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On Pandora, I am listening to Earle Brown‘s Folio, for piano and electronics right now, a very interesting piece. Earle Brown is well worth seeking out.

In this particular version, about a minute in, amidst the dialog between the analog (piano) and the electronic instruments, there interrupts a third instrument…

Someone coughs.

Not to overemphasize the importance of the musician, listener, or human subject in general, but it is the most compelling note in the whole piece. Suddenly, this conversation between these platonic representations – the warm, physical analog instrument and the cold, virtual electronic instrument is offered counterpoint by the only living thing presenced.

All of the possibilities of abstract tonality fall away and what is revealed is a direct relationship to a literal human presence. Suddenly the piece has a throat – and by extension ears listening and the rest of a body (and possibly a malady thereof!). It turns from a self-sufficient formal arrangement to a performance to be made and appreciated, a projection of human sensing.

It is startling and beautiful. And while this insertion of the human presence is neither good nor bad, it recontextualizes the very identity of this piece. And I love that…

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On the subject of singular interjections, They Might Be Giants Lie Still Little Bottle has a single piano hit in the middle that is a great hinge point for the progression of the piece.
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On the subject of coughs in songs, it reminds me that Cornershop’s Brimful of Asha has a cough in it, if you listen closely. As does an Elvis Costello song from Armed Forces. Although I don’t recall which. Will report back with that information…1:51 into Big Boys.

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