Kendra Steiner Editions (Bill Shute)

July 12, 2014

Marcus Rubio, “Music For Microphones” (CD, Copy For Your Records)

Filed under: Uncategorized — kendrasteinereditions @ 11:03 am



CD,     Copy For Your Records #CFYR019,    edition of 150 copies         released 2014

available from

marcus mic

A natural extension of  “extended techniques” on musical instruments is the investigation of what kinds of sound can be extracted from the machinery of sound amplification and reproduction, learning what possibilities exist with a particular piece of equipment, and learning to control (or not control, as the case may be) that sound for use in one’s own creations (or allow the equipment to determine what is created, as the case may be). Of course, there are hundreds if not thousands of examples of this kind of sound creation, and I’ve attended a dozen or more new-music performances built around this concept. One can trace it back to creations such as John Cage’s 1960 “Cartridge Music” (see manuscript detail below), and a few years ago, I remember a lot of interest in the no-input mixer as a sound source. Some artists featured at the No Idea Festival used it, and percussionist-composer Nick Hennies (then based in Austin and someone I saw in performance a few times each year in the 2008-2012 period) issued a memorable album of no-input mixer sound creations, entitled PATHS (on the Thor’s Rubber Hammer label, pictured below) in 2009.

Always a man re-investigating under-utilized sound sources and musical traditions and then re-inventing them and breathing new life into them (such as his recent works/performances for deconstructed primitive banjo, evoking comparisons with Abner Jay!!!), composer and multi-instrumentalist MARCUS RUBIO (originally from here in San Antonio, then working out of Los Angeles for a few years, now living and working in Austin) takes on microphones-as-sound-creating-instruments-in-themselves  in this recent album MUSIC FOR MICROPHONES, and as with a number of Rubio’s experimental projects, he takes a certain area and explores it in a deep and thorough manner, almost as if  he is wringing out as much as he can in one approach, then another approach, etc. It’s almost like a series of scientific experiments on a series of related questions. And forgetting the pieces’ methodologies or whatever, it’s a stimulating mind-fry of a listen and certainly tests one’s stereo system with its extreme frequencies! Derek Rogers used contact mic’s as a sound source in some poetry-and-electronics performances and recordings we did a few years back, so the unique textures and timbres of the contact mic are not unfamiliar to me, but that was just one tool in Rogers’s arsenal in those performances. Rubio takes the ball and runs all the way with it here, and the seven pieces—-all of which are rich and complex compositions, whatever the sound source—-provide an incredibly wide variety of sounds.

The last few months, I’ve been listening to a lot of the recent Creel Pone reissues of vintage and classic obscure electronic music, and on MUSIC FOR MICROPHONES, Rubio’s intelligent and complex sound design and the range of pure sound he gets from his sources is amazing and truly worthy of comparison with those CP albums. You need a sound system with a good bass to truly hear and feel this music. This is the kind of original and exploratory creation that reminds me of what has always excited me most about chasing after small-label music and experimental contemporary composition. This is a limited pressing and many are already gone, so score a copy NOW from Copy For Your Records. The ordering link is near the top of this post.

It’s great to have Marcus Rubio back in Texas (actually, he’s on tour OUTSIDE Texas for most of July….if you live in the Northeast or Upper Midwest, check his tour schedule), and if he keeps releasing challenging and exciting music like this, he will bring a lot of attention to Texas’s under-rated and under-appreciated New Music scene….or so I hope!  🙂


Marcus Rubio

music for microphones: track listing

duet for processed contact mic
duet for contact mic and practice amp movement 1
duet for contact mic and practice amp movement 2
requiem for microphone and beer bottle
sonata for contact mic feedback and electronics movement 1
sonata for contact mic feedback and electronics movement 2
concerto for bowed microphone and electronics

All pieces composed, performed, and recorded by Marcus Rubio


composer Marcus Rubio’s notes on MUSIC FOR MICROPHONES:

A good amount of my work in recent years has been focused on the idea of fully exploring/exploiting the physical properties of various sound sources. Usually this is manifested through either hyper-specific notation for non musical objects or non-scored processes that utilize electronics/additional instrumentation to further exploit/highlight the acoustic anomalies of a particular sound producing object or instrument. music for microphones is very much a continuation of this work utilizing the latter group of methods. The ideas for these pieces were born out of a desire to explore the implicit concept embedded in Steve Reich’s “Pendulum Music” of the potential for microphones to be used as an instrument in and of themselves. These works employ the “playing” of a wide group of mostly inexpensive contact and condenser microphones through techniques such as alternating points of physical contact between the performer and the instrument, differently EQ-ed feedbacks, and instrument specific “extended technique” (i.e. bowing, hitting, placing of different surfaces, etc…). Each work is united by the common goal of utilizing the sonic anomalies of each microphone as a musical source itself. Additionally, various electronics (Supercollider, Ableton, amplifier settings…) were used to further highlight/manipulate these sounds. – MR


manuscript excerpt from John Cage’s “Cartridge Music” (1960), taken from John Cage Unbound website:

Cartridge Music f226p1


Cover from Nick Hennies’s 2009 release PATHS (Music For No-Input Mixer)

nick, paths


Leave a Comment »

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Create a free website or blog at

%d bloggers like this: