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The scissors in Polly Fibre's piece reminded me of some traditional African bands using this object as a percussive instrument. They also reminded me of my own scissors player that I built about twelve years ago. While listening to 'Reconstructing The Incredible' it rapidly became obvious that my response should incorporate some of Polly Fibre's beautiful sounds to introduce my robotic scissors. I also liked the idea that the little sound sculpture makes the rhythms of my piece visible, while Polly Fibre made the editing of her piece audible.

In 1997 and 1998 I used to perform with the scissors player. The other mechanical members of the band at that time were playing a tea-pot, a comb, an ash-tray, some pliers, a letter scale, a whisk and some tooth-brushes. The pliers and the whisk don't belong to me anymore, they are now replaced by a saw and a glass of water. I still see and hear the ensemble from time to time when I exhibit it as an installation, but it has been a long time without playing along with it.
This recent session with the scissors player was like meeting an old friend I had not talked to for ten years! Little by little I got to remember its qualities and its uneasy sides: how steadily it can play, on every tempo, with a smooth groove; and how difficult it is for the human part of the band, when you once decided that crrrrr would be the beat, to concentrate all along on the crrrrr without being disturbed by the tic and the frrrhhh nearby, that are constantly seducing you and putting you on the wrong track...

In order to feature the scissors as well as possible, the tempo of the piece speeds up four times, then slows down four times, for the human musician on prepared trumpet and Mangbetu harp kundi to follow and adapt as quickly as possible. The vocal part is also mechanical: a transformed record player samples a 7 inches disc, in a more or less synchronised way. The piece is built on eight segments of sixteen bars each, with an eight-bar final part.
Polly Fibre's scissors start it up and cut it down, as if it were a parenthesis in the 'Relay' process.

Pierre Bastien / March 2009



Pierre Bastien is a French musician. He currently lives in Rotterdam. He has built several automatic orchestras. He always performs his concerts along with the last version of his many contraptions. The previous versions have a second life -though not virtual- as sound sculptures and installations. His collaborations include film maker Karel Doing, fashion design company Issey Miyake inc., videast Pierrick Sorin, musicians Grimo, Lukas Simonis, Pascal Comelade, Robert Wyatt, Steve Argüelles, choreographers Dominique Bagouet, Roberto Olivan, circus company Trottola and juggler Jérôme Thomas. His music is released on Gazul, G33G, Inpolysons, Signature, Rephlex, Western Vinyl.