Release date: April 14, 2023
For many years, Brian Belott has scribbled on paper, making and showing his paintings alongside collages and sculptures. For almost as long, he has scribbled with sound, using his mouth alone to spill language into a pool of abstraction, humor, and musicality. Sound Scribbles marks the first-ever collection of Brian’s multifarious work in sound and music, at times beautiful and repulsive, painful and calming, hilarious and disturbing.
Brian is an archivist as much as an artist, collecting objects and sounds. Since 2005, he has intermittently recorded these scribbles, mostly on antiquated hand-held devices or his phone, and regards them as he would a quick drawing: the capturing of a single improvisatory moment. He scribbles constantly: in conversation with friends, alone in his studio, and performatively in front of audiences.
Brian also collects influences. Records, books, and paintings fill his home, and Sound Scribbles mirrors his vast range of interests, from spoken word to lounge music to opera. None of these references are accidental, as Brian has always been a devoted student to the history of music. In high school, he discovered the extended vocal techniques of György Ligeti’s Aventures and Meredith Monk’s Songs from the Hill/Tablet. He also became infatuated with sound art by the great Dadaists like Raoul Houseman, Kurt Schwitters, and Hugo Ball, and watched Jonathan Winters, Ernie Kovacs, and Jerry Lewis, who used comedic timbre and contorted formant, as much as they told jokes. Together, the vocalizations of these artists demonstrated the wide open palate / palette of expression available to and from the human mouth.
Brian is a lover of improvisational music, especially jazz, which plays regularly in his studio. John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman, for instance, is a landmark recording for him. Quite often, in mid scribble, Brian dips into a croon, like some aberrant member of the rat pack. He is equally fascinated by the complex composition of classical music, especially Mozart and Bach, who often emerge melodically and rhythmically in his recordings. One track on Scribbles, “feldman vocal study” evokes the composer Morton Feldman by name, and uses barely-there, whispered hums to recall Feldman’s iconic style of translucent composition. Brian refers to these scribbles as “thumbnail uneducated impersonations.”
In all his work, Brian is fundamentally a collagist, and in many of his recordings, you can hear these influences mulched together, drifting from one genre to another. In his twenties, Brian worked with Michael Poole, aka The Professor, on the WFMU found audio show, The Audio Kitchen, and would spend hours scouring thrift shops for old cassettes for program fodder. Brian loves the synthesis amateur and high-art, when the unexpected jams together, and in his scribbles he does this in unedited real time.
Since the recordings presented here, Brian has spent the last year developing his vocalizations into a new territory: acting. In the upcoming Stephen Soderbergh produced film by Koyaanisqatsi director Godfrey Reggio titled Once Within a Time, Brian transforms himself into a full-character manifestation of the sonic world he’s been building for a lifetime. Brian’s visual art is represented by the Canada gallery in New York, and oversees special projects and exhibitions with the Rhoda Kellogg’s archival collection of children’s art.
Sound Scribbles was compiled for Commend’s SEE series, and by Ross Simonini, an artist, writer, and musician who, for the last decade, has collaborated with Brian on performances, music, texts and visual art. Sound Scribbles arrives April 14th from RVNG Intl. and is presented in two limited versions: a cassette and digital offering containing all four extended works, and an artist edition LP, both featuring archival artwork from the Golden Gate Kindergarten Association, essays from Brian and Simonini, and design by Will Work For Good.