Thanks Simon for letting me know that Basil Kirchin died on June 19th. I'd never heard of Basil until Simon's email arrived, but I'm glad I do now. He was a 100% paid up legend, inspiring people like Brian Eno and Nurse With Wound. He did things like being the first person to ever tour with their own PA system in the 1950s, and possibly the first (of countless) person to claim to be "writing music for an imaginary film". I'd very highly recommend this short history from Trunk Records, but this
quote (from an interview with Bob Stanley in 2003) seems to capture what he was about: "If you take the human voice and slow it down five octaves, immediately everything you can hear drops away. Take birdsong, all those harmonics you can't hear are brought down - sounds that human ears have never heard before. Little boulders of sound. In 1964 it was hard to capture. There was only reel to reel tape, and it took eight or nine years of my life. It was long and hard and painful. Now with the new technology you can hear these boulders of sound without changing the pitch, which is miraculous!"
On and off through the Sixties and Seventies, Kirchin stayed in an autistic community at Schurmatt in Switzerland. "These autistic children, the sounds they make when they try to communicate are unbelievable. They jabber away and of course it's gibberish and meaningless. But if you record it and apply the techniques I've mentioned...trust me, you can hear what they're trying to convey."
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