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June '01

"69PLUNDERPHONICS96" finally was released on May 22nd by Seeland, who stole it from Oswald's label Fony (more details elsewhere at this site). Seeland's distributor sold out the first pressing in two days.

In June Oswald's score "The Idea of This" with the National Ballet's "A Disembodied Voice" was presented at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa.

The summer and fall orchestral premieres were successful. Oswald made a fall trip to Brataslava, performing with local composer/musicians and Otomo Yoshihide. During the winter he composed a new plunderphonic/orchestral work, "Concerto for Conductor and Orchestra", which premiered at Boston Symphony Hall in May.

A couple of improvised music albums also came out in May. One is "Bloor", on the CIMP label, on which bassist Dominic Duvall has assembled with Oswald and his violinist cohort David Prentice. The other is a 3-CD document of the May 22nd, 2000 concert mentioned in the previous update. A third impovised music album, with Fred Frith and Anne Bourne is pending on the Spool label. None of these albums are produced by Oswald, and don't feature the meta-editing he has used on some previous albums of improvised music (most recently "aCCoMpliCes", and "Acoustics", both also on the Victo label).

Other, more or less random speaking or playing performances during the year found Oswald in Baltimore, Milan, and Sardinia. His next outing will be to St. Petersburg, in August.

June '00

The finishing touches are being applied to the new Plunderphonics box set, tentatively entitled "69/96" (the title design has these numbers represented by quote marks (or paisleys), with a tentative (everything is still tentative) release date on Hallowe'en of this year, 2000. The final preparation for this package languished while the Mystery Lab crew completed a bevy of other interesting projects.

Oswald presented a new half hour long recording in one of two concerts featuring his work at the Rien a Voir festival in Montreal in February. The piece had a French title "Jeus" which turns out to not mean anything in French, but Oswald says this is not the final title for the work, which consists entirely of morphing permutations of one pitch.

The "Moving Stills" project continues. The first public manifestation was "Janead O'Jakriel" which was displayed on a plasma screen as part of the Sonic Boom exhibit at the Hayward Gallery in London England last Spring. An image very gradually and imperceptibly transforms between likenesses of Janet Jackson, Peter Gabriel and other pop music stars. The piece has been sold as a deeded gift to the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. An accompanying audio component entitled "Jackoscan", which was an abstracted press conference statement by Michael Jackson, was also exhibited.

During the Spring, the team of Oswald and Phil Strong completed their work on Stress which is a 40 minute movie presented by 8 synchronized DVDs on 8 twenty foot high screens, with a 14 channel soundtrack distributed over a variety of specially designed loudspeakers, including the sub woofer couch, heaven horns, and speaker hats. This piece plays on the hour through the summer in a cavernous room at the MAK (museum of technology) in Vienna.

On his way back from Europe, Oswald made a surprise appearance at the Victo International Festival on May 22nd, performing a solo on a borrowed saxophone and a duet with pianist Paul Plimley as the warm up act to Cecil Taylor solo.

Meanwhile, Oswald has composed two new orchestral plunderphonic works, both of which will be presented in Vancouver Canada this summer. "Oswald's First Piano Concerto By Tchaikovsky, as suggested by Michael Snow" will be played by the CBC orchestra with soloist Paul Plimley on July 2nd. The premise is a completely improvised piano part replacing the original score, which the orchestra plays straight.

And, on September 22nd, the Vancouver New Music Society will present "idyllily" for strings. This piece was co-composed with Martin Arnold, Marc Sabat, and Richard Wagner.

November '99

Oswald spent the early summer months preparing a score for a new work by the National Ballet of Canada for a piece which has eventually been entitled "A Disembodied Voice". The work was commissioned by NBC artistic director James Kudelka, who choreographed it (on a set by Attila Richard Lukacs). There are several plunderphonic elements which kept mLab associates busy through the spring and summer.

Meanwhile a recording production company entitled opropo was formed in affiliation with mLab and plunderphonica, and its first task was to seek out licensing agreements from various sources for all of the tracks from the banned plunderphonic CD. The plan was to rerelease this material in the usual music business sort of way on Hallowe'en of 1999, the tenth anniversary of the first plunderphonic CD release in 1989.

The new release will not be a strict rerelease of the original CD. It is an historical perspective of plunderphonics from 1969 to 1996 with a total of about 64 tracks in an illustrated and heavily notated box set, which will include all the tracks from the original CD in revised, remixed, remastered or alternative versions. It will not replace and hopefully it will not be considered to compete with the clones and copies of the original which are available through various novel distribution channels (check under the U at this site).

Opropo continues to pursue licensing of plunderphonic tracks, which is proving to be an interesting and informative adventure all of its own; but as a result of difficulties, thumb-twiddling, intimidating financial negotiations, and some obstinacy, a release date cannot be scheduled at this time.

Happy anniversary plunderphonic!

In other news:

Oswald appeared with the improvising band CCMC (which continues to play most Tuesdays at the Music Gallery in Toronto) in October at the Austin Texas Experimental Film Festival where several of band-member Mike Snow's films were being shown. Oswald's other improvising band, Double Wind Cello Trios, will make a rare appearance next summer, at the Newfoundland Sound Symposium.

Oswald and Phil Strong have begun work on the soundtrack(s) and playback architecture for an 8 screen cinematic venture by designer Bruce Mau which will be premiered next May in Vienna and shown throughout the summer there. It's called Stress.

Also next May Oswald will be showing one of his Moving Still plunderphonie collages in the Sonic Boom exhibit at the Hayward Gallery in London England. The piece is a speaking portrait which is the next generation of his infamous Michael Jackson collage used as the cover image of the original plunderphonic CD.


John Oswald has prepared a plunderphonics track, entitled Book of Wings, for Laurel McDonald's Wingspan, a CD of derivations for her upcoming album called chroma (which is produced by Phil Strong). Wingspan is on the Wicklow label, which is affiliated with BMG. Another track recently made available is Pier, (composed by John Oswald & Marc Sabat, and produced by John Oswald from a location recording of the only performance) on the Harbour Symphony CD (Sound Arts Initiatives, soundart@nfld.com). Pier is a real performance on the steam whistles and horns of several ships residing in the harbour of St.John's Newfoundland at noon on July 20th, 1996. This is perhaps the world's biggest concert venue. In January, John finished a piece entitled with an equation which is pronounced Delta Gradient, scored for a bunch of brass and an Ondes Martenot (this is a synthesizer developed in France in the 1920s). The premiere performance of Delta Gradient was in and around the posh ballroom of the Hotel Vancouver in Western Canada, as the ultimate piece in a four hour concert which was a survey of unusual music from the 20th century. The brass players began playing in the far reaches of the hotel and gradually became audible to the audience in the ballroom as they played their way through the corridors, hallways and staircases of this grand old hotel.

We've decided to include John Oswald's general whereabouts in these updates, even if he is engaged in some non-plunderphonic activity, in case he happens to be coming through your area and you'd like to check out what he's up to.

You may have seen or just missed him in New York City last weekend (March 6th). He was playing his hobby-instrument, the alto sax, at Roulette with longtime musical buddies Henry Kaiser (on mostly acoustic guitar and Greg Goodman (both inside and outside the piano). The Village Voice wrote that all 3 "tend to avoid New York like the plague", but John was just there 2 years ago playing with that other sax-toting John (Zorn) at the Knitting Factory. Greg and Henry were in from the Bay area, and this was their only appearance together (although Henry and John were spotted snooping around at the Downtown Music Gallery). Henry and John both have independent tracks on Derek Bailey's Axiom disc PlayBacks, along with ten other remixists and jungle-izers. The following is Derek Bailey's entire liner notes for the package: "Throughout, I aimed to treat each track, many of which, seemed to be complete in themselves, as a kind of ensemble I could play with rather than as a "backing" track. The exception to this is John Oswald's track, where i don't play at all. He's effected such an improvement on how my stuff usually sounds, I thought it better to leave it alone." John mentioned to us that although he had designed his track (his title for which is "Pattern Terrain", not the title listed on the CD) specifically to work best with Derek soloing over it, he was nonetheless particularly pleased with the compliment.

In April Oswald spoke in Paris at IRCAM on April 9th and at the Villa Arson in Nice on April 19th.


The incremental revision of Plexure continues. Some of you will recognize the name of the administrator of this site - Phil Strong. Phil designed the Time Maps which accompanied the Grayfolded 2 disc set. He also determined the tempos of almost a thousand songs as part of the pre-production for Plexure. From the lists Phil prepared an audio collage, or soundfile, was assembled that included about a bar of each of these tunes, in order from the slowest to the fastest. This soundfile was supplemented and used by John Oswald as one of components for Plexure. While working on Plexure version 2.2.?, this soundfile, entitled prePlex, was again supplemented, and is being considered as an additional track for a new Plexure package (this will not be on Avant, and will not replace the availability of that disc). Versions of prePlex have been between about 13 and 33 minutes long. Phil was called in recently to prepare a version that expunged all the random lyrics which were part of the original prePlex soundfile, in order to make an instrumental version, in contrast to Plexure itself which has lots of vocals; in addition he had the task of ironing out some of the tempo and rhythmic inconsistencies in the existing soundfile. Meanwhile John Oswald has been working on the final section of Plexure, entitled Tremulous on the first disc. In a letter he explains what he¹s trying to do: ³the final section, Velocity:Tremulous scans thru the previous 18 minutes in reverse while continuing the accelerando (right up to a 45th of a millisecond per beat - or in other words - thru the roof)... i did this by specifying the beginning of each beat, or regular percussive onset relative to the accelerando, in the soundfile, thousands of them, making each one a little longer than the previous one, & then organizing them in reverse order. now i'm remaking & revising Plexure & i want to approach the technique of realizing this section differently... i'm experimenting with retrograding through a portion of the soundfile on a sampler in edit mode, using an accelerating MIDI trigger, while mechanically retrograding thru the soundfile (i use an electric screwdriver to maintain a steady pace, but don't have as much choice of absolute speed as i'd like). also, with this method i lose the precise alignment of percussive onsets which gave the original sequence a less arbitrary feel, at least in the range of 380bpm (this is the upper limit of tempo in our survey of pop music 1982-92) & up to the wilder regions of rhythmic perception. so, i¹m looking for another way to do it. any suggestions?²

October 1998:

In quasi-plunderphonic news, Oswald spent the past year off-and-on, scripting, producing, composing and directing an animated cartoon entitled Homonymy, which is designed to be accompanied by a live chamber orchestra. The piece was commissioned by the SMCQ in Quebec. The visual text is a combination of French and English, the two official languages of Canada, and the music includes a section which interplays official and unofficial Canadian anthems, the Star Spangled Banner, and some fairly obvious pop tunes. here¹s what a Montreal newspaper said about a performance earlier this month: ³Arrive le meilleur, Homonymy de John Oswald. Les chiffres et les mots défilent à l'écran dans une synchronie parfaite avec le jou des musiciens. Les rapports de sens multiples entre les mots anglais comme français et les sons sont dignes des plus formidables calembours et absurdlités d¹un Devos. Nous n'entendons pas la de la musique qui se voudrait drôle, mais de la musique drôle, drôlement faite et qui se fait fi de s'attarder à autre chose que l¹intelligence. Un vral regal.² Which, according to babelfish, translates into English as: ³Arrive the best, Homonymy of John Oswald. The figures and the words ravel with the screen in a perfect synchrony with the play of the musicians. The multiple reports/ratios of direction between the English words like French and the sounds are worthy of the most formidable puns and absurdlities of Devos. We do not hear music which would be liked funny, but funny music, drôlement made and which is made proud be delayed with other thing that the intelligence. A regal truth. Of course, in fact the three parts aspire to the masterpiece, That importance So realized well, humour in music brings its batch of comfort and the concert its panacea to the one blasé time evils. As long as that will exist, one can keep confidence.²

In non-plunderphonic news, Oswald has been playing his sax a lot lately, and even made a solo appearance at a club in Toronto this month, his first solo appearance in several years. He and violinist David Prentice will be touring early next month, presenting concerts of improvised music in Pittsburgh, Chicago, and (with Eugene Chadbourne) in Windsor, across the river from Detroit.

August 1998:

There have been a few small releases and some non-releases in the last while:

1. The Matador label has released a Pizzicato 5 Remix Album entitled "Happy End of You" which includes a plunderphonic track by John Oswald entitled bDay. The track used is unfortunately an out take. It's an instrumental reduction of a vocal piece. The Matador representative, who was notified of this unfortunate choice, said he preferred the vocal version too.



Avant has begun distributing Plexure a bit more in North America. This is the '93 release, not the intricately revised and supplemented version which John Oswald has been working on, off and on, since. There are no official release plans for the new version at the moment.

Also, the John Oswald biographical information which seems to accompany the distribution of Plexure is almost entirely wrong. Here's the whole press release:

The most in-demand Avant CD finally available again. Oswald's most dense and crushingly heavy assemblage. Spectacular confusion via his most extreme & stunning Plunderphonic. His most rigorous and complex work to date, slices, chops, and blends literally hundreds of thousands of sound bites from musics known and unknown into a dizzying sonic whirlwind. You have never heard anything quite like Plexure, and you are likely never to forget it. A close collaborator of Henry Kaiser, John Zorn and the Grateful Dead -- John Oswald lives with his wife and dog in a small suburb near downtown Toronto.

John Oswald has informed us that: a) he doesn't have a dog, and in fact is allergic to them, b) is not married, and c) does not live "in a small suburb near downtown Toronto".


Hustler White

This is the soundtrack album to a movie directed by Bruce La Bruce (who also directed Super 8 1/2). The disc was produced by Oswald in what he calls "Gorious Sinematic Sound" which includes lots of snippets of dialogue from the movie interspersed and sometimes layered over the licensed songs, including Blue Oyster Cult's 'Beat the Reaper' and a couple of versions of 'Tainted Love'.

Unfortunately this project, completed in '96 for the Handsome Boy label, has yet to be granted consumer access.

AUGUST 97 : For most of this year the Mystery Lab team has been focused on pure (and selfish) research. In other words there are no recordings being prepared for release. Nonetheless, there has been a lot of activity in several areas, including text/time bases (both audible and visual), the x-ray glasses project, and cartographic collaging. Each of these projects has a significant visual component, and some experimental movies have been prepared. As well, much of the ongoing work being done for the revisions of PLEXURE are in the visual domain.


Amongst other things, John is currently leading the Mystery Lab team in augmenting / metamorphosing / extrapolating / intricating / folding / and recasting the project released in 1993 as "PLEXURE". There may also be offshoots / byproducts of this process which may be released with the updated "megaplundermorphonemiclonic".

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