What Are Sound Collages?
As a little kid I was fascinated by my parent’s cassette recorder and would play with it all the time, making recordings and dreaming about making what I now call sound collages.
A sound collage is like a paper collage, but using audio samples, synthesizers, drum tracks and other audio material to create a new work — not a “song” necessarily — but something like an auditory adventure, made out of the various found materials and full of sound textures, chance happenings and odd bits of sound to trigger thoughts, memories or ideas… like soundtracks for stream-of-conscious movies that never existed.
When I was almost twenty I got a synthesizer and finally started making some of the things I dreamed about when I was a little kid, and twenty five years later I’m still trying to make those kind of recordings.
About Eccentric Activities
The members of Eccentric Activities included myself, a Roland Juno-60 Synthesizer, a Fostex X-15 four-track recorder, various sound effects records, and some odd tape machines and half-broken effects pedals.
Sometimes my friend Mark Powell (he sang for several of the bands I was in) would come by and add vocals… and once I spent an evening recording some Eccentric Activities material with a couple of Mark’s friends (tracks 5 and 6 of the playlist below.)
I loved my Juno-60! I got it in April of 1984 and it changed my life.
I had a friend at the time name Mark (a different Mark) who had been a Mod with me, but he had become more of a New Romantic (a fashion sub-culture of the time into bands like Visage, Adam Ant, early Duran Duran, Simple Minds) and he talked me into getting this synthesizer.
I sold my Juno-60 so Tania and I could have some money for moving to Minnesota in August of 1987 (We had a big moving sale and sold everything we had – but that’s a story for another time).
I used to miss my Juno a lot, but now I have a software version on my computer – so that helps. I’d sure would love to have an original though…
The Ol’ Fostex X-15
I had a girlfriend in the early 80’s named Angela and one of the last things she did for me was buy this four-track recorder so I could try and make better recordings of my keyboard ramblings, which, I was convinced at the time, would lead to musical fame and fortune…
I made a bunch of recordings with the machine but it had a fatal flaw, a low-hum around 120-130 Hz that was really annoying and just got worse when you made tape copies of tape copies, like we did back then.
Lucky for you, now, with the Magic of Digital Recording I can clean up the tracks somewhat (I’m not a professional) and so what you hear on these versions have had noise reduction with a better frequency equalization than the original copies. You can hear my clumsy keyboard playing much better now.
Back in 1988, while Tania and I lived in Minneapolis I traded the four-track recorder to a heavy metal band for something “herbal”, and that was the end of Eccentric Activities.
The X-15 had been the heart of the project, the Juno-60 was the voice, and I had been the hands.
About The Selection of Compositions
This is only seven out of over a dozen different compositions from the time. I’ve deliberately spared you from having to hear any tracks with my thin, young voice and bad singing.
Unfortunately that does mean you don’t get to hear my cover version of Joy Division’s She’s Lost Control unless I can figure out how to do a good “vocal-removal” from the original mix.
To Download MP3s – Right click (with your right mouse button), and choose “Save link to…” and then select where you want to download the MP3 file. Click enter and the download will begin.
1. Driving In The Rain – This is the first piece I recorded when I got my Fostex X-15 Four-Track. I used sound effects records to attempt to create a rhythm because I didn’t have a drum machine most of time…
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2. Industrial Symphony – Recorded right after Driving In The Rain. Another attempt at creating a “industrial” rhythm with various bits from sound effects records. I didn’t have any Sampling machines, Drum machines, Sequencers – Just multi-tracking my Juno-60…
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3. Dance of the Turbulent Mind – a sound collage-like piece of music. I’m not sure where the melody came from… I’m sure I’ve heard it somewhere before. This piece had 3 tracks of the Juno-60 and one track of sound effects…
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4. Thursday in the Park – This song I wrote and recorded at the time I met Tania – this is the sound of me falling in love with her…
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5. Corruption – Recorded with Mark Powell and his friends Andrew and Pat on November 8th and 9th, 1986. Andrew programmed the drum rhythm and played bass, and Pat added some guitar…
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6. Into The Deepend – Recorded with Mark Powell and his friends Andrew and Pat on November 8th and 9th, 1986. Andrew programmed the drum rhythm and played bass, and Pat added some other keyboard sounds.
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7. Deeper Than First Glance – Another piece with just 4-tracks of the Juno-60, with a soundtrack feel…
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The Eccentric Activities “scratchy writing” logo is from a little sketch I drew (that little guy was called “Content Guy”) which Tania used to hand-cut a silkscreen in her class at school (she was in her senior year of high school when we met) and then she surprised me with some Eccentric Activities T-Shirts she had hand-printed – so cool!
The graphics for the songs on this playlist are images from photocopied contact sheets of photos of me and my friend Betsy, taken by artist Zane Ott sometime in 1985. I used these same photocopied contact sheets for the insert of the cassette tape of Eccentric Activities I made in late 1986…
Above: Cover and side of Eccentric Activities Cassette Tape from 1986
A Seven Song Playlist…
So you can just kick back and listen to all 7 songs, one after the other…