Document 60543

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Lou Reed’s Metal Machine Trio: MM3
Sarth Calhoun, Lou Reed, Ulrich Krieger
Live at Blender Theater: John Zorn,
Ulrich Krieger, Lou Reed, Sarth Calhoun
(3D microphone foreground right)
Fig. 4
Fig. 3
Lou Reed is an American Master who was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996 and is a founding member of
the legendary Velvet Underground. His latest creation is the 2011 play Lulu, directed by Robert Wilson and performed at the
Berliner Ensemble Theater. It inspired a historic collaboration with Metallica on Lulu and the music video for the single The
View, which was directed by Darren Aronofsky. In 2008, Reed released a live electronic album, Lou Reed’s Metal Machine
Trio: The Creation of The Universe, which inspired two extremely well received performances by MM3 in New York in 2009.
Reed released a suite of electronic meditation music, Hudson River Wind Meditations in 2007. In 2006, Lou Reed staged
his masterwork Berlin at St. Ann’s Warehouse in New York, which was documented by director and artist Julian Schnabel
for the feature film Berlin (2007). Mr. Reed made the documentary Red Shirley (2010), which told the story of Reed’s cousin
Shirley’s distinguished life, on the eve of her 100th birthday.
Mr. Reed is a photographer whose works have been exhibited worldwide. His third book of photos, Romanticism, was
published in 2009. In 2010, Reed collaborated with Lorenzo Mattotti on a graphic novel of The Raven. Reed is currently
working on a photographic project with author Bernard Comment. Reed just completed an introduction for the new edition of
Delmore Schwartz’s In Dreams Begin Responsibilities. Lou Reed co-hosts The New York Shuffle radio show on Sirius XM
with music producer Hal Willner. He is the recipient of the Commander of Arts and Letters from the French government and
numerous other awards.
Live show is engineered for reproduction over
a spherical “ambisonic” loudspeaker array,
recreating Reed’s onstage experience
Arup Acoustics 3D spatial recording technique
captures performance on stage and in the theater
Ulrich Krieger is a composer, performer, improviser, noise and experimental rock musician living in Southern California. He
studied classical/contemporary saxophone, composition and electronic music at the University of Arts Berlin, Germany and
the Manhattan School of Music, NY. He has developed a new approach to the saxophone, which he calls “acoustic electronics.”
His recent activities are in the various fields of new music, experimental music, electronic music, noise, improvisation, and
avant-garde rock. He has worked with: Lou Reed, Lee Ranaldo, Thomas Köner, La Monte Young, Michiko Hirayama, Radu
Malfatti, Ensemble Modern, California E.A.R. Unit, Soldier String Quartet, and many others. He teaches composition and
Experimental Sound Practices at CalArts.
Fig. 5
Produced by Lou Reed, Mike Skinner
and Raj Patel. Recorded, engineered
and mixed by Mike Skinner, Raj
Patel, Dave Rife, and Ryan Biziorek
at Arup Acoustics. Ambisonic Mix
engineers, Mike Skinner, Raj Patel,
Ryan Biziorek, Dave Rife and Alban
Bassuet and Arup Acoustics.
The ambisonic array is recreated in the UAM gallery space
so listeners experience the live event as Reed did
Cover images: Lou Reed ©2006 Ralph Gibson, Blender Theater ©2009 Dave Rife, Arup.
Fig. 1 ©2011 Amy-Beth McNeely; Fig. 2 ©2009 Dave Rife, Arup; Fig. 3-5 ©Arup.
The UAM wishes to thank the Instructionally Related Activites Fund, the Constance W. Glenn Fund for Exhibition and
Education Programs, CSULB College of the Arts, the Bess J. Hodges Foundation, the Arts Council for Long Beach,
and the Institute of Museum and Library Services for their continued programming support. We are also grateful to Adaptive
Technologies Group, Arup, HARMAN Professional, KCRW, Mark Moore Gallery, Rum and Humble, and the J. Paul Getty
and Pacific Standard Time initiative for their generous efforts.
University Art Museum
College of the Arts
California State University Long Beach
1250 Bellflower Blvd. Long Beach, CA 90840
562.985.5761 •
LOU REED’S METAL MACHINE TRIO: The Creation of the Universe
by Ulrich Krieger
Sub-low dangerous drones flow out of the speakers
like lava intercepted by punctuated noise attacks
soon to be accompanied by beautiful melodic lines of
feedback created by no-one-knows-whom. Orientation
is blurred. Sounds by this three-headed beast melt
into organic oneness. The soundscape morphs into a
dark ambient of natural beauty like water in a stream
with a jetfighter flying by low above. Moments of rock
guitar and saxophone shine through like sunrays on a
desolate but unsettling beautiful wasteland. Suddenly
a voice rises from the abyss to shout out to the lost
souls only to disappear again in the ocean of sound
with squeals roaring high. Sound is an entity and it has
been freed from its constraints.
This force of nature called Metal Machine Trio (MM3) is made up of three
limbs: Lou Reed—guitar, pedals, and Continuum Fingerboard (a touch
sensitive keyboard); Ulrich Krieger—saxophone and live-electronics; and
Sarth Calhoun—Continuum Fingerboard, electronics, and live-processing.
The group premiered in Los Angeles in 2008 and performs regularly
worldwide. Its music cannot be categorized, but touches on a wide variety
of genres from dark ambient to free rock to noise and further. MM3 is
a contemporary continuation of Lou Reed’s 1975 album Metal Machine
Music, but does not attempt to reproduce it. Rather, its members perform
in the same spirit, pushing the boundaries of beauty and physicality of
sound into unknown realms.
When the legendary double album Metal Machine Music (MMM) was
released in 1975, it created an explosion and an uproar in the rock
scene. Fans and critics of Lou Reed alike were hit over the head by the
sheer sonic force and walls of noise that he unleashed. MMM contained
no songs, no voice, no drums, no chords, no melodies. (Actually there
are melodies, but hidden inside the sound, in “drag,” as Reed puts it.) It
seems nobody was prepared for or understood this “cacophony” called
MMM, even though the album was unmistakably subtitled An Electronic
Instrumental Composition. This description should have said it all. MMM
is a single electronic and instrumental piece that extends across 4 album
sides. It was purportedly taken off the market within three weeks of its
release. Why was it such a shock? Should not his fans and music critics
have known what to expect from Reed and been more adventurous, more
alive themselves?
MMM did not appear out of nothing. No work of art is created out of thin
air. A piece of art has its influences, history, and predecessors. But on
the other hand, artists often spookily pick up the zeitgeist before the
average Joe does. Sometimes this is a conscious effort, while other
times it is subconscious—but mostly, it is a mix of both. Great artists
have an antenna picking up the “signs-of-the-time-to-come.” This is part
of their job description, so to say. Think of Ornette Coleman’s album titles,
from Tomorrow is the Question (1958) to The Shape of Jazz to Come
(1959) to Free Jazz (1960). Their ability to tune in does not diminish their
achievements, but rather defines them as avant-garde. The romantic
genius, who nervously awakens in the middle of the night, gets up, writes
a new symphony, and then goes back to bed is a 19th century romantic
fairy tale. Creating art requires much more than just a muse. It needs
discipline, time, practice, research, experience, and (sometimes manic)
involvement. So what was the music that prepared MMM to come into
being? The answer is, a multitude.
The oldest influence is the so-called new music of the modernist avantgarde of the first half of the 20th century. By 1913, the Italian Futurist
Luigi Russolo gave concerts on custom built instruments he called
Intonarumori, which were tunable, acoustic noisemakers. In his pamphlet,
The Art of Noise (1913), Russolo addressed the need for a new music
made from noise in order to reflect 20th century industrialized society.
He had an urge to represent these new daily soundscapes of factories,
automobiles, trains, and streetcars. Other early 20th century musicians
joined Russolo in the choir of noise. In the 1910s, the American pianist
and composer Henry Cowell introduced thick, dissonant aggregates he
named “tone clusters,” which were built from major and minor seconds
rather than thirds as in traditional music. Further he would reach inside
the piano to play on its strings, creating unheard sounds and an extremely
influential new playing technique called “inside piano.” Cowell gave his
new music a theoretical foundation in his book, New Musical Resources,
published in 1930. In 1931, Edgard Varèse premiered his composition,
Ionisation, which was the first Western art music piece for unpitched
percussion ensemble. Although much later, music would be made of
indiscriminate sounds, including all noises. In the early 20th century, many
composers, like their contemporary H. G. Wells with his 1933 novel, were
researching “The Shape of Things to Come.”
This development in new music really took off after World War II with the
creative use of electricity and advances in media technology. In the 1940s,
the French composers Pierre Schaeffer and Pierre Henry developed
musique concrète made entirely of recordings from daily life that were
then manipulated and edited on tape—a train whistle or squeaking
door, for example, would be transformed into a musical composition. In
the 1950s, Greek composer Iannis Xenakis and, in a different way, the
Hungarian György Ligeti wrote dense orchestral pieces in which the
individual instrument were of lesser importance, giving way to thick,
atonal, dissonant, moving “sound clouds” within which the listener could
immerse himself. The Italian composer Giacinto Scelsi wrote pieces on
one tone and microtonal variations thereof, creating complex orchestral
textures that were still somewhat tonal and/or modal. Although music of
this era is always moving, it often has a strangely static atmosphere to it.
In the 1950s, the American composer and Fluxus artist La Monte Young
would lay the foundation for what later would be called drone music.
Based on very long, sustained tones, it was a new form of modal
music and a less busy, more contemplative sibling of the European music.
Young invited the audience deeper into the fabric of sound. His alleged
influence would be acknowledged on the album cover of MMM, although
Reed would remain unclear if it was a real influence or just a joke to
play with people’s expectations.
Another American, John Cage, used chance operations for his music.
After mapping the initial questions for a composition, Cage gave up
certain compositional decisions by submitting to indeterminacy and
January 27 – April 15, 2012
randomizing procedures that were not unlike Xenakis’ mathematical
stochastic operations. Cage also accepted silence and arbitrary noise as
components of his music. In pieces such as Cartridge Music (1960), he
welcomed the hum of contact microphones, hissing and feedback from the
speaker system, and other sounds just happening at the moment.
In the latter half of the 20th century, many composers had a strong urge
to use further non-traditional systems to generate musical material. In
the 1970s, David Tudor pioneered “circuit bending,” which is the creative
customization of the circuits within consumer electronic devices in order
to obtain unheard new sounds. He performed with an array of homemade
electronic instruments and pedals, live-manipulating the sometimes
more or less random sounds these systems produced. Since the earliest
examples, there have been many forms of systemic composition and today,
in the age of the laptop more than ever, there is a growing interest in such
system derived and controlled music.
On a different front in the 1960s, free jazz broke loose. Ornette Coleman,
John Coltrane, Albert Ayler and many others were exploring freely
improvised music. Freely improvised does not mean arbitrary. Rather, its
aesthetics were explored and researched by small collaborative groups in
rehearsals, concerts, and discussions. Free jazz groups performed with a
never before seen physicality and created dense, noisy, dissonant sound
fields, still reminiscent of melody and tonality, but existing outside of any
traditional system.
Enter rock. Although originally rock ‘n roll was mainly a blues-based
commercial genre, it soon took an unexpected side-turn. By the mid1960s, bands began to play more sophisticated, adult-oriented styles.
Musical elements similar to those explored by avant-garde composers
could be found in the rock music of the era. There were thick, heavy, noisy
fields of sounds, this time created by distorted guitars, basses, organs,
and feedback. While composers like John Cage accepted feedback,
rock musicians actively invited feedback into their sound. Lou Reed’s
own group, The Velvet Underground, was at the very forefront of this
development. Other bands, such as The Who, MC5, or Jimi Hendrix used
feedback and noise orgies as the grand finale of a concert. But for The
Velvet Underground, feedback, noise, drones, and improvisation were an
integral part of their songs. Listen to European Son, Venus in Furs, Heroin
(all 1967), and Sister Ray (1968). In these songs, you can hear early sound
studies of what would later manifest itself as MMM.
Undeniably, noise is native to the 20th century and in the 1960s finally
gained prominence in many types of music. It was then the first noisy
collaborations of rock and classical art composers began. The blues band
Spooky Tooth collaborated with Pierre Henry on their album Ceremony
(1969). In 1973, the German rock group Faust recorded a drone album
with early Minimalist Tony Conrad. Other krautrock bands such as
CAN, inspired by Velvet Underground and German composer Karlheinz
Stockhausen, worked in the no-man’s land between avant-garde art music,
free improvisation, and rock.
So why then was MMM such a big deal? First of all, its two subtitles
pointed deliberately, and confusingly for many, in two different directions.
An Electronic Instrumental Composition attributed it as art music, while
The Amine β Ring showed its deep roots in rock. MMM was the first
piece to take the abstract, academic and sometime esoteric exploration of
sound and noise and infuse it with a big portion of real-life realism. It was
“…‘real’ rock about ‘real’ things.” (MMM liner notes) Like Russolo, Reed was
looking for new sounds to fathom the reality he experienced around him.
And in its sculpted sounds, you not only hear the music, but also feel it,
which is another essential property of rock music. With MMM, Reed radically
reduced music to its absolute essential parameters: sound and structure,
but “…respectfully, intelligently, sympathetically and graciously, always with
concentration on the first and foremost goal.” (MMM liner notes). New for
the rock genre was also MMM’s non-linearity, as one can start and stop any
place on this album. The mainstream rock audience was unaccustomed
to such experimentation, as formulaic commercial songs dominated the
airwaves. Most of the 1970s audience was unaware of new music, did not
understand free jazz, and only liked noise and feedback in small portions
to spice up its rock.
When they ventured too deep and too far ahead, free jazz musicians and
new music composers lost their audience and got bad reviews from critics.
With MMM it happened again, only this time in the rock scene. Reed
knew it when he wrote, “Most of you won’t like this.[…] It’s not meant for
you.” (MMM liner notes) Another challenging aspect of MMM was that
Reed summoned all those 20th century musical movements and brought
them to a new level. MMM has the complexity and depth of contemporary
orchestral music, the directness and freedom of free jazz improvisation,
and the energy and aggressiveness of rock. Reed’s compositional process
can be described as systemic rather than purely intuitive. Amps, pedals and
tape machines became his musical instruments, which is reflected in the
title of the piece: Metal MACHINE Music.
Reed set up a finely tuned system of interactions between precisely tuned
guitars, pedals, amplifiers and controlled feedback. The guitars were in a
special custom tuning and flatly listed in the equipment specifications for
the MMM album as “Avoidance of any type of atonality.” Reed leaned those
guitars against the amplifiers, but never actually played them. Turning the
amplifiers up would initialize the strings of the guitars to vibrate, creating a
resonant feedback between guitars and amplifiers, which would make up
the modal basis of the piece. Pedals served as an electronic processing
system. Further controlled amplifier feedback introduced chance
interferences and a recursive feedback loop. With such parameters set,
certain sounds were to be expected, but the specifics of how they would
manifest were unknown even to the composer. Additionally, Reed played
melodic fragments that were often hidden by and within the sonic texture
(in “drag”). Later he manipulated the recordings in the studio by changing
tape speeds and using two tapes simultaneously—all standard techniques
of electroacoustic music. In its final form, MMM is like a composition for
two orchestras. So a binaural record release, having a different “guitar
orchestra” in each ear, seemed to be just the right thing. As discussed
above, if sound, rhythm (that is, structure), and intensity are the essence of
rock music, MMM is the quintessential rock album.
Soon after MMM, the rock music world changed drastically and forever. In
the late 1970s, a subsequent generation of musicians created new musical
styles in which they embraced noise. Punk was the most visible form, but
not the most radical one. The first album released by Throbbing Gristle
in 1977 presented “Industrial Music for Industrial People” with dissonant,
thick walls of sounds and a radical philosophy behind it. New York no wave
bands and musicians, like Rhys Chatham with his composition Guitar Trio
(1977) or Glenn Branca with his guitar symphonies, as well as harsh noise
guitar bands like DNA and Mars redefined rock music. Somewhat more
rock audience compatible, but no less radical, the group Sonic Youth was
influenced by punk, no wave and MMM, spreading the gospel of noise to
the world of rock. In the 1980s, many post-punk bands played music that
did not follow traditional song structures and used noise as an integral
element. The Japanese musician Merzbow (Masami Akita) spearheaded
a new style at the time that later would simply be called “noise.” His first
release in 1981 was titled Metal Acoustic Music. In 2006, the Norwegian
noise band Jazkamer released Metal Music Machine. The linkages
between the contemporary noise scene and MMM are clear. MMM is
referred to as the initial “big bang” for noise, alongside Iannis Xenakis’
hour-long electronic epic Persepolis (1971).
My personal involvement with MMM started the moment I bought the
double vinyl in 1979 or 1980. I had read about MMM, but could not find
the album. One day it showed up at my favorite record store. Listening
all the way through, I felt I had come home. It combined my favorite
aspects of classical, free jazz, and rock—especially rock! To me, MMM
epitomizes rock’s sheer sensual power of sound. It is the ultimate rock
album, the essence of rock music. But I also heard it as an orchestral
piece for guitars and amplifiers. Immediately I had the idea to transform
it into an orchestral arrangement. But that was just a wishful impulse. It
would take relocating to Berlin, studying classical music at the university,
and spending my nights in punk and new wave clubs, before my vision
was ready for the light of day. In 2002, I finally performed an orchestral
version of MMM with my Berlin-based ensemble, zeitkratzer. For this,
I needed a special kind of virtuosic musician who was able to read music,
improvise, play aggressively and physically, “rock out,” and could enjoy
(or at least tolerate) really loud music. To transcribe and orchestrate
MMM demanded classical training and experience with complex modern
scores—however, to understand it requires a love of rock.
After my MMM rendition, Lou and I continued to converse about MMM,
music, and life in general. In 2007, after a move to California, the idea to
play to together, which has been floating around, got more realistic. We
debuted Metal Machine Trio (MM3) in October 2008 at the Roy and Edna
Disney/CalArts Theater (REDCAT) in Los Angeles. MM3 uses MMM
as a philosophical point of departure, but 30 years later expands on it
through group improvisation. MM3 is not about individual egos, but a
group sound. It is anti-hierarchical, three minds working as one. Anything
said about MMM is true for MM3. But while MMM was focused on
a single type of monolithic, monochromatic sound, MM3 makes all kinds
of sounds and noises part of our sonic palette: dark ambient, harsh
noise, electronica, free rock, melodies, heavy riffs, drones, feedback, and
more. MM3 is not simply improvisational—ideas are tried, discussed,
rehearsed, and sometimes abandoned before we go on stage to play
freely without a premeditated concept. The MM3 sound melts guitar,
saxophone, electronics, and computers into one soundscape. We often
play our instruments in unconventional ways, creating new, unheard
sounds. MM3 is the ultimate, wild, exciting fusion of the classical avantgarde with free improvisation in a rock context.
People who come to MM3 concerts with preconceptions about the music
to be heard are sometimes puzzled. But MM3 is not about satisfying
expectations. It is about obsessive (yes, manic), sensual exploration of
sound and deep intensity within the context of rock. To me, MM3 is what
rock should be: controlled ecstasy, planned hedonism, and consciously
designed rituals in sound. It is meant as a shared experience with our
audience. The path is the goal.
For the installation of MM3 at the University Art Museum, we use as
source material the second concert of two nights at the Blender Theater
in New York in 2009, with John Zorn on alto saxophone as our special
guest. But is it possible for a concert to be translated into an installation,
which is more abstract than seeing musicians perform live on stage?
Thanks to the spatial recording technique of Arup Acoustics and the Arup
Soundlab™, it is. With their 14-channel surround speaker system, the
listener sits within the sound of this installation. The Arup system enables
the audience to have the same physical experience as in concert—only
better. The museum gallery has been optimized for listening, so visitors
are immersed in the sound rather than confronted by it. Sound waves are
not simply a property of time—they take up actual space. So listeners
are encouraged to move around the space, to stand where Lou, Sarth,
or I would be, even to walk between those, in order to perceive and
experience the changes in the music depending on the physical location.
And it is not just the listening focus that shifts. With the change of
location the music itself changes. Music creates acoustic sensations in
our ears and brain, which are not being created by the performers. We
know of visual sensations and irritations. Like in Op Art, for example,
where a two dimensional painting turns three dimensional in the eye
of the observer. In music something similar is created by so-called
psychoacoustic phenomena. This includes so-called combination tones,
which are low bass tones and clouds of high harmonies. These can be
heard, but actually are never being played by the musicians. They are a
product of our ears and brain alone. These psychoacoustic sensations
change depending on your position in space. Additionally, to further the
confusion, in the music of MM3 tones, harmonics, and sounds melt
into one large soundscape, which is created by all three performers,
but often can’t be traced back to the individual sources. This creates a
constant creative irritation about who is producing which sounds—but
is it important?
Leave your preconceptions outside, open your mind and ears, and let
yourself be taken away by the sound. Don’t look for melodies or other
traditional musical elements and enjoy them when they appear out
of noise and sounds. Intervals and chords, which were considered
dissonant by people only a hundred years ago, are now normal for even
the most commercial music and its audience. Our hearing evolves, it
gets accustomed to more and more dissonances, meaning to more and
more complex combinations of frequencies.
Noise is just the next step in the development of
music. Noise is pure sound. It has no semantics.
It has to be experienced. Sit back, walk around,
forget your expectations, listen, relax, let yourself get
immersed, let your ears and mind drift deeper and
deeper into the soundscapes. Experience the focus,
concentration and energy the performers put in, the
quasi-static moments and the sudden shifts, like
listening to nature. Enjoy the fun, the hedonism, and
the ecstasy of frequencies. Enjoy the sound of rock
to come…