Chris Cutler
Twice Around The Earth


As soon as I heard of a new Chris Cutler solo album I immediately hoped for a follow-up to the (criminally underappreciated) Solo CD that came out about three years ago, which presented a rich and complex - but never intimidating - sonic exploration of his electrified drumset. But no, Twice Around The Earth is a totally different animal, one that in a way derives from a project I had totally forgotten about: Out Of The Blue Radio.
To put it in a nutshell (the CD booklet explaining it all in full detail), Cutler asked many people from all over the world to record half an hour of continuous sounds of their choice happening between 23:30 and Midnight, London time. These were later broadcast on Resonance FM. Having been asked by ORF Kunstradio, Austria, to produce a "best of", Cutler chose instead to create a sound collage selecting some items by random procedure, then carefully editing and crossfading them by ear.
This is what makes the first piece on the CD, Twice Around The Earth. A somewhat similar rationale - and procedure - is at the basis of the other long track, Blue Winter. While the track in the middle, Lux, works as an interlude of some sort.
Here I'll have to confess that I'm quite unable to get the point of this CD. I mean, the theoretical point is pretty clear. To quote from the booklet: "What the radio programme and these compositions share (...) is the belief that sound, if taken as it comes and adequately framed, will always engender structure, interest and meaning". And later: "The result begins to say something about hearing and listening; about what is musical and what might be musical and, of course, about the unbidden work of the brain: ceaselessly searching out patterns and coincidences". And: "I guarantee the more you listen the more structure and meaning will emerge".
This is all pretty clear. What isn't clear to me is the reason why I'm supposed to listen to this stuff - except for the fact that this is a Chris Cutler CD (this being for me the only sense in which the sounds that appear on the CD are "adequately framed"). Of course, the more I listened the more structure and meaning emerged. But of a banal, almost-random kind. In fact, the whole sounded just like some random snippets that somebody had edited/crossfaded with great care - which is exactly what it is. I know that the CD is subtitled "An experiment in listening", and I've read a few articles - most of them dealing with the process of vision - where similar connections are explored. But isn't all this more appropriate to a laboratory than to a record shop? (I don't want to even start thinking about the - ahem - commercial implications entailed by this kind of attitude.)
On one of the pieces on the album we can hear Street Fighting Man by the Rolling Stones. This reminded me of a time when I wondered about many of the ambiguous sounds appearing on that track - especially the (electric?) guitar. But I thought about it because I liked that track and was intrigued by those sounds - not as an exercise in whatever. (And I hope not to hear the recurring piano motif that appears in Lux anymore in my whole life.)

Beppe Colli

© Beppe Colli 2005 | April 12, 2005