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
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 that freedom."
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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