When I’m not being an internationally famous composer of beloved music that continues to inspire generations of listeners and influence popular culture on every continent, I teach middle school math. In the education biz, we often invite other teachers into our classrooms to observe us at work. Teachers create their own little world within four walls; we build our routines, establish patterns of behavior, create a specific culture for our students and ourselves. When another teacher visits our classroom/world, that person might notice details about it that we may have missed. We might (and usually do) have our own subconscious biases and assumptions that someone coming from outside might be able to helpfully point out to us. Teachers who observe their colleagues and who welcome observers into their classrooms facilitate a culture of reflection. We’re open to new ideas, actively seeking out honest feedback for the sake of becoming a better teacher and, as a result, improving our students’ education.
The “Suburban Observances” project grew out of a related idea. As those of you who’ve read the best-selling, critically-acclaimed first volume of my autobiography already know, I am a reflective sort of guy. I’m wary of falling into habits, of becoming insular and making hermetic music. My desire, after all, is to communicate. I don’t want to make impenetrable music that doesn’t speak to anybody, but if I’m holed up in my studio all the time, I might not recognize if that’s what I’m making. The aim of this project is to force myself out of patterns, to allow observers to offer their own reflections on and responses to whatever it is I do… and, as a result, to help me write (hopefully) better music.
It started with a group of sounds that I’d collected over many years. These were sounds that I knew very well. I had my own thoughts about them, but recognized the limitations of that familiarity. I sent the sounds to people all over the world… to some old friends, to several artists that I don’t know personally but whose work I admire, to people I’d met and to others I haven’t yet… and I asked each person to render them unrecognizable. Everyone’s instruction was to process, manipulate, rearrange and change them, to take them as far as they wished, and then send them back to me. Finally, I’d take a year or two to compose new music using my one-familiar sounds that had been filtered through other people’s perspectives. Each volume of the “Suburban Observances” series is related, of course. If you listen to all six volumes (and I hope you do), you’ll be able to hear elements shift sideways across songs…how an idea initiated on volume one is re-examined and completed on volume three (and so on)… how songs complement, comment on and reflect off of one another… and how there is sonic sympathy from one album to the next and throughout the series… but each volume is also distinct and discreet.
Volume three incorporates processing by Phil Milstien, Bruno Duplant, Rudolf Eb.er, Andrew Zukerman (Fleshtone Aura), Theresa Smith (DeTrop), Ross Scott-Buccleuch (Diurnal Burdens), Thaniel Ion Lee and John Wiese. Giblet Gusset sings on one track. I used my usual arsenal of cassette tapes etc and composed everything between 2020 and 2021 here in rural Massachusetts.
– H. Stelzer, 2021
all songs composed/recorded by HS at The Hotel Amnesia (Lowell, MA) & The Sun Room (Ashburnham, MA) 2020-2021
HS – cassette tapes, tape players, speakers, percussion, instruments, etc
Giblet Gusset – voice on Manie Sans Délire
processing: Bruno Duplant, John Wiese, Thaniel Ion Lee, Phil Milstien, Andrew Zukerman, Rudolf Eb.er, Theresa Smith, Ross Scott-Buccleuch