Author Archives: Laughter

Laughter is dead

This site started as an archive for my radio program on WZBC at Boston College. With time it grew to be something else, mostly a mess. That’s why I’m discontinuing the use of this site and starting fresh with a new one. I’ll move some articles from this site over to my new home at, but […]

photo of staple singers

The Staple Singers covering “Slippery People”

Awesome cover of Talking Heads’s “Slippery People” posted by Pour Me Coffee (thanks Brent Sirota): And a live performance of the original for anyone that needs to be reminded:

Pisaro at Big Sur

Interview: Michael Pisaro, A Conspiracy Against the Ordinary

Experimental music opens up our ears. Should we become too rigid or inflexible in our thinking, sound can point us toward broader avenues and unexpected possibilities. This, says Michael Pisaro, is one way that experimental music reaches out into the world. But, he says, it doesn’t just reach out, it invites listeners in and asks […]

portion of album cover from 2 Seconds...

Review: Michael Pisaro / Taku Sugimoto, “2 Seconds / B Minor / Wave”

Time of the metronomic kind gives shape to music. It defines the tempo of a song, fixes when sounds should and shouldn’t be played, and determines mood as surely as major and minor keys do. On 2 Seconds/B minor/Wave, Michael Pisaro and Taku Sugimoto reverse that relationship and employ sound to illuminate the physical shapes […]

Earl Scruggs with a banjo

RIP Earl Scruggs

Earl Scruggs passed away on March 28th, at the age of 88. You can read the New York Times obituary here and listen to NPR’s audio interview featuring Tony Trischka, Bela Fleck and Steve Martin talking about Earl Scruggs’s influence on them. Or you can just listen to his music and hear how awesome he was, regardless of who […]

detail of Michelangelo's creation fresco in the Sistine Chapel

An Apology: Christian Politics and Knowledge Denial

Victories in the Mississippi and Alabama primaries on Tuesday night triggered another round of discussions about Rick Santorum’s religious and political positions and how he’s overcoming unlikely odds despite them. One in particular, written by Randall J. Stephens and Karl Giberson and published at Religious Dispatches, does an excellent job of explaining how a Catholic Senator from Pennsylvania managed to win over a […]

Raphael's depiction of Plato

The Partially Examined Life

I’d like to point visitors to a blog/podcast I found last week called The Partially Examined Life. On a semi-regular basis, four former philosophy students and graduates get together on Skype and discuss a predetermined topic from philosophy, usually with a little bit of humor to keep things from getting too like a lecture hall. […]

Feldman at the piano

Let the Sounds Alone 02

From the end of Vertical Thoughts (1963): Art in its relation to life is nothing more than a glove turned inside out. It seems to have the same shapes and contours, but it can never be used for the same purpose. Art teaches nothing about life, just as life teaches us nothing about art. Vertical Thoughts is an early Feldman […]

What's up with noises video capture

Video: What’s up with Noises?

Vi Hart is a self-described “mathemusician” who works for the Khan Academy. The following video is her quick explanation of what happens when you hear a note, or lots of notes, and it includes an awesome description of the overtone series and how it works.

Review: R/S, “USA”

Peter Rehberg and Marcus Schmickler make a perplexing and contradictory duo. Take their computers away from them and their differences, both in theory and in practice, become clear. Perhaps because of these differences, Peter and Marcus have produced just two records together: 2007’s One (Snow Mud Rain), released by Erstwhile, and USA, a live recording released by […]

2011 Was a Great Year (not quite a “best of” list)

Musically and personally, 2011 was a phenomenal year. From The Field to AMM and Radu Malfatti, I listened to a tremendous amount of music and a tremendous variety of music; much more than I could keep up with. If I had to summarize it, this was the year of the composer and the improviser: Cornelius […]

detail from cover of Smegma and van Wissem album

Review: Smegma & Jozef van Wissem, “Suite the Hen’s Teeth”

This year, when playing with United Bible Studies or Che Chen and Robbie Lee, Jozef van Wissem’s name has taken the spotlight, even though his collaborators have made essential contributions to his music. That’s reasonable enough, especially in light of Jozef’s aspirations for the lute and the excellent solo records he’s released throughout 2011. It’s […]

detail from the cover of James Hoff's EP on PAN Records

Review: James Hoff, “How Wheeling Feels When the Ground Walks Away”

In light of the on-going Occupy Wall Street protests and England’s summer riots, James Hoff’s single-sided picture disc on PAN feels a little heavier than it otherwise might. Stitched together from various “historic riots,” none of which are named, How Wheeling Feels When the Ground Walks Away presents lo-fi crowd roar, chants, guitar solos, breaking glass, and […]

pierre at his mixing desk

Pierre Henry: “…and that’s where composing begins”

Below is an excellent documentary about Pierre Henry and musique concrète made available via YouTube. Thanks to Root Blog for passing it along.

a broken mirror

Laughtrack Mixes No. 8 and 9: Unplayable

Today was the day I had planned on uploading the last two shows I did on WZBC, in the wake of a Cardinals World Series victory, but apparently it wasn’t meant to be. All I have from those shows is a couple of playlists, unfortunately. Not sure what happened to my files, but you won’t […]

NCP shelf at WZBC

Long Delay + Live Set on WZBC in Boston

Moving to a new place takes up a lot of time, and it’s the reason I haven’t posted here for over a month. In the interim, I have written some things about new releases for Other Music in New York, and if you’re interested in reading any of that, you should check out their weekly […]

detail from the cover of A Prayer for Light

Review: Heresy of the Free Spirit, “A Prayer for Light”

2011 is turning into the year of van Wissem. In addition to The Joy that Never Ends on Important Records, Jozef has released three collaborative records on his own Incunabulum imprint this year, including one unlikely pairing with Smegma. A Prayer for Light, recorded on Easter in 2010, features Robbie Lee, who has performed with Howling Hex and […]

photo of pioneers resting near the mountains

July 2011: Laughtrack MP3 Mix No. 7

Eventually, once I’ve become accustomed to some new software, I will post a continuous mix of the music I’ve been listening to the most these last few months. Until then, you’ll have to settle for a late edition of Laughtrack with a dash of basic mixing tossed in. This one includes music from Francisco López, […]

Silence and the Wandelweiser Group

Since buying 2 Seconds / B Minor / Wave by Michael Pisaro and Taku Sugimoto, I’ve searched out information about the Wandelweiser Group to which Pisaro belongs and read a few essays written by Pisaro himself. Today, I stumbled on this Wandelwesier feature by Dan Warburton, which was originally published in Signal to Noise in 2001. […]

photo from London riots

Message from Chemikal Underground

The following message showed up on Chemikal Underground’s Twitter feed on Tuesday: The destruction of the SONY/DADC warehouse in Enfield last night and with it, the stock belonging to dozens of great independent labels distributed by PIAS UK, represents a sad and frustratingly bitter blow to the music industry at a time when it can […]