The Lust Branch

by Monolith

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released July 5, 2013

Percy Grainger was many things: child prodigy, piano virtuoso, one of the first 20th century pop stars, collector of folk songs, sado-masochist (as this CD’s title and cover photo allude to), and composer. He was also a pioneer of experimental music, conducting numerous experiments with custom-built instruments to achieve his vision of ‘Free Music’; a music liberated from the restraints of the tempered scale and traditional harmony. Grainger envisaged a ‘gliding tone’, where a continuous sound would move by microtonal increments from one note to another. He worked with Leon Theremin in the 1930s, then collaborated with engineer, Burnett Cross, in the late 1940s/early 1950s to create instruments purpose-built to achieve this aim.

Monolith has taken a 1951 recording* of one of Grainger’s Free Music experiments (created using a modified reed organ microtonally tuned to 48 tones per octave equal temperament, reading hand-cut paper rolls pianola-style), originally only two minutes in length, and stretched it out to just over an hour, allowing us to explore the deep microtonal worlds between notes that Grainger sought to reveal.

Grainger’s Free Music experiments were in some ways a glorious failure, for little came of his experiments in his lifetime. For a time, he worked on his project at the University of Melbourne, walking distance from where the CSIRAC computer project (that produced one of the first pieces of computer music ever) was based, yet the paths of these two projects of musical innovation did not cross. We can only wonder what Grainger could have done with CSIRAC, but Monolith shows with The Lust Branch that Grainger’s innovation is as relevant as ever in 21st century experimental music.

Clinton Green
2012

*Percy Grainger ’Free Music (Reed Box - Top and Bottom Ranks – Thick)’, available on Artefacts of Australian Experimental Music: 1930-1973 CD, Shame File Music, 2007 (sham050).

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ICEAGE PRODUCTIONS Australia

Australian label specialising in electronic, experimental, noise, drone and industrial music from all over the globe.

Iceage has released music by Arthur Cantrill, Primitive Calculators, Robin Fox, Bonnie Mercer, Ollie Olsen, Ernie Althoff, Mad Nanna, Shane Fahey, Matthew Brown and Sean Baxter amongst others.
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