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Judd: China Bowl (1962) / Suspended Motion (1963)

Listening exercise – Fred Judd: China Bowl (1962) / Suspended Motion (1963)

Listening exercise

Fred Judd was one of the leading evangelists of electronic music in England.

Judd worked tirelessly to promote electronic music as an art form in England, publishing 11 books on the subject, contributing pieces for Amateur Tape Recording magazine as its technical editor, speaking at amateur tape recording clubs, and making the occasional appearance on BBC radio. He is perhaps the epitome of the amateur electronic music practice from the 1950s to the 1970s, a strong advocate of the expressive power of the electronic medium, and that electronic music had something to offer that was not realisable in other existing musical forms. ‘China Bowl’, was broadcast during an appearance on the ‘Sound’ programme on BBC radio and is an example of some of explanatory work Judd produced on tape manipulation.

This is an additional video, hosted on YouTube.

By this point in the course, the information presented in this recording shouldn’t come as anything ground breaking to you but I think it is useful to note that such a broadcast was being produced by an enthusiastic amateur, and not an established artist that could claim to speak for the practice more widely, as was the case in Europe.

But let’s instead look at a more clearly musical piece that Judd produced – ‘Suspended Motion’. This piece was released by Castle Records in 1963 and later licenced for use as library music which saw it resurface in an episode of the 1973 children’s sci-fi TV series ‘The Tomorrow People’.

This is an additional video, hosted on YouTube.

The sounds here have almost certainly been created entirely from tape manipulations of acoustic sounds and tone generators, but putting aside the musical material for a second I think it’s really interesting to look at what kinds of ideologies might have shaped this work. The most striking aspect to this piece, for me, is the presence of a bassline, which creates a sort of bassline-melody-texture structure across the different musical layers.

This bassline makes the piece feel far more connected to ideas of popular music of the time than the avant-garde experimentalism produced by the GRM or WDR. Similarly, there is a looseness to the timing of events here, an almost improvisational combination of layers that seem to glide by one another. The result is a piece that is clearly situated outside of any classical music tradition, potentially shaped by ideas of jazz and popular music.

Over to you

What kinds of sounds can you hear in ‘Suspended Motion’? What are some of the differences you can hear between this piece and the music we’ve listened to elsewhere in this course? How does it compare to the music made by composers such as Karlheinz Stockhausen?

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