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Primer, Part 2

So, I started free-associating. Much of the Muzak of my childhood involved wordless chorus, “doos” and “dahs”. I collected wordless Scat solos from the 1950s and 1960s (a period whose orchestrations are associated with Muzak). And I started collecting radio sounds—top-40—as well as songs about time, songs used for work and Wagner. (Wagner’s Ring Cycle, is filled with wordless vocalises, like Muzak, and the plot pivots around the building of things—such as the industrial anvil chorus, or the erection then destruction of Valhalla).

Listen to this one sample in Time and Motion Study:

Why use this? It’s wordless, and it sounds casual, sedated, lackadaisical. It outlines a major seventh chord, which I associate with hazy Muzak arrangements. And it sounds like what one might sing while working.

Here, the sample connects phrases from other familiar pieces in a slow, sedated vocal quartet:

What’s happening visually? Here, two men sit at desks in a factory-like setting; one sticks a knife in a brick, the other takes it out. Another two men act as an assembly line, transporting the brick back and forth.

Over the course of a piece, I might reuse a sample in many different ways. For example, in the following scene, eight people are busy constructing a brick wall. When their task is interrupted by others (someone sings a Wagner aria, someone shouts “touch me!”), the sample serves to calm things down—and get everyone back to work.

That’s it for now. There is more information about Time and Motion Study here.

You can also find more background information and interviews in the News and Press section.