With the use of a digital recorder and mic, this classically
trained musician recorded sounds such as a mouse trying to
get out of a wastebasket, the contents of a handbag, the noises
of laser eye surgery, and used body sounds donated from listeners
on his mailing list. The concept is wonderfully simple: sample
a door slam for your kick drum, cough out a bass-line, or
scratch up some glass and edit it to form a melody. Herbert
has constructed this audio diary into jazz, downtempo, and
house music rhythms and completed it with the beautiful vocals
of Dani Sicilianos and detailed instrument arrangements using
traditional instruments like bass, piano and strings.
Because of the subtle way Matthew Herbert places sounds on
his latest album, 'Bodily Functions,' the listener may not
be conscious of them, and if so, won't have any idea as to
how they were created. He has painstakingly taken it upon
himself to generate new sounds for his material as opposed
to using the factory presets provided by the gear's manufacturer.
"It's important to manipulate and to not except what
technology has to offer. Someone, somewhere in a factory or
office has decided that I would like (for example) fake oboe
sounds or whatever in my studio. There are no qualities that
I've expressly asked for. If you like a part of a sound you
should edit it, otherwise you're constructing something out
of someone else's language. As musicians we have the freedom
and the ability to create our own language and we should exercise
these sounds may not offer the deepest of meanings upon the
initial listen, Herbert hopes that his audience will read
the inlay of the CD or check out his web site to explore the
method and politics involved in his work. To Herbert, 'Bodily
Functions' is about growing in a world where everything around
you is mechanized. The assembly lines of big industry act
as a metaphor for modern life as large corporations and industrial
powerhouses are simultaneously creating products we've incorporated
into our survival and destroying the natural environment in
the process. As he explained, "I wanted to create a memento
of what it's like to human-what it's like to be emotional
and fragile and to regret growing older as well. Music is
mechanized, food is mechanized, and the soul, spirit and humanism
is slowly being removed from all the things that I grew up
thinking were important." Herbert expressed that 'Bodily
Functions' creates a documentation of the human experience.
The recording of every day sounds he said "started as
a logical expression of my immediate environment- these are
the things around me-these are the people and the places that
I've visited-there is a diary involved" The album is
also "about creating an alternative environment of sharing.
It's about warmth, integrity and honesty. It's political in
that sense because it's not buying into or participating in
any of the predominant moral codes."
Since the completion of 'Bodily Functions', Herbert has also
expanded into new sonic territory. Instead of recording the
environment he loves, he is now manipulating the sounds of
the manipulators that upset him most. "George Bush is
clearly one of the most evil men in the world so it seems
obvious that I should be taking sounds from him." In
his own way, this is a far blatantly political expression
then that of his previous work. "I also despise on every
level, McDonalds and what they represent. They've started
off by destroying America from the inside out and are now
doing it to a number of other places. So it seemed obvious
that on the next record, I should take the sounds of McDonalds
packaging. It's all very explicitly political and I'm very
excited about it."
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