[ALE09/10] MARTIN BARTLETT - ANECDOTAL ELECTRONICS LP [ARC LIGHT EDITIONS]
DIGITAL MARKETING, PRESS & COMMUNICATION MANAGEMENT
Arc Light Editions releases an LP ‘sketchbook’ of live recordings, experiments and spoken word titled Anecdotal Electronics, and a CD of Bartlett’s longer electroacoustic and orchestral works, titled Ankle On.
Martin Bartlett should be a familiar name. As well as working with a who’s who of electronic music, he was an inspiring and original thinker, composer, writer, performer and organiser.
His music is distinctive for its warmth and fleshiness, for taking joy from the incidental and anecdotal, and it remains a characterful counterpoint to much contemporary electronic music. It is his preoccupation with building aleatoric elements into electronic music that distinguishes his work, and he devised elegant and open interactions for instrumental performers and computer-controlled synthesizers. This included building his own electronic devices, and extensive work on the Buchla 400.
He worked with or studied under Pauline Oliveros, John Cage and David Tudor, and collaborated extensively with Don Buchla, and some of their live performances are included on the LP Anecdotal Electronics. He also studied Carnatic vocal music with V. Lakshminarayana Iyer in Madras and then on to Burma, Thailand and Indonesia where he studied shadow theatre. He studied South Asian music with Pandit Pran Nath, gamelan with K.R.T. Wasitidipuro. He was particularly interested in the Javanese gamelan, which led to him founding the Vancouver Community Gamelan in 1986.
Photography: LUKE FOWLER + LUX
Shot taken from the "Electro-Pythagorus: A Portrait of Martin Bartlett" Documentary by Turner nominated director Luke Fowler
Bartlett was a prolific writer, and he expresses himself in fresh, lucid, and wonderfully descriptive prose, offering clear thinking on social aspects of electronic music performance; on the barriers between the performer and the ‘black box’ and on possibilities for organic systems in electronic music. He also wrote accounts of his sailing trips, treatise on performance practices, and technical academic articles on the systems he built, along with the incandescent manifesto-like piece Electronic Recalcitrant (which forms the cover artwork for Anecdotal Electronics), in which he hoped that electronic music would be imbued with “organic codes of growth and metamorphosis” so that he could“pluck elegant and fleshy electronic sound fish from the frothy algorithmic sea of possibilities”.
Artwork by DR.ME
It is unclear why Bartlett’s work remains unknown. Perhaps it is because it remained largely inside the academy. Perhaps his commitment to live performance and community activity means it was more transient than the work of others. Perhaps his openness about his sexuality played a part in his music not receiving much recognition – one can only speculate.
But correspondence in his archive shows that rejection and general lack of interest from labels was a source of great personal discontent, leading to Bartlett working again with the Western Front to release his final opus Pythagoras’ Ghost shortly before his death.
Photography: LUKE FOWLER + LUX
Arc Light Editions reissues previously unknown essentials. It is curated and run by BBC's Late Junction host Jennifer Lucy Allan, with Emptyset's James Ginzburg.
"Arc Light Editions is a canon of sorts, that is made up of crucial, critical and sensitive music; of music made by the headstrong and determined; music of vision and transcendence, and it is a canon that is always affordable.
The label was born from a frustration with the reissues market, which around the mid 2010’s had peaked in deluxe
packaging with inaccessible prices.
Instead of moaning, James suggested we start a label All Arc Light releases are sounds that on first listen set my head spinning, records that sounded like nothing else.
They are records I wanted to tell everyone about, records I wanted to buy but couldn’t afford, and records that
needed greater recognition.
Arc Light Editions is an incomplete archive, and the artwork, on recycled kraftliner card, reflects this. We work at our own pace. We remake contracts. We wait. We listen."
- Jennifer Lucy Allan.
April 26. 2019
album, digital & CD
Martin Bartlett's "Anecdotal Electronics" is available on