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Um… Yeah, So I did this Transcript of spoken sections

Speakers of languages other than english have requested subtitles for this video.  Even though this isn’t as good as that would be it allows any speaker of any language to copy this and translate it with Google (or something else).  I looked into to doing spanish subtitles and translated this (with Google) into spanish and then translated the spanish back into english.  What I got was about 75% OK and 25% incomprehensible.  I wish I was smarter and could speak everybody’s language, but maybe that’s what’s music is for until we evolve enough to do that.

or we could all learn Esperanto

Parolantoj de lingvoj aliaj ol la angla petis subtekstojn por ĉi tiu video. Kvankam ĉi tio ne estas tiel bona kiel tio estus permesas ajna parolanto de iu lingvo kopii tion kaj traduki ĝin kun Google (aŭ io alia). Mi rigardis en al faranta Hispana subtitoloj kaj tradukita tion (kun Google) en la hispana kaj poste tradukis la hispanan reen en english. Kio mi akiris estis ĉirkaŭ 75% OK kaj 25% nekomprenebla. Volonte mi estis pli inteligenta kaj povis paroli ĉies lingvo, sed eble tio estas kio estas muziko por ĝis ni evoluas sufiĉe por fari tion.

Um… yeah, so I did this

scratching the surfaces of Anarchestra


On the assumption that we want to make music it’s reasonable to ask ourselves

what is music?

my favorite answer to that question was Thelonious Monk’s

when they asked him what music was, he said

“It’s sound, it’s what happens to sound”

going along from that it’s what we make happen to sound

The instruments I build are interfaces between human beings and the sound world

They provide opportunities to make sound

This is without requiring much technical knowledge of anybody

Music isn’t a limited group of sound, it’s any sound at all

I believe anybody can make music

Anybody who can chew has a sense of rhythm

Anybody who can converse has a sense of pitch

And those are two primary elements of making sound in continuities

is that one pitch relates to another

some kind of beat is going on

don’t have to have that

there’s great music that doesn’t have a beat

there’s great music that isn’t very specific as to its pitch

anyway what these instruments do is provide

opportunities for people to make sounds

pretty easily you don’t really have to know how

yeah they’re sort of self-explanatory

you touch this and this happens

you hit this and this happens

blow in this and that happens

it’s really basic

I think somewhere along the line culturally

we sort of forgot that music is just sound

and making things happen to sound

with the technical language

if people are talking about bflat7s and

stuff like that regular people feel like they can’t do it

it’s a mysterious language that they don’t know

and they’re left out

I don’t want to leave any of us out

I don’t think people that know the technical language

always know the most about what’s going on

A lot of educated musicians have been

completely alienated from that idea that music is sound

and what happens to sound

and um… so, yeah, I did this



So, part of my thing is I want music to be

simple and user friendly

I object to the technocracy that rose around music

with the difficult nomenclature

and the difficulty of playing the instruments

they’re very good, what they made

but they are hard to play

they’re particularly hard to play

away from do-re-mi

anybody can play chopsticks

anybody can play twinkle twinkle little star

but to do anything harder

becomes difficult and frustrating

So, music should be something that we do as humans

I think we always have

The technocracy tends to get in the way of that

and makes people think “I can’t do that”

I hear that from people all the time

part of my motivation for that is to make them simple

Because music’s easy to make

doesn’t mean it has to be shallow

it doesn’t have to be twinkle twinkle little star

it can be dissonant, complicated, dramatic

all kinds of things

it’s how you set them up

with a lot of instruments like this

I can make something where it’s easy to play tone rows

You make a flute in a certain scale

that would be difficult on a normal flute

and it’s just easy as pie

So I think there’s a lot more that we can explore in the sound world

in tonality and in rhythm too

that’s been hit with impedance of a barrier

if you study music

you’re so slammed into playing in the standard meters

you’re so slammed into playing in the major / minor system

that other ones seem like a departure when you get around to them

So, that’s some of the idea of this

I think we can play

I think we can play interesting music as just normal people



The shows we do with Anarchestra aren’t performances

There’s no boundary set up between performer and audience

It’s not spectacle, it’s festival, which is a different thing

We’re not presenting something for people to passively receive

I want people to participate

To me that’s the real meaning of folk music

is folks playing music together,

tribal. village, whatever sense you want to call it

My contribution is to set up the instruments

so they’re at reasonably democratic volume levels

and people can sort of hear what they’re doing

In a large group of people it’s not like setting up a 3 piece

It can get very hard to hear what you’re playing

But I do my best at that

I do my best to tune it so people can find consonance among them

After that it’s up to them

What we do is up to us

I resist the idea of direction

meaning me directing people people to do things

In other contexts that’s OK

I would really love it if our sense of music

became more of something that we did as a community

than we do as individuals

It would be nice to get the ego and the self-reference out of it a little bit

I sort of object to the idea that collective improvisation

is only for this elite group of skilled people

This is so rooted in our existence

to get together and make some noise

make a joyful noise unto the lord all ye lands

So, what I hope we do when the show’s set up

is make a joyful noise together

So I kind of feel like we have to

maybe relearn this a little bit

and I hope that we do

because it’s really fun to just be in sound and contribute

It doesn’t matter you don’t have to

play a lot

just one sound sometimes makes all the difference

one little sound

if somebody willing to uh go bmmm

that may be the the thing that makes it sound good

The idea is that the product of this

is the fun that we have playing together

making sound together being in a sound that we make together

It’s not to make . .

We’re not here trying to make a hit single

We’re trying to enjoy the presence of one another and collaborate

Any show, playing together is its own unique experience

special to that moment, to that group of people

it’s by and of whoever’s there

I try to make it as self-explanatory

and as simple an interface as possible

When it works and when it’s good people have a lot of fun doing this

and sometimes it’s really good

it rocks along

and to me that’s real folk music

that’s what we’ve done since time immemorial

I don’t think that a group of people in a cave

some probably painting on the walls

some others were like banging on some shit

and blowing on some little whistles

singing and dancing around a fire

I don’t think they thought

“I am artist hear me roar”

I think they thought “wow this is fun”



So we get involved in something

some area of human endeavor

such as music

and there are a whole lot of received ideas

because other humans have endeavored at this before

but we should receive them in the spirit in which they’re given

these aren’t monotheistic tablets brought down by Yahweh

giving us instructions to how we have to play forever

They’re just what they came up with at that time

the major minor system, equal temperament, whatever you want

Received ideas are things we should receive and question

They aren’t things that we should say

OK this is how it is

That’s not really the point

If you want to make music, make music

learn from what people did before

and you know

take what you need and leave the rest

find your own things to add to the chain

It’s not a denunciation of euromusic

that jazz musicians figured out something else to do

with the same chords and the same tonality

and basically the same instruments

And in what I’m doing I’m not saying anything negative

about jazz and euromusic either

or Raga or Gamelan or anything else

you know, I love it all

but I just hear more possibilities

I just don’t happen to think that

we’ll make different music

and develop a larger vocabulary

just all through going virtual with sound

I kinda think part of us is tied to

real sound and real physicality

I don’t want to do without those two things

Whatever vocabulary develops you can just keep adding to it

which is another problem with the old system

and the old instruments is that

you’re kind of just parsing a lot of already existing vocabulary

rather than generating anything that’s very new

To get out of the hair splitting and into something else

this is what I’m doing towards hoping that happens

So as a musical language this is

a pidgen, polyglot, vernacular

with things that enter into it by osmosis

from all the cultures I’ve been exposed to

I don’t think there’s anything in music

that contradicts anything else in music

And the idea of closing systems off

which reached its peak in serialism

and exists in popular music style ideas

(that) are always trying to close the universe

and define themselves that way

Yeah, I’m just not comfortable with those

That’s not really interesting to me

The only ideology I really have about this is curiosity

You know, sort of inclusiveness



So, a hundred years ago there wasn’t much

of what we think of as a music business

Before recordings were generally available

and stuff like that

And music changed at that point

from something we did as people

to something we consumed as people

and so, around the word “pop”

you have “popular” on the one hand

and “populist” on the other hand

Populist is by and of the people

and popular is for the people

and there’s a real difference between those two musics

I’m more interested as far as pop music goes

in populist music than in popular music

Pop music is what people really like

but it ignores the idea that music is something that we do

that gets left out of the equation

and music is something that we just purchase

and comes out of little boxes

A hundred or so years ago

people would buy the sheet music of something they liked

so it still had that physical, human, thing in it

So, I hope that in some small way

that what I do encourages that kind of participation

I feel like we should be making music that’s

from and about us

rather than calling folk music preserving

heritages from the past

Southern, northern, eastern, or western it doesn’t matter

Who cares? it’s all the same

it’s just what happens to sound

So we can get together as

what we are right now right here

and who we are right now right here

and make music together


Yeah, and I’d like to see us trying

to do something new

instead of pretending that life isn’t a strange new adventure now

because it is a strange new adventure now

No matter how contemporary my esthetics might be

and my philosophical dispositions

I’m still right there with

whoever decided to stretch a skin over a hollow log

whoever decided to make a whistle out of some clay

And so, even though I’m using a modern process,

I feel like I’m all the way back

with some shepherd blowing on a pipe

even though he had a knife and I have a drill press

My ancestors are everyone who

made a little flute out of a bone or a reed or a piece of bamboo

everyone who just fiddled around with stuff and figured out how to make sounds

and brought them to share with other people

and made music together



We should participate in our world

this is true in the politics and in everything

the more we participate the better

we all act and we do things

and we all live with the consequences

of what all of us do

This is sort of the essence of anarchism

that we all do what we do

and we take responsibility for it

we think about everybody else too

but it’s not like by thinking about everybody else

you deprive yourself

you don’t deprive yourself at all

If you neighbor’s happy your life is gonna be better

If your neighbor’s unhappy and you have to listen to them fight

or if they’re broke and they steal your shit

that’s not as good

It’s a better life if your neighbor’s having a better life too

and if we all have a good life

then we all have a good life

Our music should reflect the kind of society we want

and so the music that I do reflects that too

I want everybody to join in and do it and have fun

and play and feel enabled and feel empowered

and take some responsibility for how it comes out

You live in houses all your life

and then you get to build one

and it’s a whole new world

Working in the trades you see

all these things you’ve just taken for granted

turn out to be worlds of their own

Music’s the same way

I’ve played all my life

so for me this has the same sort of

revelatory excitement

I always want to know

I kind of want to know what’s underneath what you can learn

and what’s underneath that

peel back the layers and find out what’s down there

For me this was to know about music a different way

know about sound in a different way

and get into its nuts and bolts

and I like the nuts and bolts

I like getting my hands on things

I believe in work

I think we’re here on earth to work

So, doing this has allowed me

to de-emphasize myself as a player

which I always was

on saxophone on guitar

I was like a soloist or a singer

some specific role

That’s sort of a bind a lot of musicians get into

is that they end up expressing technique after awhile

instead of thinking about music

they learn to play fast

or they learn to do something more difficult

but it’s not necessarily that good

This kind of let me get out of that little,

you know, hamster on a wheel kind of situation as a musician

And so, this allowed me to be a thoughtful musician

Origins, reasons, etc.

“In late 1999 I was working as a welder/metal sculptor in Providence and having a series of conversations about music with Mike Rinaldi. On New Year’s Eve 2000 we were at Fort Thunder and he suggested that we make some instruments.  Over the next two months we made a pair of xylophones and several kalimbas using formulas and suggestions from Sound Designs by Reinhold Banek and Jon Scoville.

I left Providence at the end of February and moved to Chilmark. I got hold of Bart Hopkin’s book Musical Instrument Design and began working on Dubass and Pedal Guitar. The idea for the pedal operated capo-fret came from a street performer, Eric Royer, I’d seen in Harvard Square a few years before, who’d had an ingenious one-man-band set-up.

My idea at that time was to integrate homemade instruments with standard ones to allow percussionists to contribute tonally, i.e., replace bassists and rhythm guitarists with drummers.

A year later, in addition to Dubass and Pedal Guitar, I had made La Bas, Pilon, Thump, Paired, Lamellop, Harp, Bish-Bosh, Pig, E3W, Croon, Chant, Sir Gamelan, and the two bowed instruments that eventually became Bosco.

In March 2001 I began recording them, mostly to examine how the instruments could be amplified, still intending to integrate them into a traditional band.

The results, which I eventually named Rumor, changed my mind. I realized that the instruments worked well together and formed a band in and of themselves. I would have continued recording, but the ADAT I was using self destructed while I was working on the last piece.

That summer the instruments were included in a series of local performance/shows called Cafe Mobius and were played simultaneously for the first time by a group that included Paul and Scott.

At the second of these I met Rod Welles, a film-maker, who was documenting the show. The following summer he invited me to install the instruments (several more had been built by then) in his barn at Labyrinth Speakeasy in West Tisbury.

On August 22, 2002 the instruments were played by a large group of people under the name Anarchestra for the first time.”

(Alex Ferris, 2004, from “History”

Several different reasons for undertaking the project.

“One day I was hearing a bassoon in my mind and I thought it would be cool to have one.  So, I went to Art Shell on 48th St. to see what they had.  The guy, very nice, sympathetic, dude told me he had a plastic one that was kinda broken but fixable that he could let me have for $1500 as was.  It dawned on me then that I’d never be able to afford to have more than a couple of instruments and if I wanted to get a variety of sounds into the music I made, I’d need to find another way than buying them.”  (conversation with Karl Whitaker, 2008)

“I was living in Providence off and on in the 90’s and it was kind of the epicenter of noise music at the time so I was hearing a lot of interesting, fresh at the time, things people were doing with signal processing.  As the novelty wore off I began to feel kind of oppressed by the similarities within it, like I got used to the algorithms that were manufacturing the sounds.  Y’know, like, ‘here comes the pitch shifter, there’s the looper’, all that.  And all those square waves, oy, I kinda hate square waves.  And also, I had a real disconnect between hearing these really dense massive sounds, all this sonic violence, and seeing a couple of dudes fiddling with some pedals or immersed in a laptop.”  (interview with Clio Landor-Toomey, 2003)

“Musicians are a weird demographic.  One the one hand, I totally sympathize with anybody who wants to give their life over to exploring and working with the soundworld, like, that’s my tribe, right?   But I want to do things with other people too.  Less so as time goes by, but musicians tend to be overwhelmingly male, which bugs me, and they also tend to be, I dunno, defensive personality types —not their fault, the world, at least in the here and now america, tends to shit on us a bit, make us feel unimportant, marginalized, extraneous, all that and, naturally enough, we tend to counter that by egoizing and generating sort of bubbles of elitism around ourselves.  So, anyway, I wanted playing with groups of people to be more like my real life, with the solidarity of working with a crew, like we’re just normal people working together, doing something.  So many times I’d hang out with someone and just think ‘Damn, I wish you could play something so I could work with you and spend all those hours on the road in your company instead of so-and-so who’s a great bass player but drives me up the wall as a person’.  I figured if I could make instruments that anybody could play we could replace a few ‘musicians’ with normal people.”  (notebook, 2005)

“I made these things, because, after a lifetime in music, I got really tired of everything sounding the same.”   (documentary “Strange Musical Instruments Never Seen Before” Special Head, 2015, YouTube)

“For me this was to know about music a different way, to know about sound a different way, and get into its nuts and bolts.  . . . doing this has allowed me to de-emphasize myself as a player, which I always was . . . to get out of that little hamster-on-a-wheel kind of situation . . . this allowed me to be a thoughtful musician.” (documentary “Um . . . yeah, so I did this”, 2013, YouTube)

“Our music should reflect the kind of society we want. And so, the music that I do reflects that too, I want everybody to join in and do it and have fun.  And play and feel enabled and empowered and take some responsibility for how it comes out.” (documentary “Um . . . yeah, so I did this”, 2013, YouTube)

“I want people to participate.  To me, that’s the real meaning of folk music, is folks playing music, together, y’know, tribal, village, whatever sense you want to call it, a community, making music together.” (documentary “Um . . . yeah, so I did this”, 2013, YouTube)