Smiling Through My Teeth CD curated by Vicki Bennett

Sonic Arts Network is proud to announce the release of our latest CD publication. Vicki Bennett (People Like Us) curates “Smiling Through My Teeth”, a compilation exploring the use of humour in music and sound art and bringing together an assortment of humorous songs, amusing ditties and deranged sound works. Buy the CD or get it free by joining Sonic Arts Network today. The CD contains an essay by American journalist, artist, activist, and professor of Communication Studies at the University of Iowa, Kembrew McLeod.

Download Kembrew McLeod’s essay here or link to it here.

Smiling Through My Teeth 

It is relatively unusual to find humour in sound art, even less has been written on the subject. The avant-garde can be a dry and humourless area (and is therefore perceived as such), both in writing and practice. It is not unusual for writers and audience alike to dismiss anything to the contrary; the catch is humour sometimes isn’t taken seriously, although the reality is a practitioner has to be extremely serious and accomplished in order to carry off a good piece of humorous work.

Humour and music are commonly perceived as an unlikely pair. But the removal of this expression from the pleasure and appreciation of creative art is impossible. Inflections of wit can be found in the most unlikely places, from John Cage’s 4’33’ (using silence in the way Tony Hancock used dead radio air to implicate his own boredom) through the parody of Erik Satie and Charles Ives, the metric disruptions and misquotations of John Oswald or Stock, Hausen and Walkman, and the mixing of genres by Ground Zero’s Revolutionary Pekinese Opera. The more popular end of sound manipulation is also inflected with avant-garde playfulness, for instance Carl Stalling’s cartoon music, the cut up manipulations of Spike Jones, the chaos and disorder of The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band and the ruination of the classics by Portsmouth Sinfonia.

If the receiver isn’t intimidated by the sort of extreme surreal humour presently found in TV and radio production, there isn’t a reason why they cannot open up to the same categories of humour apparent within the work of, for instance, Runzelstirn and Gurzelstock, Otomo Yoshihide or the Nihilist Spasm Band. This isn’t to say that they would necessarily listen to this art form in the same way as pop music, but it is possible to shift the barriers between “popular” and “obscure”. Humour transcends the confines of language and metaphor, opening the receiver’s mind to new ways of experiencing art, and a comprehension of something that may previously have been obscured.

It is interesting when my work succeeds in a humorous context, then I research and discover that it fits into all of kinds of psychological categories of humour and music that I didn’t know existed. It is true that one doesn’t need to know anything about art or cultural history to be able to make good art, but it enriches the context in which one is working, and is very inspiring to take the time to look into this history and try to also apply it to the art of one’s contemporaries.

Having considered all this, I’ll throw it all away and just say that I love the music and sounds found on this CD, for the pure energy and enthusiasm found within, and may sparks fly when you press play.

Vicki Bennett, People Like Us 2008

Scans of REVIEWS here:
Smiling Through My Teeth review – Machina (November 2008)
Smiling Through My Teeth review – Bad Alchemy (November 2008)
Smiling Through My Teeth review – Hair Entertainment (October 2008)
Smiling Through My Teeth review – Orkus (November 2008)
Smiling Through My Teeth review – Rumore (October 2008)
Smiling Through My Teeth review – Westzeit (October 2008)
Smiling Through My Teeth review – Ox (October 2008)
Smiling Through My Teeth review – Le Son Du Grisli (September 2008)
Smiling Through My Teeth review – Sound Projector (May 2008)
Smiling Through My Teeth review – Frieze magazine (September 2008)
Smiling Through My Teeth review – Octopus Record Of The Week (September 2008)
Smiling Through My Teeth review – Rock Delux(September 2008)
Smiling Through My Teeth review – D Side(September 2008)
Smiling Through My Teeth review – Titel Magazine (September 2008)
Smiling Through My Teeth review – Schlendrian (September 2008)
Smiling Through My Teeth review – Vital Weekly 162 (September 2008)
Smiling Through My Teeth review – The Wire (August 2008)

01. 3:15 Spike Jones and his City Slickers “William Tell Overture”
02. 2:51 Raymond Scott “Girl at the Typewriter”
03. 2:17 Paul Lowry “I Got Rhythm”
04. 2:53 Leif Elggren & Thomas Liljenberg “9.11 (Desperation Is The Mother of Laughter)” (edit)
05. 1:54 Komar & Melamid and Dave Soldier “The Most Unwanted Song” (edit)
06. 0:58 Ground Zero “China White”
07. 3:16 John Oswald “Pocket”
08. 1:04 Nurse With Wound “You Walrus Hurt The One You Love” (edit)
09. 2:13 Rudolf’s Runzelstirn & Gurgelstøck “Eel Dog Rap Mix” (edit)
10. 0:28 Nihilist Spasm Band “It’s Not My Fault” (edit)
11. 3:53 ‘The Freddy McGuire Show’ with Anne McGuire, Don Joyce & Wobbly “Dark Days Bright Nights”
12. 4:00 Vomit Lunchs “Total Pointless Guidance Mix” (Stock, Hausen+Walkman)
13. 0:07 Gorse “Interlude”
14. 3:40 Rank Sinatra “Take On Me”
15. 0:51 DJ Carhouse & MC Hellshit “Motha Fuck Mitsubishi”
16. 2:56 DJ Brokenwindow “Kit Clayton vs. Roscoe P. Coltrane”
17. 3:01 Christian Marclay “Maria Callas”
18. 2:35 Viennese Seven Singing Sisters “William Tell Overture”
19. 1:55 M.A. Numminen, Tommi Parko, Pekka Kujanpää “Eleitä Kolmelle Röyhtäilijälle”
20. 3:18 Justice Yeldham and the Dynamic Ribbon Device “Berlin, Germany, 270104” (edit)
21. 1:34 Adach i Tomomi “Lippp”
22. 1:02 Bill Morrison “Single Breath Blow”
23. 0:51 Zatumba “Natchung”
24. 1:12 Nihilist Spasm Band “Going Too Far” (edit)
25. 7:21 People Like Us & Ergo Phizmiz “Air Hostess”
26. 0:44 Christian Bok “Ubu Hubbub”
27. 1:14 Gwilly Edmondez “Cock!”
28. 1:47 Spaz “Spaz”
29. 1:34 Komar & Melamid and Dave Soldier “The Most Unwanted Song” (edit 2)
30. 4:20 Xper. Xr. “Ride On Time”
31. 8:49 Richard Lair and Dave Soldier “Thai Elephant Orchestra Perform Beethoven’s Pastorale Symphony First Movement”
32. 0:10 Nurse With Wound “You Walrus Hurt The One You Love” (edit 2)

Download at UbuWeb

Smiling Through my Teeth is a beautifully presented CD and book, with the musical side of the collection put together by Vicki Bennett, who’s a Sound Projector favourite in long standing for her work as People Like Us. It includes a few early ‘novelty’ records from Raymond Scott and Spike Jones, but the bulk of the CD is made up of contributions from assorted well-known (and some lesser-known) names in the world of extreme avant and experimental music, and the selections (if lined up in a row, as they are here) do indeed create an escapade of jet-black humour scaped from the laughing lips of the lunatic fringe: step forward Nihilist Spasm Band, Otomo and Eye, Christian Marclay, Lucas Abela, John Oswald, and Xper.Xr. Plus of course a couple of cuts by Nurse With Wound performing in his vaguely nutsoid cut-up mode. In fact most of Bennett’s selections reflect aspects of her own chosen way of working – layering, editing, turntabling, and the collaging of an eclectic selection of ‘funny’ vinyls. I’ve got mixed feelings about the deeply intellectual essay written by Kembrew McLeod (once read, the last thing you’ll feel like doing is smiling, let alone laughing), but the red skull cover graphic and anatomical engravings on the inside make this an attractive proposition from Sonic Arts Network. Few people can match Bennett’s skill for setting forth warped humour laced with a deep undercurrent of constant menace, to chilling effect. If played end to end, I think this 32-track CD can certainly guarantee an unsettling and mixed experience which will slowly turn your cheery smile into a rigor sardonicus. – Sound Projector