Jon Nelson at Some Assembly Required put together an astounding compilation this year called 50/50. Sound artists were invited to create 50 second compositions using at least 50% recycled sound from broadcast media.
References to social and political commentary are mixed with collages and mashups of popular music. Jon did a fantastic job of sequencing and making sense of the wide variety of the 50 tracks. Although you would expect a lot of experimentation with this kind of thing, I was surprised at how entertaining, and frankly hilarious, this comp is. Apparently, there is something about sampling broadcast media that brings out the sense of humor in sound artists.
My own track, Lifetime Pop Head (#30), is a mashup of fragments from Kylie’s Can’t Get You Out Of My Head, Once In A Lifetime by Talking Heads, and an EZPop popcorn TV commercial from the 1950’s. I was a little concerned that my submission might be too whimsical, but I needn’t have worried. The chilled austerity or barrages of noise often associated with a term like “sound art” is nowhere in evidence here. 50/50 is clever, goofy, ridiculous, thought provoking, and full of inspired creativity. It’s never boring. The time limitation required composers to basically get in, make a coherent statement, and then get out in less than a minute. I was impressed at the consistent level of wit and skill displayed by the dozens of composers involved. It’s guaranteed to bring a smile to any music lover, not just fans of experimental electronic music.
After 12 years of hosting his radio show, Jon is has recently made the tough decision to retire Some Assembly Required. 50/50 is an impressive way to close this portion of his career, which will certainly continue in some other form, we hope.
It’s worth ordering the CD for the cool artwork, or download it from the usual suspects.