Howie Stelzer, Noise Curator du jour (Boston Phoenix, 8.11.09)

Posted on September 10, 2009


I took an afternoon this summer to meet old friend and stalwart experimental music supporter/practitioner Howie Steltzer to talk about the last ten years of his label, Intransitive Recordings, his intense dedication to tape manipulation, and organizing improv shows in Boston — “the best place in the country for this stuff,” he says. It’s an assuredness that’s pretty extremely lacking in most sectors of the city — of any city, really. Part of it comes maybe from the write-your-own-rules nature of experimental music, which I feel like benefited from Lester Bangs-type hyperbole (see Bangs’ completely incoherent and uninformed, yet totally moving review of John Coltrane in Psychotic Reactions…) more than any other genre of music. With a lot of experimental music, the language is so far out there that I can never really shake the suspicion that some elaborate joke is being played on me. But in talking to people like Stelzer, and in listening to a lot of music, I can’t say I’m not usually won over. Stelzer is a true champion and could teach a lot of people about what it means to keep an open mind.

Stelzer’s 10 years in Boston have been a challenging run of promoting and releasing uncompromising music — the kind of grating, droning stuff that still sends some unexpecting audience members running. Yet his career in the scene has been marked with a relaxed, non-confrontational attitude about the material. “It’s music. Good music is good music.”

Stelzer’s own repertoire stems from tape machines: feeding back recordings into each other, jamming the buttons down to tax the gears, pressing the little reels with his fingers. You may not know what a Walkman sounds like after being dropped into a vat of molasses, but you probably remember the sounds it makes right before the batteries die for good. Stelzer’s methods bring to mind both.

Link to entire article at the Phoenix