Civilization, Phaze III Review

~From: (John V. Scialli)

My Civilization Phaze III arrived today (Wednesday 14 Dec 94). It is a 2 CD set packaged luxuriously in a vinyl hard cover binder with the artwork part of the vinyl. The 32-page Libretto is bound (stapled) into the boooklet. The disks arestark black with small grey letters saying the Title and Act One, Act Two. The whole thing is placed inside a white cardboard box with just the familiar pumpkin on it and then the whole thing shrinkwrapped!

The liner notes are what the Dutch fanzine Black Page has published:

"SCENARIO: CIVILIZATION, PHAZE III is an opera-pantomime, with choreographed physical activity (manifested as dance or other forms of inexplicable sociophysical communication).

"Plot continuity is derived from a serial rotation of randomly chosen words, phrases and concepts, including (but not limited to) motors, pigs, ponies, dark water, nationalism, smoke, music, beer, and various forms of personal isolation.

"All voices and music are pre-recorded, and, to the extent possible, all scenic and lighting changes will be automated, with their cues stored as digital code on a track embedded in the audio master."

General Notes

"In 1967, we spent about four months recording various projects (Uncle meat, We're Only In It for The Money, Ruben and the Jets and Lumpy Gravy) at APOSTOLIC STUDIOS, NYC One day I decided to stuff a pair of U-87's in the piano, cover it with a heavy drape, put a sand bag on the sustain pedal and invite anybody in the vacinity to stick their head inside and ramble incoherently about the various topics I would suggest to them via the studio talk-back system.

"The set-up remained in place for several days. During that time, many hours of recordings were made, most of it useless. Some of the people who took the challengeincluded Spider Barbour (leader of the rock group Chrysalis which was also recording at Apostolic when we weren't booked in), All-Night John (The studio manager), Gilly Townley (sister of the guy who owned the studio), Monica (the receptionist), Roy Estrada and Motorhead Sherwood (members of the Mothers of Invention), Louis Cuneo (a guy who used to come to our live shows at the Garrick Theatre and laugh like a psychotic turkey), and a few others.

"Some of this dialogue, after extensive editing, found its way into the Lumpy Gravy album. The rest of it sat in my tape vault for decades, waiting for the glorious day when audio science would develop tools which might allow for its ressurection.

"In Lumpy Gravy, the spoke material was intercut with sound effects, electronic textures and orchestral recordings of short pieces, recorded at Capitol Studios, Hollywood, autumn 1966. These were 2-track razor-blade edits. The process took around nine months.

Because all the dialogue had been recorded in (to borrow a phrase from Evelyn, A Modified Dog) "pan-chromatic resonance and other highly ambient domains," it was not always possible to make certian edits sound convincing, since the ambience would vanish disturbingly at the edit point. This severely limited my ability to create the illusion that various groups of speakers, recorded on different days, were talking to each other. As a result, what emerged from the texts was a vague plot regarding pigs and ponies, threatening the lives of the characters who inhabit a large piano.

"In Civilaztion, Phaze III we get a few more clues about the lives of the piano-dwellers and note that the external evils have only gotten worse since we first met them. The bulk of the musical material comes from Synclavier sequences (all music in act one). In the second act, the music is a combination of Synclavier (70%) and live performance (30%), along with a new generation of piano people.

"The new residents (my daughter, Moon Unit, actor Michael Rappaport, the music preparation assistant for the Yellow Shark project, Ali N. Askin, my computer asistant, Todd Yvega, and the entire brass section of the Ensemble Modern) were recorded in a Boesendorfer Imperila at UMRK during the summer of 1991. By this time, digital editing technology had solved the ambience hang-over problem, finally making it possible to combine their fantasies in a more coherent way with the original recordings from 1967."

Back to Scialli: The music is dense, complex and uneasy, but at times very funny. There are no sung songs and syclavier is everywhere, but to my ear this does not sound synthetic. The dialogue is strange and surpringly topical. There are some (modern) dated references which will become obscure quickly.

Ordering: In Europe, the CD is available at stores from Music For Nations. In the US it is available from Barfko-Swill mailorder only. A dedictated fax line is set up at 001-818-764-1022. Or phone (voice) orders are taken Mon-Friday 10:00 AM PST - 5:00 PM PST at 001-818-PUMPKIN. The office is closed 26-30th December. Cost USD $ 35.00.


John Scialli Phoenix Arizona

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