Creel Pone: Set your mind free and your body will follow.

According to Simon Reynolds (Writer for The Wire) Creel Pone is a mystery project that started around 2005. To the uninitiated music lover, but serious art lover, this project struck me as beautiful and exciting. For all I know, music lovers do this sort of thing all the time. UP until recently, I was a conservative music listener. I’ve had my eyes (ears) opened by someone to whom I owe a great debt since then, and I have discovered fans will do all sorts of things in the name of love for the music they love, in the spirit of never seeing the music die.

Creel Pone is one of these projects.

Music started to ‘appear’ on New Release lists of certain very left field music distributors and ‘materialise’ on the shelves of certain music stores. This would shock the owners who hadn’t remembered purchasing the music. The discs were not stored in the traditional cardboard or plastic packets we are used to seeing CD’s packaged in. They were in thin card sleeves surrounded by plastic glad wrap (shrink wrap the Americans call it). Each one included a Deutsche Grammophon-style gold seal.  This seal announced what has since become a legend. The legend proclaimed the series’ name, its mission, and its means of production: CREEL PONE — Unheralded Classics of Electronic Music – 1952-1984 — 100 – Hand Assembled.

Look at what Reynolds has to say here about the production:

“Eye-catching and intrigue-piquing, the covers were immaculate replicas of the sleeves of musique concrete and electronic records from that post-WW2 surge into the sonic unknown. They reproduced in miniature not just the original artwork but also–to take just one example, Andre Almuro’s Musiques Experimentales–the six differently sized circles cut out of the front cover as spy-holes to a garishly psychotropic inner sleeve. Any liner note booklets or textual matter accompanying the original LP was likewise meticulously reproduced, and each CD-R was printed with the label of its source recording in vivid color. Great pains had clearly been taken to provide the purchaser with as close as possible to the sensation of having ‘n’ holding an original vinyl copy. But the retail price these avant-bootlegs went for–around ten dollars– suggested a labour of love rather than an exploitative exercise in niche marketing. These were gifts for fans, made by fans.”

Out of no where, a series of CD’s start to turn up on the doorsteps of record labels and distributing bookshops that, not only have copies of the original recordings of almost out of print experimental music from the 1960’s and 1970’s, but include beautiful copies of the original art work and the inner sleeves. Imagine how exciting this must have been to the people who were receiving the original discs?

All these reissues, despite being quaint and complete well done, were unsanctioned and unofficial reproductions. Naturally, as the news spread, people wanted to know who this was and why this was happening. it was first assumed a gentleman collector from Iceland might be behind the drama of the situation. Despite the romance of this idea, it was soon revealed to be a myth.

It turned out,  At the hub of this curatorial cabal, lurked the experimental musician Keith Fullerton Whitman, who also runs the Cambridge, Massachusetts-based weird-music distributor Mimaroglu Music Sales. The Creel Pone project came to a halt in the late summer of 2009 with the 99th instalment, Reinhold Weber’s Elektronische und phonetische Kompositione (the “100” in the gold seal referred both to the plan to put out one hundred immaculate releases and to the approximate number of copies of each reissue made). Creel Pone may reactivate at some point, but, according to Whitman, it has most likely reached its “natural end”.

I don’t have access to any of the original cd’s, however I DO have access to the original list (1-99) on MP3 download here. 

I have spent the last week listening to the first 15 recordings on this list, and I have decided to write about this amazing music. I can’t explain the delight and pleasure it has been to immerse myself in this stunning work. Once I started to listen to the works, the thrilling story of the Creel Pone project began to make perfect sense. Of course someone would do anything to preserve this music and then see it filtered into the distribution channels that would understand it. Experimental music has value moving beyond the feel good factory music of our regular listening world.  This is music made by artists. People who wanted to sound-qualify philosophy and science and who knew the world around them was changing. The music calls deep within to ask you to reconsider your relationship to sound. It aims to transform you, and it wants you to accept the challenge.

I have accepted the challenge this week, and I allowed this incredibly sound experience to change me forever. I hope it does the same for you.

1. Thomas Hamilton – Pieces for Kohn (1976)

What you are listening to here is one of four pieces Tom Hamilton wrote for / to four paintings completed by Bill Kohn.

Thomas Hamilton is the director of the washington university electronic music/recording studio. he was born in 1946 and received early musical training from Thelma Taglin and Thom Davis mason. He attended the university of Wisconsin and studied there with John Downey. He holds an m.a. from washington university and studied composition with Robert Wykes.

Bill Kohn is a painter and printmaker who teaches at the washington university school
of fine arts. the original tapes were performed at the opening of bill kohn’s exhibit at the Terry
Moore gallery in St. Louis, in january, 1976. the recording was supported by a research grant from washington university. Bill Schulenburg assisted the re-mix and did the mastering.

As a new listener to this music I was mostly excited by its response to the art it was partnering. I was able to find images of all for paintings and sink myself into the images that accompanied the music. After that, there was nothing but the guidance of my body and my responses to the creative stimuli.

What I found was a minor addiction. I felt confronted initially (you go through all that ‘itchy-leg restlessness’) then when you realise what you resist persists, you  have a wonderful experience of letting go and becoming one with the works. I know how wanky that sounds, but its a heady experience no matter how many other fools have tried to explain it before this one. Give yourself over to it.

2. Pierre Henry – Mise en musique du corticalart de roger lafosse (1971)

Pierre Henry (born December 9, 1927 in Paris, France) is a French composer, considered a pioneer of the musique concrète genre of electronic music.

Between 1949 and 1958, Henry worked at the Club d’Essai studio at RTF, founded by Pierre Schaeffer. During this period, he wrote the 1950 piece Symphonie pour un homme seul, in cooperation with Schaeffer; he also composed the first musique concrète to appear in a commercial film, the 1952 short film Astrologie ou le miroir de la vie. Henry has scored numerous additional films and ballets. Among Henry’s best known works is the experimental 1967 album Messe pour le temps présent, one of several cooperations with choreographer Maurice Béjart featuring the popular track “Psyché Rock.” In 1970 Henry collaborated with British rock band Spooky Tooth on the album Ceremony.

One of Henry’s best-known influences on contemporary popular culture is to the theme song of the TV series Futurama. The tune is inspired by Henry’s 1967 composition “Psyché Rock.

The importance of what you are listening to here has a great deal to do with the emergence of Musique Concrete in France in the 1950’s.  A sound war was being waged at this time between this music in France and the experimental electronica coming out of germany particularly through Herbert Eimert (discussed below). From what I can gather, the ‘issues’ tended to be with the Germans (when have they not been?) and their perception of events.  Again, the way to enjoy this is to ‘hear’ it. Let it take you over. I find, after I release resistance, this is soothing. After that I had my own small transcendence (if you belive in that experience at all) once I let the music into me. This is a little more unsettling than the perky sounds of Hamilton above, but it is an experience that can reach into deep enough to find fresh, if you let it.

3. Hungarian electronic music (1968-1976)

(God I really love this stuff)

The next on the list (don’t forget we have 99 of these incredible downloads to explore) is a collection of Hungarian electronic music taken (it seems at random) from the years 1968 to 1976. I’ve listed Zoltan Pongracz above but this ‘various artists’ collection includes incredible names such as Ivan Patachich, Mate Victor and Peter Winkler as well as others.

I found while listening to this series of works, I had to suspend my desire for the critical judgment of context. Initially, I wanted to take these sounds and recognise their time and place in history as if somehow the music is ‘dated’ and needs context to survive. My mind changed on this issue when I read a great article on the Theatre de la cruaut blog, preaching the inclusion of this sort of music and including its limitations, not as a place in which it is contextualize, but as part of the pleasure of the listening experience itself. Seeking to add its own history to the listening experience as if it were part of the music itself.

I am new to this sort of listening and I found this idea very exciting. If we insist on experience music as a kind of nostalgia – as if context creates or enhances value – then we fall prey to (what is described in the blog piece ) ‘the fast moving consumption of capitalism.’  Any student of Ancient History knows your first lesson is that nostalgia is patronizing. In the case of this music – context means nothing. These albums are works of brilliance that stand any ‘test’ of time (whatever that may truly be). Everything that has gone before us is there to inform and feed us. not provide a platform for the next new thing.

4. Herbert Eimert.  Epitaph für aikichi kuboyama (1963)

The fact that this is the first artists I have listed that is easily accessible on ‘youtube’ is evidence enough of the importance of this man on the world of electronic music – indeed all music. Eimert, after an illustrious beginning in academia directed a studio for electronic music out of Cologne radio that became the most influential studio in the world during the 1950’s and the 1960’s.

It is Eimert that I mentioned above as being most pitted against the musique concrete emerging at the same time in france. this primary difference in these two styles is one of philosophy nd can almost be traced to a theoretical divide. Eimert read with Max Scheler, and was a phenomenologist as far as I can deduce from the readings I have done. one of the most exciting things I have ever done musically is to listen to the two creel pone offerings of these great geniuses and see if I can pick the philosophical difference between the two. It’s not obvious at first, but give it a go.  there is lots of reading available on the web on Eimert and henry, so there is no shortage of facts to steer you.

That’s enough excitement for one day.

I will post one of these weekly as a little musical brain food.