Author Topic: Martin Denny / Exotica  (Read 5673 times)

9dragons

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Martin Denny / Exotica
« on: March 31, 2009, 07:15:39 PM »
I have come to realize that this music is wonderful. Before, I liked it, now it is becoming something deeper. I got the "Exotic Sounds of Martin Denny" from my library a couple years ago, and it took me on a magical trip. I feel like going in deeper now, and getting a couple of the 2 for 1 album reissues that are out there.

This passage from the Wikipedia article on Martin Denny http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martin_Denny tells a delightful tale of the somewhat random birth of the Exotica genre:

During an engagement at the Shell Bar, Denny discovered what would become his trademark and the birth of "exotica." The bar had a very exotic setting: a little pool of water right outside the bandstand, rocks and palm trees growing around, very quiet and relaxed. As the group played at night, Denny became aware of bullfrogs croaking. The croaking blended with the music and when the band stopped, so did the frogs. Denny thought this to be a coincidence, but when he tried the tune again later, the same thing happened. This time, his bandmates began doing all sorts of tropical bird calls as a gag. The band thought it nothing more than a joke. The next day, though, someone approached Denny and asked if he would do the arrangement with the birds and frogs. The more Denny thought about it, the more it made sense. At rehearsal, he had the band do "Quiet Village" with each doing a bird call spaced apart. Denny did the frog part on a grooved cylinder and the whole thing became incorporated into the arrangement of "Quiet Village".

Let me be clear that I am not being ironic when I say that this music affects me. There is a sense of uninhibited imagination, and frankly straight up fun, to this music. It unleashes the mind into a fantasy world. Anyone out there been to the Tonga Room in San Francisco, up on Nob Hill? That place makes me feel the same way.



9dragons

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Re: Martin Denny / Exotica
« Reply #1 on: April 02, 2009, 01:47:00 AM »
Nice little 3 minute spot with song samples on NPR, honoring Martin Denny at the time of his passing in 2005.

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=4523964

Amazing to hear that Denny performed at a benefit concert for the victims of the South Asian Tsunami, just two weeks before his death at the age of 93.


jim brenholts

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Re: Martin Denny / Exotica
« Reply #2 on: April 02, 2009, 12:04:35 PM »
martin denny is as cool as cool gets! i found exotica right around the same time i began writing and it takes me to some strange places.
all the best and God bless
jim
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hdibrell

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Re: Martin Denny / Exotica
« Reply #3 on: April 02, 2009, 01:18:07 PM »
martin denny is as cool as cool gets!
   I agree, I've got a few Martin Denny albums. Thet just don't seem to get old.      Harry
A computer once beat me at chess, but it was no match for me at kickboxing.

9dragons

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Re: Martin Denny / Exotica
« Reply #4 on: April 03, 2009, 01:49:04 AM »
Great to hear you guys are into the Denny. I've been getting deeper in this past week, but continue to just spin the very fine double album comp Exotic Sounds of Martin Denny. I'm sensing that soon I will have to sneak a couple orders in of Quiet Village and Exotica (both of which include two albums from the era).

I've been thinking about the phenomenon of Exotica, and what it may have meant to the ambient movement. John Hassel, in his liner notes to the Fascinoma album, references the name Exotica specifically, without, however, mentioning Denny specifically, though he appears to be hinting as much. I did a google on Hassel and Denny, and got a quote from a review of the album Fourth World Vol. 1: Possible Musics CD where the author contrasts the sensitive ethnic explorations of Hassel and Eno with the "cultural imperialism" of Denny. I find this a bit strange; there is much more to Denny than just a ripoff of foreign music -- it really does cross over a boundry at some point (with indigenous musics as the springboard) and enter a world of fantasy and imagination. What I am interested in is the connection between this kind of dreaming exploration of other cultures and modes of thought, and the music of artists like Denny, Hassel, and Steve Roach. I hear a lot of Hassel in Roach, and the whole Fourth World musical experiment could be seen to be an extension of Exotica. But I see Exotica as a good thing, unlike the reviewer I mentioned. If it leads to exploration and an expansion of the imagination, it is good in my book. I'm sure countless people got sparked to travel or move to a far away land by listening to too much Denny. And at the least it acts as glorious escapism. Hassel and Roach can be looked at in this contrasting light of surface escapism (in the positive sense of that term) and deep exploration / inspiration.

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Re: Martin Denny / Exotica
« Reply #5 on: April 03, 2009, 04:56:52 AM »
Joseph

If you’re interested in going further into the conceptual and cultural aspects of EXOTICA in looking at the music, you might want to look at David Toop’s book:


Review:
http://www.citypages.com/1999-06-30/books/david-toop-exotica-fabricated-soundscapes-in-a-real-world/

Available used:
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Exotica-Fabricated-Soundscapes-Real-World/dp/1852425954%3FSubscriptionId%3D1XFK01HK9NZWGPENWGG2%26tag%3Ddjhistorycom-21%26linkCode%3Dxm2%26camp%3D2025%26creative%3D165953%26creativeASIN%3D1852425954

And there’s quite an interesting exploration of Exotica on this blog:

http://surrealdocuments.blogspot.com/search/label/Exotica

taking in what are generally acknowledged to be the key figures  - Les Baxter, Harry Partch, Harry Bertoia, Sun Ra, Yma Sumac, Dr John The Night Tripper – along with several less ‘expected’. Mishima is an interesting case, but, in re: music, uh... Throbbing Gristle (!)... well, obviously fits in less well with the musical orientation typically associated with Exotica, but there are conceptual linkages
<insert obligatory chinstroking>

ffcal

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Re: Martin Denny / Exotica
« Reply #6 on: April 03, 2009, 08:07:10 AM »
Bertoia, Partch and Russolo as godfathers of Exotica??  I think Toop may be overreaching a little bit.  Sounds like he's confusing futurism with exotica.

Though I think albums like Quite Village are good fun, I think that Hassell's experiments are far more serious and reflect a deeper understanding of the structure of non-Western music.  (Hassell studied with Pradit Pran Nath, a famous Indian classical vocalist.)  One thing that really irritates me to no end is hearing non-Western music played in a campy, pseudo-ironic cartoon style (e.g., playing a "oriental" scale in a cheezy way).  I would never equate pastiche with the so-called Fourth World style of accomplished musicians such as Hassell and Michael Brook.

Forrest

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Re: Martin Denny / Exotica
« Reply #7 on: April 03, 2009, 12:36:58 PM »
I'm completely with Forrest on this one. Listening to Martin Denny conjures up horrid images of leering businessmen in Hawaiian shirts trying to score chicks in the 50's while sucking back Pina Coladas. The cover of TG's Greatest Hits is pretty funny though. And David Toop always seems to be wandering a little too far to draw musical threads together.

Esquivel is another story.
« Last Edit: April 03, 2009, 12:39:44 PM by Mark Mushet »

9dragons

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Re: Martin Denny / Exotica
« Reply #8 on: April 03, 2009, 01:55:27 PM »
I can't deny that there are some quite cheesy aspects to Denny's music. I am definitely not uncritical of all the songs I hear. But there are occasions where it attains a real magic. I am also a big fan of Hassel, and I agree that his musical explorations are much more sophisticated and studied than Martin Denny. I just see them as part of the same continuum of music. In the 50's, Exotica was in the lounges of Hawaii. It evolved through Eno and Hassel, and I would argue, evolved even farther in musicians like Roach. Ambient music could be the ultimate form of Exotica. I agree with you Forrest, about the annoyance of the pseudo cartooniness of some of the Denny. I am a huge fan of Asian classical music across the board. But I guess a large part of it for me is that alien sense of outsidedness and nostalgia that Exotica conjures up. It's kind of fascinating to see cultures mixed and messed with in this way, even if it is bastardized. Can I call it a nostalgia about being nostalgic?

...more chin stroking as toucans shriek in the background...

ffcal

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Re: Martin Denny / Exotica
« Reply #9 on: April 03, 2009, 03:05:40 PM »
I wasn't thinking specifically of Denny as having a pseudo-ironic cartoon style.  Though, I guess, his famous tune, "Firecracker," might qualify.  More irritating to me are the quasi-ironic lounge acts of the late 90s that claimed a direct lineage to Martin Denny and Esquivel.  What I thought was an interesting turnabout was when YMO covered "Firecracker" and turned into a fairly nice technopop version.

I agree that the mixing and matching of different cultural styles can be fascinating, but it can also lead to some godawful results, like the ambient fad of adding beats to Tibetan and Gregorian chants in the mid-90s.

Forrest