Boomkat Product Review:
First-ever vinyl reissue of The Entire Musical Work Of Marcel Duchamp, containing the S.E.M. Ensemble’s 1976 recordings of four compositions written by the revolutionary artist. They most likely form the earliest example of musical composition based on chance operation - what Cage would later call aleatoric music, and Eno, later still, defined as oblique strategies - ever conceived.
Marcel Duchamp’s legacy as a pioneering mind of 20th century art is undisputed and extensively covered in history books, most notably his notion that art can be about ideas instead of worldly things. Despite acclaim surrounding his sculptures and conceptual art, his small number of similarly forward-thinking musical compositions are far less well known.
In 1976, William Lyon Lee, Petr Kotik, James Kasprowicz, and John Bondler’s S.E.M. Ensemble were the first to undertake the recording of those compositions, some 50 years after they were conceived.
Using Duchamp’s original scores and following a process involving a funnel, cork balls and a toy train to generate the order of notes, they realised the “unfinishable” 25:30min piece, The Bride Stripped Bare By Her Bachelors, Even. Erratum Musical as a light-headed play of Alto Flute, Glockenspiel, Trombone, Celeste and Marimbaphone, whilst Erratum Musical, originally written for three vocals - Duchamp and his two sisters - is perhaps cheekily sung by three blokes according to an arrangement plucked by chance, quite literally picking notes out of a hat.
There’s also another version of The Bride Stripped Bare By Her Bachelors, Even. Erratum Musical, this time half as long and performed on Player Piano, plus the biggest treat of the record, a relatively short Musical Sculpture of filigree music box delights.