About this Blog
“Hurrah!..a conceptual masterpiece” – MOJO
“One of the strangest albums of all time”- philbrodieband.com
Re-issue of the year… monumentally deranged… essential listening…” – THE WIRE
Now available on a mid-price double CD from Cherry Red Records (cat. no CDBRED361) and also as downloads from Amazon, iTunes, etc.
I jumbly conceived and joyfully produced the two Miniatures albums, the dead-simple concept being to invite a cornucopia of musicians, poets, and other creative folk to provide a track about one minute long – no other limitations were imposed. I ended up cramming 51 tracks onto the first album (two bonus tracks added later for the CD version), and 60 tracks onto the second. Please read below for the extended intro texts, with copious links including one to a free download of the original Miniatures 1 poster with graphics provided by each of the artists and excerpts from several of their letters.
It seems that these albums now have a bit of a cult following worldwide, and may even have set a precedent. I have heard several other similar albums produced subsequently, and while they were fascinating, they generally tended to concentrate on the, shall we say, avant-garde areas. I make no excuses for possessing a seemingly indiscriminate attraction to creativity of all kinds, and remain tremendously grateful to the 106 artists who threw in their lot so generously to this home made little project.
This blog is a way to share insights, photos and stories re the making of these albums, provide links and/or current news re the artists, and generally chat, digress and have some fun. I’ll post at irregular intervals of around a few days, one post per track, first re Miniatures 1 then Miniatures 2, in the same track order as the CD’s. Each post will include the full credits, photos and sleeve notes for each track, as they appear in the current edition of the CD booklet.
You’ll be able to listen to each track as it is posted (in full, but with a track number added at the start). Let’s kick off here with the bonus track added to the 1994 CD re-issue of Miniatures – “The Miniatures Miniature” – featuring a full one-second clip from each track on the album (for those in a hurry):
You can also:
* Add comments to any post via the Comments links near the top of the left margin or at the bottom of each page.
* Bookmark/share any page via email and social networks via links at the bottom of each page.
* Buy Miniatures 1+2 CD’s and downloads by clicking on a Buy button in the right margin of any page.
* See full track listings, credits, reviews and information about each of the Miniatures albums by clicking the Mins 1 and Mins 2 buttons at the top of any page.
* Directly send me an email by clicking the Contact button at the top of any page (replies not guaranteed, sorry).
I wish to thank Cherry Red Records and Iain McNay for their support in allowing me carte-blanche in the making of these albums, and for their ongoing support and encouragement for all these years. Arigato.
Enjoy this feast!
— Morgan Fisher, Tokyo, November 7, 2010.
PS – all the material here is presented in good faith and as “fair use.” If there is any breach of copyright, however minor, please write to me via the Contact page and I will deal with it as quickly as I can.
INTRO TEXT FOR THE 1980 LP OF MINIATURES 1 (click to expand):
INTRO TEXTS FROM THE CURRENT CD OF MINIATURES 1+2:
The year was 1979. Even punk had become old-hat: the Sex Pistols had disbanded, and John Lydon was screaming out his truth with Public Image. My reaction was to compile numerous slices of the current rich musical chaos to make an album for my newly-formed label Pipe Records, with the support of Cherry Red Records. Thinking it might be a good angle, I was on the brink of inviting my musical heroes to make a version of Chopin’s “Minute Waltz” (so glad I didn’t!) when I came across Zen scholar Alan Watts’ comment: “always your concepts will prove to be attempts to catch water in a sieve, or wrap it up in a parcel.” I gave up my concept, simply asked the artists for a minute or so of their work, offered all I could afford (£1 each) as an advance fee, and waited…
What a magnificent response! Tapes began to arrive daily with the morning post, artists would drop in to make their recordings at Pipe Studios (my bedsit in Notting Hill Gate), or I would run over to their house with a Revox. Only one person actually refused. Extraordinary enthusiasm from all concerned, especially considering my miniature budget. Ralph Steadman was incredibly generous in contributing his artwork for the album cover. To create the explosion of energy at the centre of the image, he climbed the stairs in the hall of his rambling country home and dumped the contents of a bottle of red ink onto paper placed on the floor below.
My own track was made by primitive sampling. Each sound (including that of my washing machine malfunctioning) was recorded individually, their pitch altered by varying the tape speed. The innumerable fragments of tape were spliced together to create melodies. It took about two weeks (today it would take a few hours on a Mac).
Around the time “Miniatures” was released, The Residents released “Commercial Album,” also a collection of one-minute songs. Was it synchronicity? Coincidence? Pipe Records also released “The Miniatures Micropack,” a limited-edition of 100 cigarette-pack sizedboxes, each containing the following: a micro-cassette of “Miniatures,” tiny playing cards, pages from miniature editions of Shakespeare and the Bible, a sketchbook 1cm long, and four 35mm slides of the album jacket and poster. They are now ultra-rare collector’s items.
Thirty years have flown by since the first release of this album. Sadly, several of the Miniatures artists are no longer with us. This reissue is dedicated to them: Henri Chopin, Bob Cobbing, Kevin Coyne, Ivor Cutler, Quentin Crisp, Ollie Halsall, Simon Jeffes, R.D. Laing, George Melly, and Steve Miller. Not forgetting the late Moses Asch, legendary founder of Folkways Records, who handled the deal for the Pete Seeger track in about 15 seconds, thus: “OK – we don’t need royalties – just a flat fee – what can you afford? 100 bucks? It’s yours. Bye.” And of course a deep bow of thanks to all the artists who provided a magnificent minute or so of their genius for this project.
In this booklet are reproduced the original sleeve notes exactly as they appeared on the back of the “Miniatures” LP cover. Inevitably, some comments, items of information and opinions are no longer relevant. The 24” x 24” Miniatures poster, featuring letters and artwork contributed by the artists, may be downloaded from www.morgan-fisher.com/mins1poster.html
“if you can fill the unforgiving minute with sixty seconds’ worth of distance run – yours is the earth and everything that’s in it.”
- rudyard kipling
“when you’ve got a thing to say – say it! don’t take half a day – crowd the whole thing in a minute!”
- joel chandler harris
“in small proportions we just beauties see, and in short measures life may perfect be.”
- samuel johnson
“…free movement in the realm of all things counter, original, spare, strange.” – Margaret Anderson, 1969.
The first “Miniatures” album took a year of phone calls, faxes and best of all, taxi rides to the houses of my heroes and heroines, carrying a tape recorder and a microphone, hoping to capture a minute of their genius. I was delighted and touched by everyone’s generosity and hospitality; long conversations often followed the recordings, and many new friendships were formed. Also, through the post, little one-minute tapes accompanied by photographs and witty, informative letters, arrived regularly. If you average it out, one tiny masterpiece arrived every week that year – it was the longest Christmas I’ve ever known! The resulting album felt like I was inviting the entire public in to my home to hear all my favourite records.
For “Miniatures 2” the festivities occupied the last six years of the 20th century – the internet seemed to make the process both easier and more complex. This time the fishing took place over a much wider area – Armenia, Austria, Brazil, Canada, China, Czechoslovakia, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Mali, Mongolia, New Zealand, Russia, Scotland, Switzerland, the UK, and the USA. Seven of the “Miniatures 1” artists participated for the second time (tracks 12/20/22/23/35/49/52) – interesting to hear how their music has changed since 1980. Michael Nyman once told me that many people discovered his music via “Miniatures 1.” My hope is that those who bought “Miniatures 2” because they admire some of the artists will also discover new favourites here; contact addresses are provided online for further exploration. Audio buffs please note that some tracks are analogue recordings with a delightful lo-fi documentary quality.
Many of the artists kindly provided interesting and thought-provoking comments. Several of these comments (and songs) have a millennium theme to them. This project did in fact start out with the title “Miniatures for the Millennium.” By the time we were nearing completion, it was patently obvious that all the music on this album is worth conserving for at least the next thousand years, if not longer, so why labour the point? And while it’s great that people felt like making positive changes inspired by the new millennium, couldn’t we also consider making such changes regardless of the date?
Due to space limitations it’s impossible to credit and thank everyone individually, but some acknowledgements must be made here: Mick Glossop expertly mixed tracks 3/5/14/27/32/33/39/40/42/47/51 (at the Odessa Wharf Studios, London, Richard Moss assisting) & 45 (at Blah Street Studios). Eiki Nonaka generously provided his Media Garden Studios in Tokyo (and his engineer, Hideki Ishii) for tracks 31/38/46/58. Kotaro Kojima masterfully mastered this chaotic collection at Memory-Tech Studios, Tokyo. Iain MacNay (Cherry Red Records, UK) and Nobuyuki Takahashi (Consipio/Multiplex Records, Japan) had the admirable intelligence and big-heartedness to enable this uncategorisable album to be heard around the world. And of course, very, very special thanks must go to all the unique, generous, patient, creative artists appearing here.
Yours truly remixed, edited and generally meddled with many of the tracks on this album, and also handled the design work, all at The Handmade Studio, Tokyo.
So… please sit back, press Play, (or Shuffle Play), relax, and enjoy the ride – and the read.
Morgan Fisher www.morgan-fisher.com
This double CD re-issue was remastered by Alan Wilson of The Western Star Recording Company.
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