrument to add dimension can lead to too much chaos. Not so for Ujino. He laid down some great rhythms making the experience toe-tapping and fun. In fact, he had the crowd giggling and clapping during the performance. Suffice it to say that having your blender make music and a drink at the same time really pleases a crowd. What a delight, and it's nice to see someone having fun with some truly experimental stuff.

When listening and experiencing live music of this sort of nature, it can be difficult to identify if it really is music. Maybe it's just chaos? Maybe it's just noise? Some of this is personal choice. You may choose to call some sounds mixed together music, but others may disagree.

My recent drumming class has opened my ears and understanding of percussion. It made listening to Ujino's music that much easier. I could easily pickup different percussive patterns that might have sounded mushy to me before. In addition, I felt that the songs had patterns and phases of a song. Maybe it's not like a rock and roll tune with verses and a repeated chorus, but more like a classicial piece with movements.

Another aspect that makes music 'music' is if it can change my emotional state. I listened to one crazy piece of electronic mayhem last fall at the University of Washington. The whole concert was great, and it was La Legende d’Eer [Diatope] for 7 channel tape by Iannis Xenakis which was beyond anything I had heard before.

Alright, this piece is absolutely hard to quantify as music from my point of view. It's all of these electronic noises, but we sat. Ane we listened. In the dark. I kept wanting to leave (some of it really was tortuous to hear), but I stayed. What's 40 minutes? What happened was that I faded in and out of states of annoyance and relaxed bliss, then amazingly a feeling of fear. And I wasn't the only one. I heard two UW students discussing it afterward. They had the same reaction at one point in the music...was it the same point? Hmmmm....

I don't find myself want to heard this sort of music again, but I still enjoy the experience of it. To see how music plays with the mind. I wonder what sort of chemical processes occur because of the music you hear.


All I can tell you is that this group was having a very good time. BoxCon was a series of workshops, competition, and performances of local (I think) Beatbox artists. It was happening at the same time as Ujino, so I didn't arrive until they were nearing the end of the event. Everyone who had been performibng that day was on the stage. Maybe 30 people. They had five microphones, and they sort of switched around with everyone improvising their beats and um, I don't know how to you say this, but will go with 'beating' together. Again after a couple months of drum class, this totally qualifies as music for me. You can download a short clip to hear the chaos. It was 98% men, but I saw a few women out there. Way to go, grrls!
What's even better is that these folks are so clearly addicted. The event ended, and as I waited for a friend to join me, I found a group of 5 guys. They stood in a tight circle with one guy rapping and the others beat boxing. You can download a short clip to hear the sweetness. It's not perfect, but they were one happy group of people who didn't mind a geeky girl hanging near by with digital recorder bobbing her head.

Um...hello...copyright. Please don't reuse these mp3 files without talking with me first. Link to this page instead.

boxcon.mp3752.72 KB
5guys_boxcon.mp31.01 MB