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Found Sounds 18: Open Pipe Symphony

August 24, 2014 - Harry Eagar
I thought a long time before deciding I was willing to risk an hour listening to "Open Pipe Symphony" (JL Productions USCD 666; 1997)

As it turned out, it was more musical than most modern symphonic compositions -- whose premieres are often their last performances, too -- and very like a composed symphony -- 19th century kind -- in structure, with movements, development and so on.

The skimpy liner notes say to play it at full blast although "divorce threats may result." In one of 2 Amazon reviews, Meg Estey says, "My hubby loves this CD it is not for me and drives me crazy. But he puts it on in the garage and zones out while doing a project."

In reality, the noise has been detuned so that you get the Formula One whine and crescendo/diminuendo without the earthshaking volume.

All the recordings were made in France and Monaco, mostly during races but some also in the garage or on a test run. The sound is, therefore, very different from what you hear at an American race.

Cars include Ferraris, Peugeots, Porsches, Renaults, Matras, Mercedes and a bubbly 1928 Bugatti. Most of the engines are V-10s and V-12s.

The producer was Jean Lerust, a racing journalist for Echappement and Le Dragon.

Lerust began writing in 1969, a little after I published my first auto racing (and first newspaper) story in 1966. It would never have occurred to me, though, to make a recording of a race, because Billy had already done that, and the results were not pretty.

Billy was a big, slovenly, slow, friendly, mostly toothless wizard who hexed NASCAR drivers. No, really. All of them believed he could do it, or said they did; and they would pay Billy to slow down particular opponents.

He did this by standing in turn 3 and scraping one forefinger across the other as his target came by. He was absolutely concentrated on his job.

Billy, who was a high-functioning moron, hung out at the body shop of the local racing promoter, Hank Hankins, and would have loved to have been included in all that manly ricin' talk, but a little of Billy was all anybody could take.

But everyone treated him kindly. Drivers -- some very famous ones -- would give him $20 to hex a race. Although Billy wanted to travel with everybody else, no one wanted to be cooped up with him in a truck for hours, or even minutes, so he had to take the 'Hound. Someone always arranged for entry tickets.

After I had known Billy for a couple of years he acquired a cigar-box sized battery tape recorder, which he used to record races. He then held the recorder up to his ear and played it, continuously, as loud and as long as the batteries held out. Unlike the song of the screaming Ferrari P4 running down the Mulsanne straight at Le Mans, a musical rise and fall, the sound of 40 modifieds snarling their way around a half-mile track was insufferable, but it made Billy happy.

He may have been the happiest man, overall, in Virginia, despite not riding with the mechanics, at least as long as his batteries held out.

 
 

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