Printing Music

Printing for Labour Vertue Glorie is now completed & we’re in the (early) binding stage (vellum spine of Claudia's first dummy for Series 1 and 2 copies above). The printing took a little more than 300 hours, spread over four months. It’s a lot of time standing at the press, rolling out the ink and cranking the bed back & forth. None of that time was spent in silence: there were some podcasts, but most of the time was spent listening to music. Once makeready is done and the ink adjusted for a form, printing is pretty dull: you have to pay attention, but not really do much thinking, so one’s mind tends to wander. One day I found mine playing the Desert Island Discs game: what ten albums would I choose if I were to be marooned on an island with no expectation of rescue?

It’s been my experience that many printers place particular importance on music, and that music often crosses into their projects, whether overtly or tangentially. Both scores and pages are composed, and both grapple with decisions around balance, color, harmony and space. While playing my game, I got to wondering what 10 albums printers I know, or at least whose work I know, would choose. So I invited some of them to play the game, and here present their lists.


The rules were simply ten albums, and album is defined as a single cohesive work. The three discs in Einstein in the Beach would count as one choice, but Sony’s 24-CD collection of Philip Glass would not. (I admit to considering the complete eight-hour recording of Max Richter’s Sleep, but decided it was a stretch; also, I won’t need help nodding off while lost on a desert island.) No explanations or justifications were required.

Readers familiar with this blog will know it does not invite comments, since people have proven they can’t act decently on the Internet. However, if anyone would like to add their own list to this collection, it can be emailed to me (see address lower right) and I will append it (or at least a few interesting ones). Please include your full name, location, and press name/affiliation if any. Don’t bother sending comments or critiques on any of the posted lists, we’re not getting into a debate over choices.

This turned out to be a lot of fun, since several of the lists included choices that were all unknown to me. The game also underscored the wide range of tastes at work, and the place music holds in the lives of the responding printers. (Jason Dewinetz, who prints on a Vandercook, raised a point I had not considered: a mechanized press makes noise, which could impede listening, or at least limit choices. My handpress makes no noise, and I’d go loopy without music while printing.)

Will Rueter (The Aliquando Press)
  1. J. Bach - Goldberg Variations. A dead heat among three interpretations: Simone Dinnerstein, Glenn Gould’s 1959 Salzburg recital, and Pieter-Jan Belder’s most recent recording. At the moment, Belder’s harpsichord version wins by a micro-hair.
  2. J. Bach - Mass in B minor. My current favourite version is by the Netherlands Bach Society.
  3. F. Schubert - String Quintet in C (Emerson Quartet, Rostropovich).
  4. M. Haydn - Requiem. Solosits, King’s Consort. An unknown gem.
  5. L. Janáček - The Cunning Little Vixen. Vienna Philharmonic, Mackerras. A comic strip about animals made into a profound opera. If there was a CD of Weinberg’s The Passenger, it would have absolute first place.
  6. M. Ravel. Anything, but especially Daphnis et Chloe, with choir.
  7. C. Monteverdi - Vespers of 1610, with Gardiner. Or any opera. Or madrigal.
  8. Leonard Cohen - Probably Ten New Songs
  9. D. Shostakovich - My musical hero for so many years. Impossible to choose, but probably Symphony #7 ‘Leningrad’ or any of the quartets.
  10. Jacques Loussier - Any record of his riffs on Bach; he’s beyond brilliant.

Crispin & Jan Elsted (Barbarian Press)
Before you put the question, neither of us had really thought very much in any systematic way about what we play when working. The daily programming runs fairly true to a pattern. We often begin the day with an opera, these days tending towards the bel canto (we're particularly fond of Donizetti, Bellini, and Rossini) but we're also devoted to Verdi, Puccini, Massenet, and Mozart. Then we'll usually segue into orchestral music, usually late romantic or modernist - let's say from Tchaikovsky through to Shostakovich, Janacek, or Walton. (20th century English music is a shared pleasure, and ballet scores are too.) Towards the end of the day, when energy is flagging more than somewhat, we often switch from classical to jazz (some of which we've mentioned), rock (the Stones, CCR, Beatles), old rock 'n' roll (pre-1960 Elvis, the Everly Bros., or mixes I've put together), or electric blues (Tommy Castro, Muddy Waters, Studebaker John, Junior Wells and the like), just to keep the blood flowing.

Jan and I both made lists, and it was interesting for each of us to look at the other's once they were done. Our tastes coincide about 90% of the time. Jan’s choices reflect more of the later afternoon repertoire, which is probably due to her requests for the bouncy stuff dominating the playlists from about 3 p.m. on. The Mozart, Bellini, and Netrebko recital she's chosen are all music we know well, and except for the recits in the Mozart they are all pretty energetic and audible even over a Vandercook, I guess.

As for my final choices, they are largely representative of groups of possibilities. For instance, while Der Rosenkavalier is certainly one of my top ten favourite operas, and I might have chosen another in that slot - Die Walküre, Aïda, or Il barbiere di Siviglia spring to mind -- Rosenkavalier is more complex and would probably have more staying power once it had been plugged into the nearest palm tree on that island of yours. Ask me next year, and the list would probably alter in particulars, but in the main would remain as it is.


Crispin’s list:
  1. I. Stravinsky - Firebird and Petroushka (Columbia Symphony Orchestra, Stravinsky con.)
  2. W. Walton - Symphony #1 (London Symphony Orchestra, A. Previn con.)
  3. P. Tchaikovsky - Symphony #3 (London Symphony Orchestra,  V. Gergiev con.)
  4. Shelley Manne & His Men - Live at the Blackhawk
  5. Gerry Mulligan - The Concert Jazz Band Complete Recordings
  6. M. Weinberg - Symphony #2 & Chamber Symphony #2 (Umeå Symphony Orchestra, T. Svedlund con.) 
  7. A. Bruckner - Symphony #4 (Münchner Philharmoniker, S. Celibidache con.)
  8. M. Ravel - Daphnis et Chloe (Berlin Philharmonic, P. Boulez con.)
  9. L. Janáček - Opera suites incl. The Cunning Little Vixen; From the House of the Dead; The Excursions of Mr Broucek (Prague Symphony Orchestra, J. Bělohlávek con.)
  10. R. Strauss - Der Rosenkavalier (Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, G. Solti con.)

Jan’s list:
  1. W.A. Mozart - Le Nozze di Figaro (Philharmonia Chorus & Orchestra, C. M. Giulini con.)
  2. Gilbert & Sullivan - The Gondoliers (Glyndebourne Festival Chorus & Pro Arte Orchestra, M. Sargent con.)
  3. Ella Fitzgerald - The George & Ira Gershwin Songbook
  4. Benny Goodman - Carnegie Hall Concert
  5. V. Bellini - I Capuleti e i Montecchi (A. Netrebko, E. Garanča, et al., F. Luisi con.)
  6. A. Netrebko -  Opera Arias (Vienna Philharmonic, G. Noseda con.)
  7. The Rolling Stones - Hot Rocks
  8. various - Forrest Gump (film soundtrack) 
  9. Paul Simon - The Essential Paul Simon
  10. S. Rachmaninov - Dances (Philharmonia, N. Järvi con.)

Sarah Horowitz (Wiesedruck)
I thought I’d have to think about my list, but I didn’t once I looked at what I had. It’s all over the map. I grew up as a teenager with the Beatles, Stones, Jefferson Airplane, Morrison, Hendrix and Janice (yes, in the ‘80s, so I didn’t exactly fit in). Over the last 10 years I have tended towards dark, depressing classical music, but I can’t just listen to that so bits and pieces of all the phases I went through in between have stuck with me - klezmer, latin, old time…
  1. W.A. Mozart - Requiem
  2. Hilliard Ensemble - Motets of Guillaume de Machaut
  3. O. Golijov - Yiddiishbbuk
  4. A. Pärt - Tabula Rasa 
  5. Portland Cello Project - (anything)
  6. Regina Spektor - Regina Spekor and Soviet Kitch
  7. Paul Cantelon with Gogol Bordello - Everything is Illuminated (movie soundtrack)
  8. Orishas - A Lo Cubano
  9. Golden Delicious - Old School
  10. Shakira - Laundry Service by Shakira. Because everyone needs to tango a little while printing, especially when it’s been a long day…

Bob McCamant (Sherwin Beach Press & emeritus editor of Parenthesis NA.)
  1. Darlingside - Birds Say
  2. Tarkan - Dudu
  3. fun. - Aim & Ignite
  4. Nick Lowe - Labour of Lust 
  5. John Grant - Pale Green Ghosts
  6. Jane Siberry - Bound by the Beauty
  7. Graham Parker - Howling Wind
  8. The Beautiful South - Quench
  9. L. van Beethoven - Symphony #7 (Tbilisi Symphony Orchestra)
  10. G. Handel - Judas Maccabaeus (Philharmonia Baroque)

Jason Dewinetz (Greenboathouse Press)
I rarely listen to music while working; I like quiet, and I also like to hear and feel what the machine is doing: the hiss of the ink, the rumble of the cylinder rolling over type, the click and clank of the casting machine. All of these sounds tell me things about how the work is going, and often I make adjustments (to ink, to the speed of the casting machine, etc.) based on these sounds. That said, occasionally I do put some music on, although I tend to turn it off again after half an hour because it starts to get on my nerves.
  1. The Smiths - The Queen is Dead
  2. SNFU - And No One Else Wanted to Play
  3. Liz Phair - Whip-Smart
  4. Violent Femmes - Violent Femmes
  5. Tom Waits - Frank’s Wild Years
  6. Pixies - Doolittle
  7. Skip James - Blues from the Delta
  8. Metallica - Master of Puppets
  9. The Cramps - Bad Music for Bad People
  10. PJ Harvey - Rid of Me


HM’s List
I have found four streaming “radio” stations that have effectively made my own music collection excess to requirement. Like the Elsteds, my listening during a day of printing has an arc, which these four stations neatly span: Ambient Sleeping Pill and/or Drone Zone for the first few hours, while getting a form set up and printing right; Deep Space One mid-day; and Space Station Soma for the final push. But with no Internet on the island, my playlist is comprised of albums that aren’t necessarily favorites, but ones I know would withstand repeated listenings over the years.
  1. Kyle Bobby Dunn - Kyle Bobby Dunn & The Infinite Sadness
  2. Harold Budd & Brian Eno - The Pearl 
  3. Stars of the Lid - The Ballasted Orchestra. Hard to choose one SOTL album, but the song titles alone make this a fun choice…
  4. loscil - Plume
  5. Bill Laswell & Style Scott - Dub Meltdown
  6. Harold Budd & Eraldo Bernocchi - Music for “Fragments from the Inside”
  7. Miles Davis - Sketches of Spain
  8. The Rolling Stones - Some Girls
  9. Aphex Twin - Selected Ambient Works 2. Despite a couple of clunker tracks…
  10. Fatboy Slim vs HM - The Mix Tape. This was never released, exists only as a lathe-cut test pressing, and is impossible to find. The only known copy will be with me, thereby assuring people will come looking, rescue me, and I won’t be stuck on an island with just ten albums for eternity.
Next up: news of this fun new, fine-press fixated bibliomystery