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Thursday, June 1, 2017

Marcel Duchamp - "The Entire Musical Work of Marcel Duchamp" Vinyl, LP, UK (Song Cycle Records)


To call Marcel Duchamp the most important or greatest artist of the 20th century seems too small of a credit.  Perhaps one of the great philosophers?  Nevertheless, his stamp on culture and thinking is a remarkable aspect of Duchamp's genius.  For sure, he thought conceptually, where work is important as a visual, but also the thinking of such artwork.  Duchamp approached music the way he approached his art - he thought it out like it was a game.  Everyone knows that chess was just as important (if not more than) as art.  The music he "wrote" are based on the individual who follows his score.  Of course, Duchamp was Fluxus before there was Fluxus.  But those artists basically took the Duchamp method and used it for their own works.  And that's a good thing that happened!

Side one is (hold on to your breath) "LA MARIEE MISE A NU PAR SES ELIBATAIRES, MEME. ERRATUM MUSICAL" (1913) is 25 minutes long and very ambient.  To me, it's a dialogue between the alto flute, trombone, celeste, and glockenspiel.  The intensity of the piece is each instrument either acknowledges the other one, or it sounds like a gentle chase among them.  A chase where the results don't happen in an obvious way.  There is another version of this music piece that is done by a player piano realized by Duchamp.  Not surprisingly the work reminds me of Erik Satie's "Vexations." The Satie piece is made for the background of a room, literally furniture music, but Duchamp's piece is more urgent and demanding.  

"Erratum Musical" (1913) is a vocal piece where each note is picked out of a hat.  The voices are Duchamp and his two sisters. Not on this record mind you, but in the original conception.  "Musical Sculpture" is mysterious.  The liner notes state that this is an "undated, unspecified piece." The sounds here are a toy music box, a horn, and a hum, but that maybe caused by my stereo system.  It's a sweet ending to a very wonderful album. 

The music on this album is played by Petr Kotik and S.E.M. Ensemble in 1976.  Limited edition of 500 copies.