Zane Trow is a UK born Queensland based sonic artist, composer/performer and live artist. Since the mid 70’s he has been active in live sound and experimental music practices. He has released his work, gorgeous washes of ambient sound of Lawrence English’s Room40 label, beginning with 2004’s beguiling For Those Who Hear Actual Voices, though more recently he’s quite active in Arts Festivals and administration. Abandoning these activities in 2020, he’s been able to focus more on making music, with his new album Why Echoes? A work of profound stillness and beauty, due for release on Room40 in June 2021. With such a wealth of experience and gorgeous sounds we wanted to know more, so we reached out to ask Zane about the music that moves him.
Soft Machine – Out-Bloody-Rageous from Third 1970
Ratledge. An inspiration still. I only like Soft Machine 3, 4, 5, 6 & 7. Before and after those recordings I only have some general interest really, but albums 3 to 7 are the strongest work for me, and include Ratledge’s most nuanced compositions, some simply astounding organ solos, and backwards loops, phase shifting motifs and echoplex work with prepared electric piano (best heard on 5 – Drop). I first heard Rainbow in Curved Air on John Peel and then I heard In C so I knew this kind of work existed; but when I first heard Out-Bloody-Rageous shortly after Third came out, I was instantly transfixed. He had obviously taken on the minimalist proposal and twisted it into a singular voice and placed it in a new context. Most of the solo Hugh Hopper and all the solo Robert Wyatt work also remains a strong listening experience for me. This music emerged at a particular time of course, and at that time many musicians I knew thought of it as “too intellectual” or “second rate jazz”. But for me it has a unique voice, and I would argue that Ratledge is one of the most significant post-war English composer/performers.
Pauline Oliveros – Crone Music 1990
Pauline, accordion & delay system embody excellence in both theory and practice for me. The Deep Listening theory remains a powerful proposal, and her improvisations and compositions have both stillness and movement. I think her accordion allowed her to breathe sounds that could not be constructed any other way…because…air. And her live delay improvisations place her in the past, present and future simultaneously because…time. Air and time, two things we all need.
Meredith Monk – Ellis Island for two pianos 1986 – Performed by Nurit Tilles & Edmund Niemann
Meredith Monk’s multi artform work is as outstanding and groundbreaking as Oliveros I think, in a related but different mode. The Ellis Island film takes a socio/political and aesthetic position, interrogating notions of otherness, measurement, regulation and control. It is a site-specific work combining sound, dance, theatre, historical documentation… Her take on the minimalist proposal also launches her into alternative ideas for the human voice, away from “songs” into some kind of, almost primal call and response ritual. This work for two pianos conjures for me the eb and flow of tides, the endless ripples in the waters surrounding a place that held such terror for so many, an “island of tears”.
Lol Coxhill – Dorset Bridge 1983
I saw Lol play solo many times, the first time was in Burnley in the north and England in 1977 with alternative theatre troupe Welfare State International and their “Love, Lives and Murders of Lancelot Barrabas Quail”. From that experience I realized there was maybe a home for my music outside of the oh so straight “music industry”, a nomadic home with diverse artists and makers who took a position on both form and content and I have managed to work in related contexts on and off ever since. One of my other favourite live memories of Lol is the “Johnny Rondo Trio” which included Georgina Born (of Henry Cow and the Feminist Improvising Group) playing a strange but as always with Lol, perfect mix of free jazz and music hall tunes. His work with The Recedents (Mike Cooper and Roger Turner) is also worth tracking down. He was unique, entirely self-contained when he needed to be, and he never, as far as I can tell, compromised. Since he passed in 2012 I miss knowing that he is there somewhere, blowing away.
Gavin Bryars – The Sinking of the Titanic 1975
Again, I don’t know of any other music that sounds this particular way. This is one of his better-known pieces of course. I love the lower registers of his work, as a bass player he knows a lot about them and in compositions the bottom always has a particular sublime melancholy I think. While I was Chair of Contemporary Music Events in Melbourne we managed to bring out Gavin and some of his ensemble to Australia for the first time. Bryar’s “After the Requiem” is also excellent and combines the electric guitar of Bill Frisell very successfully with the Balanescu Quartet, highly recommended.
Charles Mingus – Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus (1963)
Another great, deep bass voice. Surely one of the most interesting composers of the 20th century of any genre. This is the version of the tune I like the best. The band is stunning in its control, power and restraint. A big band in every sense. Mingus demanded no compromise, maintained a socio/political vision and craved artistic independence. Formed an independent label as early as 1952. I recently got this album on vinyl and I think it may be the album that vinyl LPs were invented for…lol.
Morton Feldman – String quartet no. 2 (1983) FLUX Quartet at The Tanks, Tate Modern
Long form. This version is recorded live at the Tate Modern by the FLUX Quartet who are an interesting mob in themselves. It is five hours (or so). My partner Ria and I recently listened to String Quartet no. 2 continuously over the course of a day just sloppin’ round the house and it changed everything, but everything stayed the same. The Feldman long form works all seriously propose the challenge of the abstract. There is no narrative here and I find that a great relief, sounds that simply hang in the air for a while. “Decay, however, this departing landscape, this expresses where the sound exists in our hearing – leaving us rather than coming towards us” – Feldman from the essay Anxiety of Art (1965).
Si Tu T’Imagines – Juliette Gréco 1957
This version live in Tokyo in 1961. Juliette is one of the first “musical” sounds I remember ever hearing, this song particularly. My father, a journalist & drummer, would put either Juliette, Count Basie or George Shearing on the record player on a Saturday or Sunday morning. My mother, a dancer, would then counter with some Stravinsky, usually “Rite of Spring” or some Shostakovich. These collections of sounds left ripples into the rest of my life. What is the first music you remember and how has it shaped your aesthetic learning?
Robert Ashley – Celestial Excursions
“…..explores remarkably uncharted territory—the kind of language that is common among “old” people who talk all the time or not at all, to anyone passing by or to themselves. The opera premiered at the Hebbel Theater in Berlin, before coming to The Kitchen for its U.S. premiere in April 2003….”
This is two hours and well worth the effort. Ashley – spoken word like no other, and clearly working in a similar space to Laurie Anderson, who I also like very much. Robert Ashely, Pauline Oliveros and Meredith Monk are not “spoken about” as much as Glass/Riley/Reich when it comes to minimalism. I think that’s a shame, and that Ashley particularly worked in a way few others have come close to.
“When has any other opera libretto ever hewn so close to the unselfconscious way people talk? Language evolves, and each new century has to recapture anew some way to bring music and language into intimate contact. Ashley has always represented a new point of crystallisation in that process…” Kyle Gann, The Village Voice (March 2000)
The Orb feat. Lee Scratch Perry – Golden Clouds 2012
I love the Orb, I love dub, I love Lee Scratch Perry. More spoken word, more echoes, more loops, more space, more skankin’… this music refreshes the parts other music cannot reach.
You can find Why Echos? here.