1 2 Endnotes
- It seems likely that Virgo took these pieces from separate recordings,
thus further demonstrating his diligent intent to borrow from specific
works rather than serendipitously finding these pieces on a single compact
disc. In all probability, however, Virgo used the Simon Rattle recording
of the Schoenberg, Berg, and Webern pieces (which all appear on the
same CD), and the Riccardo Chailly recording of Berios Sinfonia.
Both the Rattle and Chailly recordings are out of print and not easily
- The temporal placement of the samples within Hello Cleveland!
suggests an intimate understanding of the individual works themselves,
as well as the musical tradition of which they are a part. As the song
progresses, the proliferation of samples creates a snowball effect,
not unlike passages in T. S. Eliots The Wastelanda
poem that presents readers with an accumulating field of quotations.
The samples of Berio, Berg, Schoenberg, and Webern act as signifiers
that, once exposed, offer layers of semantic counterpoint. For example,
in the third movement of his Sinfonia Berio incorporates the
fourth of Schoenbergs Op. 16. While Berio blends Schoenbergs
Op. 16 and Debussys La Mer with a moment from Bergs
Wozzeck, Virgo uses
Schoenbergs Op. 16 as an introduction to the juxtaposition
of Bergs Lulu Suite and Weberns Op. 6. Likewise,
flute melody near the songs beginning shares both the tonic
key and melodic contour with the Dance of the Seven Veils
from Strausss Salome, a work that contributed decisively
to the creation of the Second Viennese School. Is Virgo playfully commenting
on the complex interaction of cause and effect that constitutes the
history of Western music? (See Diagram
1 for a flow chart illustrating
the intra- and intertextual connections in Hello Cleveland!;
for QuickTime movie illustrating the samples Mono uses in Hello
- There is a tension throughout Hello Cleveland! between
sampled and newly composed material. What constitutes original
material is paradoxically quite repetitiveVirgo records
and loops short segments of newly-composed music, creating a sense of
stasis and inactivity. In contrast, the dynamic and active elements
in this piece are, actually, quotations of past fragmentsa different
kind of repetition. Although Virgo rarely layers samples vertically
in time, those that do overlap include the one-second sample of Berios
Sinfoniathe same quotation that introduces the sample-filled
section of Hello Cleveland! Taken from Sinfonias
fifth and final movement, the passage sampled by Virgo begins the recapitulation
in Berios piece, a repetition of previously-heard material from
earlier in Sinfonia. At the same time that this recapitulation
is necessarily a kind of repetition, it is also Berios literal
representation of this material that makes it new. No longer
an item in itself, it is a context-defined and defining moment. Virgo
uses the Berio sample as the introduction to his musical landscape of
samples with possibly an equivalent resulthe announces the beginning
of something entirely new, a recapitulation not of previously heard
material from Formica Blues, but a recapitulation of previous
musics, previous traditions. To use Berios phraseology, these
one-second Berio samples are the little flags that indicate
the salient points during the listeners expedition
through Hello Cleveland!
How does this mirror-like field of quotation function
in a hermeneutic framework? In his essay The Ecstasy of Communication,
Jean Baudrillard laments that [p]eople no longer project themselves
into their objects, with their affects and their representations,
their fantasies of possession, loss, mourning, jealousy (127).
On one level, Hello Cleveland! involves exactly this kind
of postmodern irony.
- The above modernist reading necessitates a listeners recognition
and understanding of the pieces sampled in Hello Cleveland!
These samples create semantic counterpoint for classical music connoisseurs
only because they acknowledge the referents and attempt to interpret
the new material within the context of these borrowed worksan
act that attaches significance to the signifier.
- Yet, Hello Cleveland! denies even the most astute listener
straightforward empathy, or possession in Baudrillards
terms. With each passing moment, the listener becomes increasingly bombarded
with signs that, while at first accessible, become inaccessible through
surplus. In other terms, it is as if you find yourself at a party with
too many people talking at the same timeeveryone could be holding
great conversations, but their simultaneity may cause you to withdraw.
This snowball effect serves only to create a blank state and to distance
the listener from the work. Such a result is strikingly similar to the
response of the non-connoisseur listener.
- If a listener were unacquainted with the particular samples used,
the sample-web and its allusions would escape the listener and remain
buried. Such a listener does not search for Monos impetus behind
the sampling of Berg, Webern, and the like, because she may be unaware
of the musics existence; instead, this listener enjoys Hello
Cleveland! as a sonic landscape, an unmediated journey through
various textures and styles.
- Virgo also creates this landscape of past music through means other
than sampling. As mentioned previously, Hello Cleveland!
both begins and ends with newly composed material reminiscent of Saties
piano works. Virgos truncation of phrase endings and creation
of readily-audible loops transform this newly composed material into
samples themselves. For all its jarring elements, however, such a technique
results in a seamless combination of newly-composed and sampled material.
The lack of stark juxtapositions mirrors Jamesons hierarchy effacing
postmodern ideology. He states, [artists] no longer quote
such texts as a Joyce might have done, or a Mahler; they
incorporate them, to the point where the line between high art and commercial
forms seems increasingly difficult to draw (112). Jamesons
mention of James Joyce here seems particularly appropriate, as Joyce
and Martin Virgo both present their audience with a similar contradiction.
Joyces works tantalize the reader because his quotations never
engender a simple effect or a singular meaning. Although he tends to
maintain a certain hierarchy in his quotations, he paradoxically encourages
the effacement of boundaries and distinctions to the extent that the
artist himself would become hidden, unnoticeable. As Joyce writes in
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, the artist becomes like
the god of creation
within or behind or beyond or above his handiwork,
invisible, refined out of existence, indifferent, paring his fingernails
(215). Although it is debatable as to whether or not Joyce accomplished
this feat in his works, Virgo seems to disappear and become invisible
in Hello Cleveland! The notion that through quotation Virgo
has constructed a narrative with which he places himself in a tradition
of borrowing cannot apply because Virgo becomes lost under a pile of
masks. Perhaps Virgo is not an example of Joyces god of
creation since Hello Cleveland! resembles less a creation
and more an aggregation of elements.
- Much of Monos discourse supports this reading of Hello
Cleveland! The nonchalant rhetoric Virgo employs when describing
his music, saying it simply evolved, that its just
about styles colliding, seems to be a kind of postmodern metaphor
of the blank. This reading suits the popular music listener who would
recognize the presence of samples, but not recognize a specific sample
as a signifier with a particular referent. Such a listener would instead
hear these samples as a classical-music simulacra. Most likely, the
majority of Monos audience fits into this category. All of the
samples used in Formica Blues are listed in the albums
liner notes with the exception of those used in Hello Cleveland!
Although interviewers frequently question the bands sampling choices,
no reviewer has asked Virgo or de Maré about their use of classical
music samples on this track or on the album as a wholeperhaps
because they do not hear them and are not alerted to their presence
through the liner notes. Or, perhaps the fact that they are classical
music provides enough signification for them.
- Certainly this is the case for many critics who have written about
Formica Blues. Critic Marcelle Rousseaus language betrays
the recognition of the classical music signifier, but nothing further.
She writes, With the use of traditional and modern instruments
as well as several samplings reminiscent of Mission: Impossible
or The Twilight Zone, Hello Cleveland! progresses
through variations of images from Peter and the Wolf to Psycho
or the X-Files to Beck.5
Other critics similarly describe Hello Cleveland! as a puzzling
mix of textures including orchestral textures (Remstein).
These listeners recognize the object, but not its use. For the listener
who does not distinguish between the sampled material and that which
is newly composed, both the object and its use go unnoticed, and a potentially
multi-dimensional work completely collapses.
- At this point both the amateur and the connoisseur
listenings converge. The connoisseur listener follows Virgo down the
rabbit hole, entertaining the myriad of intertextual connections that
only distance the listener from the work and seem to be merely a chimera.
The listener unacquainted with classical music finds the same blank
soundscape through the absence of sample recognition. Although Virgos
intention does not influence the ultimate interpretation of Hello
Cleveland!, his construction of this piece betrays a certain postmodern
urge towards failure. Only through the failure of the intricate sample-web
can one begin to listen with a different purpose and perspective.
- This urge towards failure contradicts the seemingly-innate
need to create a narrative out of musical events. Jean-François
Lyotard describes part of The Postmodern Condition as an incredulity
towards metanarratives (xxiv).6
Certainly the best way to engender a narrative crisis is to give the
listener too muchtoo many disparate elements that defy the cohesive
properties of the narrative. This is precisely what Virgo accomplishes:
he gives the listener too many signs which cannot be woven into a singular,
unified narrative, and, as a result, encourages skepticism. (The obvious
irony here being that we deal with this problem through creating yet
- Virgo obliquely refers to this crisis of narrative in a discussion
of Phil Spectors trademark wall of sound production
technique: I love that whole school of music production where
there are so many things going on at once but the overall sound doesnt
seem complicated. Its so kaleidoscopic, and thats what Im
really into (Molineaux). Virgos description of Spectors
sound as kaleidoscopic seems particularly apt as it connotes
exactly those elements that a traditional narrative withholds: freefloating
shards of color, tremendous moment-to-moment flexibility, and an organization
which collects and quickly disperses its information rather
than weaving or tying it into inflexible chains.
- Hello Cleveland! stands as Virgos sound kaleidoscope:
a collection of disparate elements that, through careful placement,
form a surprisingly simple image. The creation of such an image is,
however, contingent upon a person swirling the fragments of color about,
until a satisfactory structure forms. Without such a medium, what propels
the music forward? For Berio, Sinfonias web of quotations
necessitates the consistent uttering of the verbal tag keep going
in order to propel the music, to literally keep the piece going, as
it provides form and structure from without rather than within. Virgo
similarly creates a swarming mass of sound samples that necessitates
an ad-hoc scaffold. In this way, the songs rhythmic propulsion
structures the listeners adventure through Virgos quotations
and, in that sense, keeps Hello Cleveland! going.
1 2 Endnotes