I've got a few Crawling With Tarts releases, but this is the only cassette (as far as I remember). The others are CDs. Their work was always very nicely presented, and a pleasure to listen to. The creators were Michael Gendreau and Suzanne Dycus-Gendreau, and CWT operated from 1983 to 1998. This tape is from 1995 and was released on ASP, CWT's own label.
I've always like the name of this group, maybe because it conjures up a surreal image of a Daliesque hand, covered with tarts instead of ants. Makes no sense to me, and I don't know if there's more behind the name. (It turns out there is, and I was pretty wide of the mark. It's from a quote by Brassaï, a French photographer of the 1930s. “...the pleasure of those deserted quays, those desolate streets, that district of outcasts, crawling with tarts, full of warehouses and docks...”)
I'm pretty sure I got this tape from Paul Wild's Fisheye Distribution, which was a great place to get weird stuff in the 1990s in the UK. I spent a lot of money on Paul's mail order catalogue.
The cassette is nicely presented in a card sleeve inside a plastic sleeve with a piece of sack-cloth that has the word 'Enthusiasm' stencilled on it in Cyrillic text. This is your first clue to the concept behind the tape. This is a product based on a 1931 movie by Dziga Vertov, (1896-1954) the Russian revolutionary film-maker who was as much an innovator as his better-known compatriot, Sergei Eistenstein. Like many revolutionaries, 'Vertov' was a pseudonym, meaning 'spinning-top', and his films tend to reflect this aesthetic.
CWT describe Vertov's films thus: “[his images] only have meaning in relation to the other images immediately adjacent. In other words, the meaning is somewhat linear, but resides on a different level, as implied, than the images themselves.”
Although I have only seen part of Vertov's film, it is clear that CWT have taken many aspects of it for their sound piece, which is in four parts (I-IV). The use of metronome, religious music, church bells, military music, etc are all in the film. In fact, it is clear that much of CWT's piece is sampled from or directly inspired by the film.
CWT describe the four parts of their piece thus:
I. Russia before the October Revolution, with religion as one of the dominant ideological powers
II. The beginnings of strikes and turmoil, army divisions reconsidering their allegiances
III. The destruction of icons, removal (by force) of all vestiges of the previous order, beginnings of the restructuring of the ideological order
IV. Further construction of the Soviet state
Like Vertov's movies, CWT's piece is a documentary. It is all 'found sound'. The metronome is heavily featured, providing a rhythm for all the other rhythms to come, be they trains, singing, bells, machinery or footsteps. Most of the sounds featured are rhythmic, with the few exceptions being in the area of speech, which is mainly in French. Vertov's film is in Russian, so I don't know where this speaking comes from. Through the whole piece sound rises and falls, as the sound and rumble of machinery pulse near and far, Morse code pulses names, radio tuning squeals and shifts, and drills and tools start and stop. The whole thing takes about 40 minutes, and rewards repeated listens. Soundscape, document, narrative of sorts and working environment; the metronome keeping time pretty much through the whole thing.
After the main piece there is a live rendition of Enthusiasm which is similar to the longer piece only inasmuch as it features a metronome and recorded voice. This version is all about hypnotism. The performance caused some controversy among the audience. I quote from a letter sent by the group to 'Peter and Carman' in 1996:
'Enthusiasm 1993 was performed as part of a festival where each group was given only 15 minutes. Most of the other music was of an improvisatory nature, quite different in form and language than what we wanted to put across (purposefully). The piece does not have any performers in it (other than the audience as it turned out) after we start the machinery going. We then just leave. The machinery is two turntables playing hypnosis records (at once), a metronome counting seconds, plus a timer that turns on after a few minutes a bare bulb and a third turntable with a hypnosis record. The audience was divided in reaction throughout: half wanted to stop it, half appeared to be defending the piece's right to enfold. There were heckles and then defensive counter-heckles. There is a little "hoot" when the light comes on automatically. Later, someone unscrewed the bulb. Later still, someone screwed it back in. You can hear the metronome pulse speed up due to an audience member's interaction, and then resume counting seconds (or so) due to another's. Suz and I stood way at the back throughout so as not to be recognized or called to comment. It was fun. I guess what I like best about the recording is how the audience noise level slowly raises during our 15 minutes.'
CWT's letter about the production of the cassette and the 1993 live performance is here:
other interviews and stuff here: http://www.o-art.org/history/Groups/CWT/
You can see 'Enthusiasm' in full here, and hear some of Vertov's sound experiments: http://www.openculture.com/2015/04/hear-dziga-vertovs-revolutionary-experiments-in-sound.html
Thank you very much for this interesting article and the information. I did not know this!
Russian Futurism excites me still
Thanks for your kind words, Rafael. I found out quite a lot writing the review, which I hadn't known before. The early Soviet period was a great time for art, but sadly Stalin wasn't a fan, so it didn't end well.
My pleasure, really! Stalin ended this great period of art and with millions of people.
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