Good Music We Can Know

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Secret Genius of Ferrante & Teicher: Soundproof! (1956); Denizens of the Deep (1950)

At this point it's probably not exactly breaking news if I confide to you that Ferrante & Teicher's history contains richer moments of experimentation and creativity than one will usually find in the extremely easy easy-listening records that compose the bulk of their legacy. The fact that they began their careers as piano-treating, texture-seeking Julliard prodigies is by this point well-known to those with the proclivity to know such things, but let's shed a little more light on the subject today. from wiki: The duo... experimented with prepared pianos, adding paper, sticks, rubber, wood blocks, metal bars, chains, glass, mallets, and other found objects to piano string beds. In this way they were able to produce a variety of bizarre sounds that sometimes resembled percussion instruments, and at other times resulted in special effects that sounded as if they were electronically synthesized.
This period in their career is full of fascinating stuff, the textures and arrangements positively bursting with invention and the joy of discovery. One of the finest examples of the boys at their best is the 1956 album, Soundproof, a Dimension-X version of an easy listening record that's been compared to Joe Meek, John Cage, and Moondog, among others. This is fascinating stuff indeed, made all the more bizarre by their fairly conventional song choices-- songs like "Greensleeves" and "Mississippi Boogie" find themselves run through extremely different treatments than they would on almost any other record, at least any other white record, in 1956.

Especially wonderful are the more Exotica-flavored selections (naturally), "African Echoes", "Baia" ("Baia" being always a highlight of a record, it's such a fantastic composition), and "Dark Eyes". The dark, echoey tones and flat, alien percussion of the treated piano lends itself to a truly unique but quintessentially Exotic sensation. This is a must-have.


By the way, if anyone can hook me up with the follow-up record, Soundblast, I'd be most grateful. I understand it is more of the same in the best of ways, but can't seem to locate a source for it. BREAKING NEWS: Holly from Den O' Sin has graciously heeded the call and generously dropped a post with a link over at her spot. Avest yourselves, fellows.

As good as a good F&T record can be, they almost always ply their insane talents in the service of standards and lite-pop selections. This provides an excellent contrast of course, and is especially delightful when the song is as awesome as "Baia" or "Tabu" (which they knock wholly out of the park on both Hi-Fi Fireworks and Pianos in Paradise), but it means dealing with more than a little outsized wackiness as they caper about in, and demolish, innocent little compositions. Usually this is a good thing, but the idea of a record instead comprised exclusively of F&T originals is pretty alluring. Compositions actually designed to showcase their sensibilities, not retrofitted to accommodate them-- if only there were more of this.

What there is, is Denizens of the Deep, a record the duo began making in 1950 at the start of their recording career, and abandoned. A marvellous set of more abstract compositions describing undersea motifs and moods, this could damn near have been their masterpiece. The more ambient approach causes it to resemble a bit of fantastic soundtrack work, or perhaps something by Sven Libaek. Unfortunately, the tapes in all their aged glory don't really sound that great-- the music is positively superlative but it does compete with some vicious tape hiss. (Compounding this problem is the fact that my copy is in 128 kbps- if anyone has a better copy, consider throwing us all a bone in the comments.)

Now that I've denegrated the sound quality of this record, let me back up and reiterate. This shit is crazy, crazy good. Lost Masterpiece to the Max. Believe in it, my friends. When you hear the unhinged madness of "The Loch Ness Monster Stomp", you will thank me for convincing you to go on this journey, and that is a promise. If you're still unsure, then have a look at this tracklist, and feel your desire for undersea-themed music surge and rush, flooding your heart with an imperative to night-swim in a lit pool, wearing a SCUBA mask and playing this fantastic record.

1. Underwater Expectations
2. Things to Come at Sea
3. Whiptailed Stingrays
4. Barracudas on the Chase
5. Spinning Steelheads
6. Floating Manatees
7. Plunging Sharks & Diving Swordfish
8. Crafty Bowfin
9. At Sea Watching Voracious Piranha
10. Searching the Seas
11. Loch Ness Monster Stomp
12. Electric Eels
13. Treacherous Octopi & Devilfish
14. Manatees & Dolphins
15. Sneaky Spiny Sturgeons
16. Ink of the Giant Squids
17. Underwater Reflections
18. A Whale of an Aquarian Finale at Sea


(I originally found this over at Music for Maniacs, but that maniac left out all the track names- I have rectified the oversight and provided my own link, but feel free to give him some love over this share. Also feel free to share in the comments what you know about all the secret goodnesses of Ferrante & Teicher, as my collection and knowledge is far from complete.)


Holly said...

Thanks for these! Working on getting Soundblast for you :-)

Holly said...

See my blog :-)

Duncan said...

Wow! I came here via Den O'Sin - I can't get enough of these guys! Thanks a lot,

Kip W said...

Whoops! Is that a stereo Soundblast, Holly? My LP is mono. Can't... resist! (Blast Off is out there, too, and Xmas Hi-Fivories.)

All I can say now is thanks, both of you. I've loved this stuff ever since I got SOUNDBLAST, decades ago.

Alex / Data Garden said...

Thank you so much for Denizens of the Deep. Been wanting to hear F&T rip on some underwater pianos for a while. :¬)

robijntje said...

Hi, I just discovered your nice blog. Can you please re-up this item by F&T? Thanks in advance .Kindly regards. Robert from Holland

Flash Strap said...

re-upped! Enjoy

robijntje said...

Wowwwww, You have made my day, Thanks, Robert

Anonymous said...

Hi, just wanted to let you know that I've been downloading some amazing stuff from you site :-)
Being relatively naive to the world of exotica I got some Baxter, Denny, Lyman, Nicolai & Ferrante & Teicher...
Wow, what a beautiful world this is :-)
Thanx a million.
I'll be visiting often...