The research, which showed rats’ preference for jazz while under the influence of a certain substance, was criticised by animal rights groups.

Rats prefer the sound of silence to Beethoven and Miles Davis – except when they are on drugs. Then, they prefer the jazz.

These are the results of a controversial 2011 study by Albany Medical College, in which scientists exposed 36 rats to ‘Für Elise’ by Beethoven and ‘Four’, a brassy jazz standard by Miles Davis. The rats overwhelmingly preferred Beethoven to Davis, but they liked silence best of all.

In the second part of the experiment, the rats were given cocaine and played Miles Davis over a period of a few days. After that, the rodents preferred the jazz even after the drug was out of their system.

The research, according to scientists, showed rats can be conditioned to like any music associated with their drug experience.



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out today - Chouk Bwa & The Angstromers their album recorded at les ateliers claus
out today - partly recorded at les ateliers claus

Synthesising the finer points of their three groundbreaking albums from the late 70s and early 80s, Rock In Opposition affiliates Aksak Maboul return with what could be their finest work to date, finds Sean Kitching

Aksak Maboul were a Belgian avant-rock band formed in 1977 by Marc Hollander and Vincent Kenis, which perfectly encapsulated the fluidity later exemplified by Hollander’s Crammed Discs, with their debut, Onze Danses Pour Combattre La Migraine. A collection of perfectly formed miniatures that transcended geographical and genre boundaries (and which in some cases, like the proto-electronica of ‘Saure Gurke’, ventured into territories not yet invented), their debut was followed by a second album in 1980, Un Peu de l'Âme des Bandits. Featuring guest appearances from Henry Cow’s Fred Frith and Chris Cutler, their sophomore release had more of a Rock In Opposition vibe, yet still possessed the fun and irreverent attitude that made its predecessor so enjoyable. A third album, Ex Futur, recorded between 1980 and 1983 (but unreleased until 2014) evidenced an electro pop version of the band, anticipating bands like Stereolab to an uncanny extent. That album featured Véronique Vincent on vocals, who had also been one of two singers in the excellent Belgian post-punk band, The Honeymoon Killers (a group both Hollander and Kenis were also involved with). 

Despite having different overall flavours, the three albums courted a hard to define commonality of approach. The new album, written and produced by Hollander and Vincent, features members of Aksak Maboul’s current live line-up: Faustine Hollander on bass and backing vocals, Lucien Fraipont on guitar and Erick Heestermans on drums. Guests including Fred Frith, members of Aquaserge and Tuxedomoon’s Steven Brown also make an appearance. 

When I interviewed Hollander for tQ in 2018, he mentioned the new album in progress, saying: “My dream would be to combine all three albums and roll them into one. It would be more like what we do live, more electronic, but less song format and with elements from stuff that was on the other two albums. It’s an interesting challenge.” As a huge fan of the first two records, I felt the promise of a fourth release to be intriguing but nevertheless retained the potential for some serious disappointment. After all, how often does a band release an album of their first new material in almost forty years, which has the potential to eclipse their earlier recordings? Not often I would suggest. 


Such thoughts, as I first began listening to Figures, did not last long however. By the end of the first of its two discs, the possibility that this might in fact be the band’s best work began to occur to me instead. By the time I reached the end of the second disc, with at least five tracks vying for album highlight, I was entirely convinced that Hollander had achieved his aim.


Harry Partch – And On The Seventh Day Petals Fell In Petaluma (1966 / 2017)

Note: This is a revised and expanded version of a text, originally published by SoundOhm. 

The history of American avant-garde music is a snarled knot, twisting through the decades, spanning genre, practice, and approach. Most narratives place its origins within the post-war period, orbiting around John Cage, Morton Feldman, and those artists springing from the movements of Fluxus and free-jazz. American creative innovation issued unquestionable influence over the later half of 20th century, but the root of its radicalism was earlier, with its origins often misplaced – sometimes accidentally, but most often at the hand of intervention and manipulation (usually in the service of critical and academic agenda). While Europe played a part, the American musical avant-garde began as a distinctly indigenous form, the seeds planted by a handful of visionary and singular minds working in the shadows, laying the groundwork for what was to come. Of these, the composer Harry Partch is arguably the most notable – an unavoidable paradox, given that he has never received much note. One of the most important and singular voices of his century, he the focus of New World Recording latest LP, a lavishly expanded reissue of his seminal 1966 release, And On The Seventh Day Petals Fell In Petaluma.


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Put on the circuit as a collaborative effort between the two labels Stroom and Les Albums Claus on March 17th, 2k20 is "Manes",  the new album outing created by Belgium-based clarinet player and composer Ben Bertrand who is fusing his instrument of choice with electronic textures over the course of roughly 32 minutes on this one, opening with "Morton And György In The Battista Mist" which provides a journey into Ambient / Deep Listening Music realms with its steady low end leaning pulses and tender crackles accompanied by masterly crafted and layered harmonies followed by "Those Behind Us That We Follow" which fully immerses the listener in warm, comforting and somewhat Future Jazz-infused melancholia. With "Incantation 3" Bertrand introduces a sequence of melodic, uplifting computational bleeps to his touching, emotional Future Jazz approach which is even touching base with Jazz Noir whilst the "Delayed Monologue" provides an interplay of complex, punctuated clarinet tones and vibrant, intertwined electronic textures before the concluding cut dubbed "The Manmaipo" even adds some previously unheard, ethereal, female non-vocalisms to the albums sonic spectrum. Essential.

Reflecting on artists and collaborators who have passed away since the start of the Coronavirus crisis, David Toop explores how the transmission of music between disparate cultures can be a tool against populism and prejudice

Music is a memory machine. I feel the conviction of this from within pandemic conditions: at the time of writing these words, fifty-four days since I last played music to an audience in the same room, fifty-three days since I was part of an audience in the same room as performing musicians. I feel the conviction of this as deaths accumulate over the past weeks: musicians I have known, past collaborators, a music documentary filmmaker with whom I once worked. Some of these deaths were from Covid-19, some from other causes like stroke or cancer, but the sense of a generation of elders falling away, as if tumbling together over a precipice, is acute. Films and records remain as recall devices, of course, but the works of a performer, an improviser, emerge into air, rooms, society and states of memory that confront us as fully alive, alert and listening beings, recalling what happened and has gone, what is happening right now as a passing moment, what is coming into itself as if as listeners we are living permanently in the future. The dead ¬– and I am thinking of Carole Finer, Henry Grimes, Richard Teitelbaum, Lee Konitz, Jeremy Marre – are denied access to this experience. 

I think of Henry Grimes, dead from complications arising from the coronavirus at the age of 84. For Henry, a multi-instrumentalist best known for his bass playing, music was a memory machine whose effect on his life was complex, transformative and traumatic. After studying at The Juilliard School he played with many musicians – Sonny Rollins, Anita O’Day, Walt Dickerson, Charles Mingus, Mose Allison, Thelonious Monk, Cecil Taylor, Pharaoh Sanders, Archie Shepp and Albert Ayler – then disappeared for decades, living alone in a Los Angeles hostel, writing poetry and surviving precariously through low-paid jobs. In effect, he became an anonymous and solitary archive. Soon after he was discovered in isolation in 2002, detached from the music world, the efforts of those who respect ancestry drew him back into performing. 

I played with him once, in Ghent, 2011, in a trio with vocalist Elaine Mitchener. During the day he seemed unreachable, locked away in a profound and gentle silence. His wife Margaret looked after the practicalities, often spoke for him. No conversation was forthcoming and most questions went unanswered, particularly if they were about musicians, sessions or records. All seemed forgotten. Then suddenly something would spark. I asked him about his time studying at Juilliard and he came to life, speaking about all the instruments he played during his studies – the English horn, tuba, percussion, and so on. There was the sense that he was a repository of knowledge and rich experience, all enclosed as if locked away in a forbidden library, yet when he played a fervency broke through. After we played, his eyes shone with some luminous spirit that was otherwise sleeping within him. He was energised by the way we had played, perhaps because it lay outside the jazz tradition, a different approach to improvisation. I can only speculate but my suspicion is that Henry, in different circumstances more supportive of his vulnerable personality, would have made a far more expansive musical life for himself. The troubles of his mind made it hard to build that situation for himself and hard to surmount the obstacles of a wayward musician’s life.



Maggi Payne is a composer and artist currently based in California. She was the co-director of the Center for Contemporary Music at Mills College for 26 years, and has created a number of audio, video, and installation works throughout her decades-long career. Recently, Aguirre Records reissued two of her albums, Ahh-Ahh and Arctic Winds. Joshua Minsoo Kim and Payne talked on the phone on April 30th, discussing her childhood, flutes, the “potential” found in the sounds of nature, and more.

Joshua Minsoo Kim: Hello, this is Joshua!

Maggi Payne: How are you doing?

I’m good, how are you?

I’m fine, sounds like you’ve been really, really busy.

I guess I have. I try to keep myself busy, that’s sort of how I—

Deal with things. (laughter).

If I’m not doing something I feel like something’s off.

Yeah, exactly. (laughs).

Are you like that too?

Yeah. It’s a good strategy, I think.

I wanted to ask you about your childhood. What’s the earliest memory you have that’s related to sound or music?

Oh, that’s really interesting. I was just looking up some stuff in this old baby book that my mother maintained for a while. One of her entries says that I really did not like loud sounds (laughter). However, those were the days when you didn’t have a whole lot of toys, so she used to throw a bunch of pots and pans in my playpen and she said that I stayed in there for hours and hours without needing attention (laughter), just playing with everything. So that’s pretty early, but later on, my mom had me take piano lessons. I never really connected with that instrument very well and when I was nine years old I heard flute somewhere and I knew that was for me, so I got right on it.

It was amazing because I had this wonderful teacher named Harold Gilbert. The flute’s a very hard instrument to play—I mean they all are, but to even get a sound out of it, you know? I just fell in love with the air going through the flute (makes the sound of air going through a flute) and moving the keys so the air changed pitch, and all the whistle tones and clicking the keys… I confessed that to him and—to his credit—he said, “That’s right, but in the meantime learn some Handel sonatas.” (laughter).

I didn’t really need his permission; I just thought it was really cool that liking those sounds was all okay. I was raised in a spot in Amarillo, Texas where farmland changed to desert. We were sort of on the desert side of town where we could see out into it forever; there’s nothing behind us at all except cow pastures. I learned to love things that were abstract because of that—you know, the beauty of nature, every little crack in the earth. It’s interesting because there weren’t plants, no trees (laughter). Something just drove my passion towards experimental music right from the get-go.

It’s super interesting that you mention you were drawn to the flute and the various sounds it made, as well as the physical act of playing it. It’s funny it was all even there even then given your works, like with The Extended Flute. When did you start experimenting with extended techniques on the flute?

Age nine (laughter). Seriously! It was always a part of my practice. Most people warm up playing long tones, but I warmed up playing whistle tones, and then moved on to long tones. Yeah, I think it was just there from the start.


The current COVID-19 pandemic and the related measures taken by governments and authorities have a plethora of severe consequences for individuals, societies, the economy, and the entire public life. They also affect the sphere of music all over the world: Live performances cannot take place and independent musicians have to fear for their livelihood. At the same time, an outburst of musical creativity can be witnessed: 

Plastered all over the social media landscape, touching videos of people making music from their balconies and homes have spread virally with higher contagion rates than the coronavirus itself, proliferating under popular hashtags such as #coronasongs, #quarantunes, #covidance, #pandemix, and #songsofcomfort. Leading opera houses, bands, and symphony orchestras have followed suit in realizing the social cohesion potential of music and made their performances digitally available to the public at no cost. While it may be unsurprising that professional musicians facing sudden unemployment from mass cancellations can devote vast creative resources to the production of musical online content, the enthusiasm with which the general public is taking part has been truly overwhelming. People have eagerly recovered old instruments from past oblivion, humorous and sincere corona songs have been composed, and innovative corona lyrics have been crafted for old, well-known hit songs. Governments in Southeast Asia have even released music videos and dance challenges promoting public health.

It seems that music is being widely and creatively used as a means to individually and socially cope with several of the challenges posed by the current crisis onto individuals, among them anxiety, boredom, loneliness, stress, and uncertainty about the future.


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