It’s been a few years since Jeff Mangum headlined our hugely successful Tiny Mix Tapes Fest, and though he’s made the occasional headline since then, most Neutral Milk Hotel fans are still disappointed that Mangum has yet to announce plans to visit them individually, touch their faces, and magically improve their lives. Nevertheless, Jeff still maintains some form of agency in his own life, so what else can we do as music appreciators but root through his trash, hold stethoscopes up to the walls of his home, and report our findings to a fickle, mean-spirited public?
And so: Jeff Mangum has composed a musical score for Teletron, the instrument that Robert Schneider of The Apples in Stereo invented last year by modifying a Mattel Mindflex toy so that a performer could change a synthesizer’s pitch using only their mind. The Teletron was demonstrated using Mangum’s score last week during a neuroscience class at Duke University, dually wielded by Schneider and Robert Beatty (of Hair Police, Three Legged Race, Burning Star Core, and amazing album art). Schneider explains the process of composing and performing with the Teletron thusly:
A Teletron score is a collage-like sequence of opposing pages, where the right page speaks to the left side of the brain, which is more logical, and the left page speaks to the right brain, the intuitive side. Two opposing images are to be understood by the reader as a single thought or statement. The images are also projected for the audience to view. The melody played by the synthesizers is completely based on the conductor’s thoughts, while Robert and I adjust the Moog filters to taste, each of us playing the role of one side of the brain and reading only one side of the score. Finally, the synthesizers are sent through stereo speakers to feed the sounds to corresponding hemispheres of the listeners’ brains.
For now, this appears to have been a one-time-only event, but Schneider “and colleagues” are bringing his Teletron down to Athens, Georgia on May 7 for the AUX Festival, so maybe he’ll bust out the Mangum piece there. We leave you with a video, not of Jeff Mangum running from TMZ reporters, but of a collaboration between Robert Beatty and visual artist Takeshi Murata that seems to simulate what might happen if they hooked up the Teletron to Mango’s head and projected the results.