On Tuesday evening, I went on a wet and muddy walk through the woods round the edge of Lancaster University campus, and listened to Organ by Kevin Drumm (from his Necro Acoustic box set). Organ is a solo piece for electronic organ, amplifiers and RAT distortion pedal. It’s a repetitive but not exactly rhythmic alternation between two pitches with varying levels of distortion and what sounds like a leslie rotating speaker. Sometimes there’s a very marked difference in sound between the smooth pitch and the distorted one, sometimes less so. Sometimes the higher pitch is the more distorted, sometimes the lower. Beats from close dischords are sometimes audible. It lasts for just under 55 minutes, and then stops very abruptly, as if the recorder has been switched off.
Why would anyone listen to this? It’s tuneless, it doesn’t develop, it doesn’t exactly lift the spirits, and it goes on for a very long time.
Here’s one reason why: listening to it causes intense sensitivity to other noises. I was drawn to focus very closely on traffic noise as I was walking near a road, on the wind in the trees, on the sounds of hockey players on the all-weather pitch in the distance (I wear not-very-isolating earphones while walking, since I prefer not to step under buses). Something about very minimal, repetitive music acts as an amplifier. Organ works as education of the senses.
I’d be interested to know how Drumm thinks about what he’s doing: what effect does he intend in his listeners? What effect does making this stuff have on him? The couple of interviews I’ve read with him suggest that he’s a bright and amiable guy, but are more about how he got into playing guitar, or how he knows Jim O’Rourke.