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True Fictions : New Adventures in Folklore

by The Light Surgeons

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    True Fictions: New Adventures in Folklore is a limited edition double vinyl record of audio of a seminal live cinema performance project by one of the UK’s leading audiovisual artists The Light Surgeons.

    This landmark cross-disciplinary art project brought into being a truly original collection of tracks that stand up in their own right as beautiful and beguiling works of sonic art, seamlessly blending gonzo journalism, storytelling and music production in new and unexpected ways. The 12 original tracks on the two records weave together spoken word with a range of musical genres. Each track reflects a collection of people’s stories and opinions that are collaged together and accompanied by an original musical score; each gathering a collection of voices from across the state of New York to explore the post 911 psychological landscape through different individual notions of truth and myth.

    This musical score was generated through a series of recording sessions with a group of New York based musicians who responded to each other’s improvisations by way of a sonic game of ‘Exquisite Corpse’. The multi-track recordings were remixed back in the UK by The Light Surgeons and formed into the eclectic mix of tracks that you can hear on this limited vinyl release. Their concept was to generate a kind of musical myth or rumor that either reflected or challenged the different spoken narratives that the project unearthed. During these recording sessions, the musicians were also filmed and brought together across multiple screens in their live performances to form a sort of virtual video band. Images from the video from these recording sessions adorn the cover of the deluxe sleeve artwork, alongside stage plans and pictures from the many live performances.

    This groundbreaking piece of live cinema has toured extensively internationally as an immersive live audiovisual spectacle; fusing documentary filmmaking, live and electronic music with animation and motion graphics that together create an altogether new type of multi-media experience. The project originally developed out of a year long digital performance arts commission by EMPAC, The Experimental Media and Performing Arts Centre in Troy, New York, with support from The Jaffe Fund for Experimental Media and Performing Arts. True Fictions was EMPAC’s very first international arts commission and since its premiere in September 2007, it has been presented at many arts festivals internationally, including The Great Hall in Manchester, the Teatro Degli Arcimboldi Milan, the Alameda Theatre in Seville, the BFI IMAX Cinema in London, the Brighton Pavilion Theatre, The Waterfront in Belfast, the Freeform Festival in Poland, the Microwave Festival in Hong-Kong and at Itau Cultural in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

    This is deluxe vinyl release is the first time the music and narrative audio as having been published.

    A BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF EACH TRACK:

    SIDE A:

    “MYTH IS CINEMA”

    The Record opens with a building vocal harmony from opera singer and long-time Philip Glass collaborator Marrie Mascari, and the box drum percussion of NYC percussionist Isabel Pupo Walker. This mix of ethereal vocals and raw percussion starts us on our sonic journey from the crowded streets of New York City, along the Hudson River towards the little industrial town of Troy, the home of EMPAC, and the home of Uncle Sam where the project was originally based. As we travel we hear a vocal montage of different statements taken from all of the different interviews recorded for the project. This collection of voices outlines the trajectory of this record’s investigation into truth, myth and the American way.

    “BLACK JACK DAVEY”

    The intro track slowly evolves and a new beat ushers in the sound of TV interference and the voice of a 1950’s chat show host who reflects on America’s values of “democracy”, “liberty” and “freedom”. He confronts us with the myth of the “old south” and the “happy acquiescent slave” as the track develops into a new rendition of the traditional folk song “Black Jack Davy”. This story dates back to at least 1720 and recounts a tale of a runaway gypsy who charms the unmarried daughter of his squire.

    This original folk song, sung by NYC collaborating vocalist Melanie Moser, is twisted further around America's dark history of slavery and racism with the inclusion of fragments of US President Barak Obama’s 2008 election victory speech. These now-iconic words of hope take on new meaning as we approach the end of his presidency. This reflects America’s long journey from independence to multicultural make-up today, but perhaps also asks us to consider the false hope and failed promises that this first black president brought with him. The track ends with a statement from MC Emski about the word “Nigger” and its inappropriate use in Hip-Hop. Again we are reminded of the power of the word and its imprint on our collective psychology.

    “LIVING THROUGH HISTORY”

    Taking its reference musically from the low slung jazzy blues of a David Lynch soundtrack, this piece further unravels the narrative investigation of the past. It brings together a collection of interviews with a group of historical re-enactors and explores the oral traditions of the Native American community as they debate their representation in this distorted social history of America.

    Their opposing perspectives provoke questions about the history of America and the actions of its founding fathers. The debate delves deeper into our collective understanding of how histories are formed and re-formed over time, opening a conversation that continues throughout the record between the differing perspectives of Native American and colonial American voices. The track concludes with a Tom Waits-inspired rendition of Yanky-Doodle-Dandy by singer Marrie Mascari that serves to remind us of the history of conflict at the root of this American identity.


    SIDE B:

    “TROY STORY”

    This track explores the various stories and myths surrounding the bearded idol and personification of the United States, Uncle Sam Wilson. The town of Troy, New York, has laid its claim as the “home of Uncle Sam” and its inhabitants tell us a detailed history of this internationally renowned figure who is widely considered to be a purely fictional character. The mythology of Uncle Sam unfolds through a collage of interviews with local people as they prepare for the annual Uncle Sam’s Day Parade.

    We hear of his transformation from a local butcher during the War of Independence, into a cartoon character through his use in military propaganda. The parade day is captured with all its pomp and ritual as the many different marching bands are intercut into a single audio montage, combined with the drums of NYC collaborating artist Brian Fishler and moody bass guitar notes of guitarist Robbie Seahag.

    “CRITICAL STATE”

    This track returns us to a Native American perspective on history and myth. It informs us of the gradual erosion of their spoken languages as native communities have become increasingly assimilated into mainstream American culture. Less and less young people are using their traditional spoken languages which were mainly oral and not written. This has left them on the edge of extinction and resulted in a crisis of their cultural identity.

    These Native voices explain their sense of marginalization through their confinement to their reservations. We hear of their current political struggles for land rites and the problems created by the advent of the native-owned Casinos. These have brought them wealth and helped them to raise money to fight lawsuits to try and reclaim their land, but they are also seen negatively as a ‘selling off of their culture and are counter to their traditions and beliefs. This is a controversial subject that provokes many positive and negative opinions that has a far-reaching effect on their communities.

    This collection of stories is married with a flowing vibraphone solo by NYC musician Sean McCall who is a celebrated subway musician in Manhattan and also a collaborator with the composer Philip Glass.

    “DREAMS FOR AMERICA”

    In this track, we are presented with a collection of personal statements or “American Dreams” by the people of Troy, New York. They provide us with a fractured mirror of hope that reflects American society. We are reminded that the concept of “a dream” in itself is an individualistic act of myth-making and we hear the same mantra of “freedom” repeated over and over again. These personal statements point us towards a shared idealism but also reveal a more sinister nationalism in light of the US’s ongoing “War on Terror”.

    This oral exploration of an American Dream is musically matched with an upbeat rhythmic double bass piece by NYC musician Tom Mayer and the optimistic tenor saxophone of Martha Hyde, together creating a dubbed out jazz track that could have featured on a more experimental episode of Sesame Street.


    SIDE C:

    “HOME OF THE BRAVE”

    This track is a version of the American national anthem sung by NYC performance artist and vocalist Adrienne Hecker with an electronic composition by UK audiovisual artist Malcolm Litson. It acts as a sonic gateway into this side’s focus on events in New York City and its troubled skyline. This track in the live show visually explores the nostalgia for New York’s iconic Twin Towers and the nation’s residual memories of 911 five years on.

    The lyrics in the Star-Spangled Banner come from “Defence of Fort McHenry”, a poem written in 1814 by the 35-year-old lawyer and amateur poet Francis Scott Key after witnessing the bombardment of Fort McHenry by British ships of the Royal Navy in the War of 1812. Here the narrative of the lyrics are twisted around the more recent events of 911 and America’s ill-fated War On Terror that followed. This modern telling of the song is reflected in the dark electronic mood scapes of Malcolm Litson’s track that is peppered with patriotic electric guitar from Paris-based musician Laurent Medelgi.

    “ORGANIZED LIES”

    This track introduces two polemical views on the events of 911 from the perspective of a pair of dueling street poets who were recorded at ground zero on the 5th anniversary of 911. Their lyrical battle revolves around two very different political views on the events that have unfolded since the attack on the World Trade Centre. The first put forward his critique of America’s rush to war after the tragic events of 911 and the convenient scapegoat of Osama Bin Laden who help them extend their war plans to Iraq. The second takes a more patriotic view of George Bush’s response to the attacks and calls for remembrance of the fallen heroes of 911.

    These two conflicting poems are accompanied by a military-inspired drum solo by NYC drummer Scotty Lehman and the spatial, psychedelic guitar riffs of Valerie Opielski and Laurent Medelgi.

    “TRUTH MOVEMENTS”

    This track weaves a tangled web of conspiracy theories and divergent views taken from interviews and public oratory at the 5th anniversary of 911. A complex set of arguments unravel to further question the real truth of 911, cutting between two main points of view - the protesters who believe it was really orchestrated by the government and want to re-investigate 911, and those who accept the mainstream view that it was the work of Osama Bin Laden and are bitterly opposed to the protesters’ intervention outside the memorial on this day of national mourning.

    The conversation flits from person to person as the exchange of opinions becomes increasingly passionate and emotional. Their heated arguments reveal how even contemporary events are fought over and continue to be manipulated for commercial and political motives on all sides of the political spectrum.

    This spider's web of tangled opinions is musically scored with a building vibraphone melody by musician Sean Mcall, the epic drums of Scotty Leham, and a driving Oud solo by Mavrothi Kontanis points a finger to the US response to these tragic events in the Middle East. Extra cinematic drama is brought in by the lush string arrangements by British composer and musician Mark McRae.

    SIDE D:

    “SEARCHING FOR SOMETHING”

    The final side of this album begins with a more philosophical debate about the relationship between myth and religion. The metaphorical aspect of religions is questioned as we hear a group of native American voices relate the story of the Peace Maker and its close correlation to the story of Jesus Christ. This Senica story is juxtaposed with another clan member’s perspective who is a born-again Christian and who refutes his native traditions of the Long House.

    This conversation on theology slowly begins to open up as we hear more peoples’ beliefs from a broad selection of different faiths. Muslims and Christians debate the connections between their faiths as the binary electronic math of the music hints at the more secular beliefs in science and technology.

    The track is carried by a beautiful Oud solo by NYC-based musician Mavrothi Kontanis and the lazy jazz drums of Brian Fishler, with an ambient electronic composition crafted by audiovisual artist Tim Cowie.

    “ON THE MARCH”

    This is an electro-folk song written and performed by New York folk singer Jo Williamson in response to an anti-war march through the streets of New York City in 2007 that marked the 4th anniversary of the start of the war in Iraq. Jo’s verses are broken by documentary collages of voices recorded on the march that recounts America’s rich history of protest and dissent. Collectively these voices are asking us to reconsider our individual powers to action change in a free and democratic country.

    This track is a reflection on America’s quest for freedom through its civil rights struggle and its deep history of protest. It optimistically asks us to reconsider the simple power of “the march” in a time of great apathy and growing distrust of the political system. Jo’s song continues a long tradition of folk pro- test songs and her acoustic guitar-driven melodies are given a modern twist with a dub-step influenced sound-scape composed by audiovisual artist Tim Cowie.

    “A NEW BEGINNING”

    For the final track, we return to the views of the Native Americans and their concerns for our environment. They collectively ask us to reflect on the consequences of our current path of consumption-driven individualism by highlighting the growing environmental issues that we face with “Global Warming”.

    They tell us how their land has changed, become polluted, and how this is affecting their culture and communities. They recount how these earth changes were prophesied in the teachings of their elders and warn us of what will transpire if we don’t reconsider our wasteful way of life.

    This cautionary conclusion to the record is reflected musically by the classical cello strings of NYC composer and musician Brent Arnold with the raucous jazz-fusion drums of Pat Rock. Amongst the interwoven narratives we catch soulful vocals of NYC soul singer Chanda Rule.


    -----

    The release is on NLS records on a set on 4 heavy weigh black vinyl discs
    The artwork features a spot varnish that reveals hidden icons and symbols on the cover and inside the gatefold

    ----

    NLS Records is a publisher of Visual Music. It seeks out unreleased musical works that are created by artists as part of wider media art projects. NLS is interested in producers creating music through digital production and transferring these ideas to an analog medium in the form of collectible vinyl.

    The label was set up by Hong Kong filmmaker Jimmy Howe, who has his roots in documentaries. He wanted to establish a space to share the music created by artists and designers that were coming at music from a different perspective and that can change the way we think of music.

    This is the second release on the label, the first record was a collection of music from U.K.-based visual artist Quayola’s critically acclaimed “Strata series” featuring work by world-renowned electronic musicians like Mira Calix, Autobam, Plaid and Matthias Kispert.

    More info:

    nnlr.net

    Includes unlimited streaming of True Fictions : New Adventures in Folklore via the free Bandcamp app, plus high-quality download in MP3, FLAC and more.
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On the March 05:30
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Blindsider 06:00

about

True Fictions : New Adventures in Folklore is a seminal live cinema performance project by one of the UK’s leading audio visual artists The Light Surgeons.

This landmark cross-disciplinary arts project brought into being a truly original collection of tracks that stand up in their own right as beautiful and beguiling works of sonic art, seamlessly blending documentary collage and music production in new and unexpected ways. The 12 original tracks on the two records weave together spoken word with a range of musical genres. Each track reflects a collection of people’s stories and opinions that are collaged together and accompanied by an original musical score; each gathering a collection of voices from across the state of New York to explore the post 911 psychological landscape through different individual’s notions of truth and myth.

This musical score was generated through a series of recording sessions with a group of New York based musicians who responded to each other’s improvisations by way of a sonic game of ‘Exquisite Corpse’. The multi-track recordings were remixed back in the UK by The Light Surgeons and formed into the eclectic mix of tracks that you can hear on this limited vinyl release. Their concept was to generate a kind of musical myth or rumour that either reflected or challenged the different spoken narratives that the project unearthed. During these recording sessions the musicians were also filmed, and brought together across multiple screens in their live performances to form a sort of virtual video band. Images from the video from these recording sessions adorn the cover of the deluxe sleeve artwork, along side stage plans and pictures from the many live performances.

This ground breaking piece of live cinema has toured extensively internationally as an immersive live audiovisual spectacle; fusing documentary film making, live and electronic music with animation and motion graphics that together create an altogether new type of multi-media experience. The project originally developed out of a year long digital performance arts commission by EMPAC, The Experimental Media and Performing Arts Centre in Troy, New York, with support from The Jaffe Fund for Experi- mental Media and Performing Arts. True Fictions was EMPAC’s very first international arts commission and since its premier in September 2007, it has been presented at many arts festivals internationally, in- cluding: The Great Hall in Manchester, the Teatro Degli Arcimboldi Milan, the Alameda Theatre in Seville, the BFI IMAX Cinema in London, the Brighton Pavilion Theatre, The Waterfront in Belfast, the Freeform Festival in Poland, the Microwave Festival in Hong-Kong and at Itau Cultural in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
This is the first time the music and narrative audio as have been published.

credits

released September 28, 2014

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The Light Surgeons London, UK

The Light Surgeons are a media arts studio based in East London run by filmmaker, creative producer, director and audio visual artist Christopher Thomas Allen.

The studio’s work crosses a diverse range of media and formats, from award winning
documentary films and animations, large scale installation projects to ground breaking live cinema performances.
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