By Philip Corner


There are wonderful technicians at the studio of Radio Nacional, Madrid.

When I told them, at the completion of our work on “Pieces of Musical Reality, “Without you i could never have done this.”, their reply was, “We are thankful for that----it is our job!

There is always the tendency (temptation) for an artist to envy the hands-on realizers of his/her concepts...... “I just think some things up while they are the ones really doing it.”

At first it was just a note......and we must ask ourselves whether or not that would be a reality. I played “Friendly low Bb, for Ruth Emerson” on my Baroque bass trombone at the fluxus loft in 1965.

Since we know that tones are the refinements of sound, an easy progression to the use of a noises too. “The Piece of Reality for Today” was the way I first put it. And the way I did it was to record a car motor igniting, we were driving away to the country, and make a loop of it which we send downtown to the Avant Garde Festival parade to be amplified through a sound truck.

Then, as I generalize everything----the multiple new possibilities of manifesting an idea-vision----these became “OneNoteOnce” and “A Piece of (Musical) Reality” which could just as well be called “OneNoiseOnce” of “OneSoundOnce”.

From that starting out, we can follow so many new versions. And I did; this is what will occupy us now, as it did in Madrid those many years ago:

Proposal: radio “spots” of single commercial advertisements. Non-commercial advertisements! I would have added the intellectual appreciation of announcement-definitions preceding each sound, naming the sound’s source and adding details like the expected duration, dynamic levels and other such interpretive facts: just what it is and then listen. The whole world is free! These sounds would be taken from everywhere. And they were. I have made live performances out of things like that.

We eventually choose to go, perhaps a more conservative solution, with the Grand Mix format of a 30 minute broadcast. An “acoustic theater” unit. Once decided i put together a great variety of sounds in a chance-determined context. There are significant differences from the procedure, and expressive effect, of John Cage’s pioneering “Williams Mix”.

All acoustic materials were made by me personally----nothing generic, nothing from a sound library. Jose went with me with microphone and Sony Walkman Professional. Some, a few, “shots” of wide ambience.......children playing near the Prado; the Atocha (beautiful) railroad station----and there too the close-up of the train. Other sounds close up: mixed small stones under a microphone; the closets in Concha’s kitchen, drawers opening and closing. Many sounds from life. And all “performed”.....”played”, “played with”. And even music. So just as the noises of nature became musical by attention and careful action, a piano---wonderful instrument---could enter that world not artificial but its sounds too, whether noise or music, sharing that refined roughness which wipes out the difference. (Could be a piano concerto too, in different setting.)

Then they are all squeezed, piled up over each other, into that great radio mix where, if we cannot actually hear everything at the same time it seems as if we might. Aided by sixteen acoustic tracks we can make a program as precise as unpredictable. “Hola! move that entrance up---or back---by some seconds and a fraction.” “Si senor.”

Finished. Real as music; real as Reality.

Philip Corner Jan. 2011