Monday, February 7, 2011


Song: "The Horn, the Tortoise, the Bow, the Flintstone"
Artist: Walter Maioli and Luce Maioli
Search Term: "Paleolithic" [This song is from the album Art of Primitive Sound--Musical Instruments from Prehistory: The Paleolithic]

From what I can gather, Walter Maioli is an Italian researcher who specializes in the history of music and musical instruments, and who occasionally produces audio works using these ancient instruments. Along with Luce Maioli (whose relation to Walter is a mystery to me), he has brought together four instruments that were developed at some point during the Paleolithic Era, and captured their noises for our edification. I picture it as a historically accurate re-creation of that old Far Side panel where there's an orchestra full of Gary Larson's slope-browed cavemen, each readying a rock to bang on another rock, and the conductor's podium holds a piece of sheet music that consists of a single, giant note.

The result isn't particularly musical by modern standards: We hear what sounds like someone violently scraping the teeth of a comb in a misguided firemaking effort, then a few wooden strikes against some hollow implement (the titular tortoise shell?), and finally some rhythmic twanging that sounds like a giant rubber band or mouth harp, accompanied by proto-maracas. Without any liner notes to provide some context for this piece, I can only guess that the Maiolis are trying to approximate what music would have sounded like to the creators of these instruments hundreds of thousands of years ago--pure sound for the sake of sound, with no structure to it more complex than a rudimentary beat. It's very intriguing, and I'm sure any number of electronic artists would get a kick out of sampling these noises, but it's more an academic exercise than a composition.

Of course, I consider something like the Urinals' (almost literally) one-note punk blast "Ack Ack Ack Ack" a composition, and it's only slightly less primitive than this track, so I don't know that I could logically defend the place where I've drawn that line...

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