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:: Sunday, August 03, 2008 ::

The17



Teaching with the Choir: Pop maverick Bill Drummond re-imagines music with The17

"Imagine waking up tomorrow and all music has disappeared."

So begins the first score for The17, a music and art project helmed by Scottish pop maverick Bill Drummond. A series of unrecorded public choral performances, The17 is "a vehicle to explore frustrations with recorded music," positing that the current glut of music has sapped it of meaning. Discarding the idea of music as product, the project reasserts the importance of experiences bound to a specific place and time.

"Recorded music is a very 20th-century way of defining our relationship," Drummond told Earplug. "I'm throwing down a gauntlet to other musicians to break out of this cocoon we're not even aware we're in, to take on the challenge of making interesting music."

Drummond is currently performing The17 in Derby, England, in celebration of the QUAD arts center's recent opening. For the piece, 100 separate groups of 17 city residents — from teachers to Bollywood dancers and pirates — are photographed and recorded singing a single note for five minutes. The recordings are then combined into a pentatonic chord and played together once, on August 22, for the 1,700 participants. After that, they will be destroyed forever.

How do The17 performances sound? Drummond admits it's difficult to describe, saying, "Sometimes it's frightening, sometimes it's incredibly beautiful — but even that sounds too trite."

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