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Could That Be Music?

Michael Weintrob

On this fun-filled episode of Arts & Letters, we’ll be talking with musicians Rob Schwimmer and Mark Stewart of Polygraph Lounge about various ways of thinking about and rethinking conceptions of music. 

Based on two shows Schwimmer and Stewart created for Carnegie Hall Presents, we feature music and discussions about the exploration of sound. 

"As the rambunctious children of Spike Jones, Victor Borge, PDQ Bach, Tom Leher & the Firesign Theatre, Polygraph Lounge strip mine the common cultural currency of yesterday, today & tomorrow, engineering an epic sonic train wreck aimed directly at the funny bone of us all as we greet/shape a new millennium (together): High brow, Low brow, Uni-brow! Inna Gadda Da Vida as Gregorian Chant, Led Zeppelin meets Aaron Copland, an audience of hundreds of nostrils flaring and blaring on nose flutes in The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly while the ph'Lounge soars over the top in the surf guitar paradise that is Tchaikowsky's Swan Lake."

From the song "Could That Be Music": I was walking down the street just the other day When my friend turned to me, he started to say "Hey, I'm hearing something strange from a mile away. That sounds weird." "No, it's good" "Could it be?" "Maybe it could." Could that be music? Could that be music? I don't know!

In order to engage children and adults Polygraph Lounge uses everything from noseflutes, car alarms, cell phones, and plumbing pipes, as well as puns, popular riffs, and wit.

Credit Polygraph Lounge
Instruments from left to right: Terbium (with letter "T", and its cousin Erbium - Little yellow boxes (3x3x3) with little knobs. Bent cousins of the theremin. Glenn Wyllie sound modules from the woodlands of North Carolina.), Melodica, Giggly Shaker, Flexitone, Scrub Pad, Pop Gun, and Slide Whistle Organ.

Polygraph Lounge is a duo comprised of Rob Schwimmer & Mark Stewart. Throughout their careers, they have worked with A-ha, Burt Bacharach, Joan Baez, The Boston Pops, Edie Brickell,  Steve Buscemi, David Byrne, C&C Music Factory, Sammy Davis Jr., Drepung Loseling Tibetan Monks, Bob Dylan, Kat Edmonson, Ethel, the Everly Brothers, Phillip Glass, Elliot Goldenthal, Gotye, Josh Groban, Chaka Khan, Queen Latifah, Ang Lee, Paul McCartney, Bobby McFerrin, Bette Midler, Willie Nelson, Aaron Neville,Gwyneth Paltrow, Annette Peacock, Paul Simon, Simon and Garfunkel, Bruce Springsteen, Sting, James Taylor, Stevie Wonder, and many others.

In their own words,  they created Polygraph Lounge "...seeking fulfillment outside of their parallel lives as virtuoso soloists, composers and model sidemen of utter sobriety. They offer up inspired lunacy/anarchy fired from a veritable arsenal of original instruments & vocal stylings. "

Listen to the song "Could That Be Music" by Polygraph Lounge

This episode was recorded when Schwimmer and Stewart visited UA Little Rock as part of the Chancellor's Concert Series.  They gave two concerts and several workshops for the Music Department and appeared in Arts & Letters Live--a performance at Stella Boyle Smith Concert Hall in which they played original songs on the folk art instruments made by Ed Stilley.  

A special thank you to Jeremy Lane for everything and the UA Little Rock Department of Music. Thank you to Stickyz Rock “N" Roll Chicken Shack for keeping music alive and well in Arkansas. Thank you to the Sheraton Four Points by Marriott Little Rock Midtown for providing accommodations for our singers, songwriters, and guests. A special thanks to Dan Huff.  

Generous funding for this episode was provided by the Arkansas Humanities Council and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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