100 Works of Art: (Audio) Szamár Madár, Venetian Snares

The 100 Works of Art series of drivel is a blog challenge thing which mostly involves me talking at incoherent length about things I like and how I relate to them. So far I’ve done twenty-five on paintings, sculptures, and photography, and one other one on music.

27. Szamár Madár, Venetian Snares

It’s not often that I can pinpoint a song which not only got me into a specific artist but an entire genre, but Szamár Madár redirected a lot of my feelings about instrumental and electronic music – previously focussed on repetitive examples of techno, trance, and psy-trance – into breakbeat, and by way of breakbeat also into DnB (Pendulum, hacktastic though they are, helped with that, and I won’t claim that the video to Showdown didn’t have a hand in that) and jungle, in a kind of backtracking through spheres of influence, and
then later primed me for dubstep.

Szamár Madár sounds like someone has taken a hammer to a soundtrack of someone’s unhappiness. It is splintered, fractured music, and is definitely the best track on what I have taken to referring to as “The Hungarian Album”, mostly because I find Rossz Csillag Alatt Született a little hard to pronounce. The rest of the album too is full of jagged edges and bleak grey squares and the flight of pigeons, but Szamár Madár‘s frantic rushing in sudden bursts of sound is the most electrifying of listens. If pressed I would say my favourite of Venetian Snares’ albums is not Rossz Csillag Alatt Született but either Winnipeg Is A Frozen Shithole or Detrimentalist, two vastly different sounding works – Winnipeg is a frantic mess of broken, aggressive sounds and layered pieces that sounds like someone having an angry breakdown in the middle of a wasps nest and borders on being more sonic assault than music (which is why I LOVE it), while Detrimentalist might almost be played in a club.

But the track I’m talking about now is, as an example from Rossz Csillag Alatt Született, is superficially classical in vein. That was what drew me to Venetian Snares in the first place. Back in the early noughties I was enormously into club mixes of classical music – a subgenre of which there were never enough skilful examples, and which I am still very much attracted to – and I had hoped initially that VS would be able to provide.

What happened instead was this weird snarl of strings and minor chord screeches came on like a violent scene in a modernist ballet and seized my listening mind by the throat. It is a series of small explosions – a painterly piece not in the sense that Debussy or Liszt might try to evoke a painting that represents a great scene, but painterly in the sense that it evokes something more like one of Francis Bacon’s frantic brush stroke chaoses resolving into an anguished face. Edward Elgar’s Cello Concerto 1st Mov contributes to the classical sound, as it is one of the samples used in the track, but the construction, the choppiness, and the bursts of scampering movement sound very unlike the stately, nostalgic sound of Elgar’s uninterrupted compositions.

Szamár Madár started me down the road to my own weird creations, and demonstrates more fully than any other track I can think of the ways in which genre boundaries can be effectively smashed by sampling and a creative approach to what constitutes a song. It draws on soundtrack, ballet, and sonic art to create an adventurous, discordant, threatening and unsettling approach to sound which eventually also led me to Iannis Xenakis and other experimental composers and creators, and broadened my enjoyment of music considerably from its early constricted folk music roots.


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