The Evolution Control Committee

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The Evolution Control Committee (The ECC) is an experimental music band based in San Francisco. The ECC was founded by Mark Gunderson (a.k.a. TradeMark G.) in Columbus, Ohio, in 1987. It typically uses uncleared and illegal samples from various sources as a form of protest against copyright law. The ECC also produces numerous audio experiments, such as the disfiguring of compact discs in live performance, known as "CDestruction", and has produced a few video works as well, ranging from re-edited 50's corporate shorts to a Teddy Ruxpin reciting the works of William S. Burroughs. Other activities include culture jamming.

They are one of the pioneers of the mash-up or bootleg, where two or more songs are mixed together into a new track. According to Neil Strauss in the New York Times, "...many musical observers trace the official beginnings of the British bootleg scene to The Evolution Control Committee, which in 1993 mixed a Public Enemy a cappella with music by Herb Alpert." These are the now-classic "Public Enemy/Whipped Cream Mixes", with Public Enemy's inflammatory raps, "By the Time I Get To Arizona" and "Rebel Without a Pause" overdubbed onto instrumentals by Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass.

The ECC is probably best known for its song "Rocked By Rape", consisting of samples of Dan Rather's deadpan delivery describing various atrocities over looped riffs from AC/DC's "Back in Black". This work brought legal threats against The ECC by CBS, but by 2003, CBS appears to have let the issue go by. "Rocked by Rape" was nationally broadcast on NPR's All Things Considered in 2000[1]. It was even played at a roast for Rather, which was later broadcast on C-SPAN.

Since 2000, Gunderson has performed his works on stage through an electronic instrument of his own invention: "The Thimbletron." It is made of a pair of gloves with ten thimbles attached at the ends of the fingers, which are then wired to a laptop computer. As the thimbles are touched together, the laptop in turn plays a different sound sample. Gunderson claims that the device uses "thimbletronium energy" and warns that "thimbletronic radiation can leak unexpectedly due to a mishap during a live performance. The audience is advised to attend Thimbletron performances at their own risk." Gunderson has also modified a bread toaster in a similar fashion, with each depression of a lever playing a sample.

The Thimbletron has been largely retired in public performances in favor of the Wheel of Mashup, in which audience members come up on stage and spin a wheel to randomly select the music and vocals to be combined. These are then mashed together in real time using the VidiMasher 3000, a large rear-projected touch screen used to control Ableton Live. [1]


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