“Music exists in time and space; it has a history and was made by work. Commodities, as we have seen, always conceal and render invisible the work that went into their creation — they dehumanize.”
That’s a quote by former Henry Cow drummer Chris Cutler. It appears in Plunderphonics, Pataphysics & Pop Mechanics, a book written in 1995 by Andrew Jones. It could be argued that the triumph of Chris Kallmyer’s work — which uses everyday objects in reference to how and where people live — is the way it restores humanization in music, something like Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs rendered as sound.
The rise and fall of north St. Louis’ brick buildings stretches back nearly 200 years. The surrounding land was rich with clay and a natural site for brickyards, who churned out more than 20 million bricks per year by the mid-1800’s. Those traveling the southeast US will see evidence of this migration on buildings from Kentucky to Louisiana to Texas.
By the late 1960’s, urban flight left large areas of the North Side as depleted zones. The demographic shifted. Plans were proposed and abandoned; investments were promised and rescinded. Today, brick thieves contribute to the blight by dismantling structures and harvesting the bricks for resale. Much of the area looks and feels like a ghost town, large chunks of once-beautiful homes missing bricks in their structures.
For this short piece, Suss Müsik sought to reconstruct Kallmyer’s sound piece as a “brick-by-brick” process. Two individual tones were sampled and twinned with a generous heap of rotary reverb. Nine individual ceramic “hits” were sequenced and looped in various combinations (1 and 4, 2 and 5, 3 and 6, etc.) until the beginnings of a rhythm began to emerge.
The piece decays into a solitary note, perhaps signifying how illegal commoditization of even one brick degrades the honest, historical work that made North St. Louis what it was. May it rise again.
The piece is titled Reconstruire, named after the French word for “rebuild.”