Charles Amirkhanian

Mental Radio CRI (1985)

1. Church Car, Version 2 (1980-81) (2'55")

Voices: Charles Amirkhanian, Anthony J. Gnazzo Recorded by Anthony J. Gnazzo at California State University, Hayward, 1980 Mixed by Bob Bielecki at ZBS Media, Fort Edward, New York, April 1981

2. Dot Bunch (1981) (5'35")

Voice; Drum synthesizer: Charles Amirkhanian Engineer: Ed Herrmann, assisted by Christopher Merrick Recorded at KOPN-FM, Columbia, Missouri, September 1981

3. Dog of Stravinsky (1982) (3'21")

Dedicated to Richard Pontzious, Allan Ulrich, Robert Commanday, Heuwell Tircuit Voice: "Dashiell Hammett," Belgian sheep hound, courtesy Reynaldo and Jody Terrazas Location recording by Charles Amirkhanian, Oakland, California, October 7, 1979 Engineer: Anders Lundqvist Mixed at EMS, Stockholm, Sweden, October 1982

4. Hypothetical Moments (1981) (5'31")

Dedicated to Betty Freeman Voice, ocarina, bells: Charles Amirkhanian Harpsichord (courtesy of Dennis Russell Davies): Charles Amirkhanian, recorded in St. Paul, Minnesota, March 1980 Engineer: John Guth Recorded at New Wilderness Foundation, New York, NY, October 1981

5. Maroa (1981) (5'10")

Voice and Drum synthesizer: Charles Amirkhanian Engineer: Andrew Hindes Recorded at New Wilderness Foundation, New York, NY, October 1981

6. The Putts (1981) (5'18")

Voice; Percussion; Drum synthesizer: Charles Amirkhanian Whisper chorus: Charles Amirkhanian, Greg Shifrin, Patty Anderson, Tom Lopez, Gary Gallucci Sound effects: Bob Bielecki, Tom Lopez Engineer: Bob Bielecki, assisted by Gail Turner Recorded at ZBS Media, Fort Edward, New York, April 1981

7. Dreams Freud Dreamed (1970) (5'10")

Voice: Charles Amirkhanian Voice; Bells: Charlie Morrow Engineer: Charlie Morrow, assisted by Vivien LaMothe and Barbara Benedict Recorded at New Wilderness Foundation, New York, NY, March 1979

8. Andas (1982) (6'45")

Voice: Charles Amirkhanian Engineer: Anders Lundqvist Recorded at EMS, Stockholm, Sweden, October 1982

9. History of Collage (1981) (4'48")

Dedicated to Carol Law Voice, drum synthesizer: Charles Amirkhanian Engineers: Ed Herrmann, Charles Amirkhanian Recorded at KOPN-FM, Columbia, Missouri, September 1981. Incorporating sounds recorded by Bob Bielecki and Tom Lopez, mixed April 1981 at ZBS Media, and by Charles Amirkhanian (cricket at Tassajara, California, June 1981)

Various Tracks

10. Just (1972)
11. Heavy Aspirations (1973)
12. Mushrooms (for John Cage) (4:58)
13. RADII (2:05)

Track 10 from 10 + 2 = 12 American Text-Sound Pieces
Track 11 from 10 + 2 = 12 American Text-Sound Pieces
Track 12 Recorded at BPRO Radio, Holland, Jan. 1974, from Totally Corrupt (Giorno Poetry Systems, 1972)
Track 13 recorded Swedish Radio, Stockholm, April 1972, from Dial-A-Poem Poets Disconnected (Giorno Poetry Systems, 1972)


Composer, poet, and percussionist Charles Amirkhanian is one of the leading United States exponents of text-sound composition, the intermedium between music and literature. Born January 19, 1945 in Fresno, California, Arnirkhanian is largely self-taught as a composer. He holds a B.A. in English Literature from California State University, Fresno (1967), an M.A. in Interdisciplinary Creative Arts from San Francisco State University (1969), and an M.F.A. in Electronic Music and Recording Media from Mills College (1980). Since 1969 he has been Music Director of Pacifica listener-sponsored Radio Station KPFA-FM in Berkeley, California, where he has become internationally-known for his comprehensive programs on avant-garde music, poetry and art.

Since 1965 he has used speech as the primary element in his music. His quixotic and often non-syntactical use of American English treats words as percussion objects, revealing in its intense rhythms the composer's background as a drummer. Humor and irony abound as well, and in performance Amirkhanian uses his tapes as accompaniment for added live vocal lines while enveloped by the moving image projections (films and slides) of visual artist Carol Law.

Using the recording studio as his composing desk, Amirkhanian incorporates tape loops, tape delay, multi-track layering, digital modulation, and synthetic and acoustic percussion tracks in combination with ambient sound recordings to produce enigmatic wordscapes characterized by intense rhythmic activity and abstract objectification of words into sound.

Since 1969, Amirkhanian has developed his current style of restless minimalism in which repeated figures are sustained for short periods of time before giving way to other variations on similar themes. This is pursued in several voices polyphonically, creating kaleidoscopic effects within his typically Webernesque time frames.

From the literary viewpoint, Amirkhanian has been influenced by the prose and poetry of Gertrude Stein and its nonsyntactical extensions in the work of Clark Coolidge; also by the cut-up methods of Brion Gysin and William Burroughs.

Amirkhanian's work, nearly entirely based on his own texts, has been performed widely throughout North America, Europe and the Pacific Basin. He has been commissioned by the Fylkingen Society in Sweden, the Arch Ensemble of Berkeley, Radio VPRO in Holland, the Independent Composers Association of Los Angeles (for the 1984 Summer Olympics), WDR (the West German Radio, Cologne), and the Newport Harbor Art Museum, among others. His work is recorded commercially the United States, West Germany, Italy, Holland, England, and Sweden, and was the subject of a film documentary made for Dutch television (NOS) by Mike Chanowski (MMC Films).

Other works by Amirkhanian are available on "Lexical Music" and "10 + 2 = 12 American Text-Sound Pieces," released originally on 1750 Arch Records and available through CRI.

The title of this album is borrowed from a book by Upton Sinclair, the socialist writer and novelist whose nearly-successful candidacy for governor of the state of California in 1934 took the West Coast establishment by surprise.

Sinclair's Mental Radio is a volume of non-fiction on the subject of mental telepathy. The writer had always been fascinated with books on subjects in the realm we now term "parapsychology." He then married a woman who had exhibited what he assured his readers was an indisputable ability to perform telepathic information retrieval. This the book documents in some 239 pages, published by Albert and Charles Boni (New York, 1930).

Mental Radio remains one of Sinclair's forgotten volumes, and when I recently encountered it by surprise in a collector's bookshop I realized that the title, in reference to my forthcoming LP, struck a particular resonance because of my long service in the field of radio broadcasting and because oi the interior, close-up qualities of word and voice which make these works particularly suited for radio presentation.

In concert, the pieces are performed live by me with tape accompaniment, and often with slide projections by visual artist Carol Law. The result is a theatrical environment such as the one seen on the front cover of this album-a performance photograph of Maroa.

-Charles Amirkhanian