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Probes podcast series for Radio Web MACBA
The Museum of Modern Art, Barcelona
Programme commissioner Anna Ramos




These are all freely downloadable programmes - along with playlists, transcripts and extra materials (available as .pdf files). All in English.                              

Click on the blue tile to access

Note: Each Programme comes in two parts: the first - longer, with talking - explores the issue, with many sound examples. The second (auxiliary X.2) offers many more musical extracts edited together for listening pleasure - with no talk. For the auxiliaries, you need to download the annotated playlists which explain what's what and why it's there.

New programmes go up every 1-2 months.

FIRST PROBE TOPIC: Pitch to Timbre

PROBES 1     20.08.2012 (45' )

The first programme sets the scene a nd investigates early re-considerations of pitch: new scales constructed through the ever-greater subdivision of the inherited intervals of equal temperament.

PROBES AUXILIARY 1.2     18.10.2012 (30' 14'') 

More alternative tuning systems.

PROBES 2     03.12.2012 (46' 10'')
Continues to explore probes into pitch, this time through its effective obliteration through ceaseless movement: sliding tones, and radical portamenti that defy all quantisation. 

PROBES AUXILIARY 2.2     23.01.2013 (33' 16'')

A further look at alternative tuning systems based on the naturally occurring harmonic series, opening up a potentially infinite series of customised Just Intonation scales.

PROBES 3     25.02.2013 (54' 03'')
Pitch becomes weightless and all that is solid melts into air: futurism, noise, electricity, ecstasy and uncertainty. We look at the lure and power of sliding tones. 

PROBES AUXILIARY 3.2     09.05.2013 (32' 22'')

PROBES 4     25.06.2013 (57' 50'')
Another dimension of portamenti, moving into early twentieth century ideas of colour, timbre and the contested territory of noise.

PROBES 4.2     22.07.2013 (35' 38'')

Concentrating on the use of portamenti in popular music before moving on to wholly unpitched probes that begin to map the many aspects of differentiated noise. 

PROBES 5     27.08.2013 (56' 01'')
Timbre and the many routes to its extension, exploring the range of modifications, preparations and ways of subverting pianos that have been tried to date. 

PROBES 5.2     30.09.2013 (30' 11'')
Further piano preparations.

PROBES 6     21.11.2013 (57' 22'')
There's no end of things that have been laid on, tied to, screwed into or otherwise attached to alter the sound of conventional instruments. This programme draws a map and explores some of the outer reaches of string and wind preparations.

PROBES 6.2     19.12.2013 (29' 57'')

Further preparations of stringed and brass instruments in search of new sonorities. 

PROBES 7     05.03.2014 (57' 38'')
Preparations applied to percussion and voice and the recovery and invention of extended performance techniques; starting with the piano

PROBES 7.2     24.04.2014 (29' 27'')
Preparations for percussion and extended techniques for piano. 

PROBES 8     14.07.2014 (62' 33'')
Modifications of string instruments seeking to move away from tonality while maintaining coherence. 

PROBES 8.2     30.09.2014 (48' 21'')
Further extended techniques for strings

PROBES 9     30.09.2014 (48' 21'')
Extended techniques for wind instruments and percussion

PROBES 9.2     06.11.2014 (30' 29'')

PROBES 10     15.12.2014 (57' 24'')
The first of two programmes that trace probes into the limits and extended uses of the human voice

PROBES 10.2     27.01.2015 (28' 32'')
More vocal probes. 

PROBES 11     11.03.2015 (61' 03'')
The extended voice, part 2. 

PROBES 11.2     10.04.2015 (30' 58'')
More vocal probes.

PROBES 12     30.04.2015 (52' 17'')
The incorporation of ancient instruments, part 1: The Harpsichord

PROBES 12.2     25.05.2015 (30' 32'')
More harpsichords.

PROBES 13     09.06.2015 (53' 22'')
The recovery and reassignment of ancient and folk instruments in unfamiliar contexts.

PROBES 13.2     10.08.2015 (29' 49'')

PROBES 14     15.09.2015 (44' 37'')

An extended footnote on the way a collision of folk mechanisms, social upheaval, sound recording and electrification underpinned the growth of a new polyglot musical language - and a new aesthetic constituency. 

<there is no 14.2>

PROBES 15     19.10.2015 (49' 48'')
Experimental uses of the more intractable folk instruments: bagpipes, hurdy gurdy and harmonica.

PROBES 15.2     03.12.2015

bagpipes, zithers, harmonicas and hurdy-gurdys do things they aren’t supposed to do in contexts in which they aren’t supposed to do them... rather brilliantly.

PROBES 16     14.01.2016 (49' 22'')
Banjos, mandolins, balalaikas and the jew’s harp are made to do unaccustomed and groundbreaking things.

PROBES 16.2     01.02.2016 (29' 26'')

PROBES 17     26.02.2016 (48' 04'')
How the Gamelan collided with western notions of music and exotic percussion spread like a virus into every field.

PROBES 17.2      08.03.2016 (28' 20'')
More gamelan, stretched percussion and other exotic byways.

PROBES 18     29.04.2016 (57' 02'')
Lowly percussion is raised high and we enter in the hyper-real world of hi-fi stereo, pure listening and exotica.

PROBES 18.2    05.08.2016 (29'12")  Batchelor-pad hi-fi stereo whips off its kitschy disguise to reveal a revolutionary core, abandoning boring documentation for a dizzy exploration of novel timbres, impossible spatialities and radical fragmentation. This is where recording technology finally becomes aware of itself as an aesthetic rather than a purely technical medium.

PROBES 19    03.09.2016  (50'29")
Continues the importation of exotic instruments, in this case from Africa, in pursuit of a specifically non-American American expression of culture and politics.

PROBES 20   18.04.2017  (60:43)
Traces the immense impact Indian instruments and musical aesthetics had on both thinking and playing across all forms of Western music, from Messiaen and La Monte Young to John Coltrane and the Beatles.  

PROBES 20.2   21.11.2017  (30.17)     

PROBES 21     04.09.2017  (56:19)
The incorporation of exotic instruments into western vocabularies moves from the Caribbean to East Asia, considering, en route, the curious case of World Music as a commercial and ideological category.

PROBES 21.2   21.11.2017  (30:33)     

PROBES 22    22.01.2018  (30:22)
Concludes the survey of the importation exotic instruments, looking past their sonorous and timbral values to the way they are deployed as vectors of meaning, language and symbolic representation.

PROBES 22.2    20.02.2018  (31:02)
Raids on the musical resources of Australia, Chine, Mexico, The Alps, Turkey, Japan, Brasil, Korea, Peru and Armenia.

PROBES 23    29:03.2018  (46:55)
We tackle the issue of Noise - and what we mean by it - before examining the Toy Symphonies and the musical career of the infamous toy piano.                                                                          

PROBES 23.2    09.05.2018  (28:45)
More from the exotic career of the toy piano.

PROBES 24    23.08.2018  (47:49)
Toys, music boxes and balloons find a new role in contemporary compositions, pop performances,film scores and jazz improvisation as composers explore alternative acoustic sources for extended non-electronic sounds.

PROBES 24.2    01.02 .2019  (28:49)
More toys in unexpected contexts.

PROBES 25   29.03.2018  (46:55)
Noise and what we mean by it - the many faces of the toy piano.

PROBES 25.2   23.03.18  (28:45)
More toy pianos and introducing the dactylion.

PROBES 26  01.07.2019  (59:27)
Satie, Cocteau and Avraamov prise open the musical door that grants free interchange between the world of things and the practices of art.

PROBES 26.2   11/02/2020  (30: 27)
Car horns, auto parts, doorbells, scrap metal asphalt, foghorns and power-tools find their way into pop, contemporary music, jazz and film scores.

PROBES 27   09/06/2020  (54:10)
We track the modern composer from the scrapyard to the office, through the living living room and into the kitchen in search of new musical resources - including scrap-metal, typewriters, vacuum cleaners, dot matrix printers, industrial quantities of paper, telephones, and the humble bean.

PROBES 28   25/09/2020   (58:30)
Follows the incorporation into new works of saws, sandpaper and power tools, artisans and knitting machines – and going on to investigate the re-purposing of radios and gramophones as musical resources.

A long interview  on the aims and contents of the Probes series conducted by Jonas Vognesen for Perfect Sound Forever.

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