Experimental music desperately needs a turn to humour, satire, parody and, most of all, reflexivity, if it is to remain listenable. I can almost see this turn taking shape in the form of a long and unfolding joke. But, like any joke, the punchline can only work if you’re alive to the setup. I propose that the setup has been taking place over decades of concerts marked by near humourlessness.
This is a playlist that will grow over time. It will feature artists operating at the intersection of experimental sound and comedy - mobilising the conventions of each to agitate the other.
The first inductees are Japanese Melbourne-based artist Makiko Yamamoto and Tasmanian-based comedian and musician Chloe Alison Escott.
Makiko's presence in this playlist coincides with the publication of un Magazine 11.2 and the article 'The Joke That Isn't Funny Anymore', which discusses Yamamoto's band, named 'The Band'.
Makiko's two pieces here are examples of use of the self-interview as a strategy to dissolve the boundaries between speaker and listener, subject and self. Her repeated attempts to pronounce English words and escalating embarrassment seem to produce an increasing incapacity emblematic of the psychic dislocation built into transnational lifeworlds. But her stutter is as much signal as it is failure, as these repetitive mispronouncements are also articulations of the dialogical self. For from the spaces between her utterances surfaces an expressive space, in which the social and cultural codes organising her experience as a Japanese woman speaking in an English-speaking society may be ventilated. What we witness at the point of language failure is not the artist’s actual shyness or humiliation, but rather her performance of these, as gendered gestures towards the ideal.
Chloe's piece, specially created for this playlist, coincides with her performance at Monash University Museum of Art in response to the exhibition 'The Humours' which examines how artists use comedic personalities, strategies and tropes to address questions of race, labour, gender and history. Chloe's performance at MUMA is part of the Sound Spaces series and is presented in partnership with Liquid Architecture.
Of her entry into the world of comedy from another world, experimental music, Chloe writes "I was awakened to the potential of experimental sound in comedy through Jon Wurster's in-character calls to Tom Scharpling on the Best Show on WFMU, in particular his trademark of punctuating their exquisite sprawling conversations by delivering extremely loud noise of some sort - live drums, a bubbling bong, the crack of a "laser whip", the Rocky theme - directly into his phone mouthpiece. I've had separate careers running as a musician and a standup comedian for a long time, but close study of the transcendent joy of abrasive noise deployed with care and precision as a comedic device has led me to what I feel is a strong overlap."
Joel Stern is Artistic Director of Liquid Architecture, a PhD candidate in Curatorial Practice at Monash University and plays foot pumps in the band Sky Needle.