One of my more embarrassing radio moments came in the early 1990s, as I began to develop an interest in the history of experimental music. Not having paid sufficient attention in French class, I was forever mispronouncing words containing the language’s various accents: l’accent aigu, l’accent grave, etc. This meant that the enthusiasm with which I shared examples of musique concrète was unfortunately tempered (albeit in hindsight) by the eventual realization that those recordings had nothing to do with sidewalks.
Until now. Hamilton, Ontario-based artist Mike Hansen has produced a superb collection of four acousmatic pieces based on solo instrument performances: drums, piano, slide guitar and trombone. The recordings have each been manipulated digitally.
Each is pressed on a 10-inch, thin slab of water, aggregate and Portland cement. Paradox is equal parts audio and visual art. It is brilliant, both in its conception and execution.
The five-disc set also includes a vinyl collection of the four pieces together. “Paradox examines the experimentation processes of musique concréte musically and literally through the casting of records with a fine high-tensile cement to create a playable record that reflects the spatialized sounds imbedded on it,” according to the notes.
Hansen says that his work is dedicated to understanding “perceived notions of what/how a sound object should appear or perform, through objects, sculptures and installations.” There is a mix of sincerity and curiosity in his work that very much reflects him personally.
I’ve always imagined Hansen making his art with a smile on his face. That’s clearly unrealistic, but having known the man more than 30 years I can hear and see his enthusiasm in everything he produces.
Paradox is available as a digital download. Ten copies of the concrete discs have been produced for sale.