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Listening to art.
Playing with audio.
Sounding out technology.
Composing in code.

Monthly Archives: April 2006

Sound-Diary MP3s

There’s a blog by musician Justin Hardison at thelandof.org, which on the face of it is ordinary enough. Lots of musicians augment their individual websites with online diary entries, including the semi-regular postings of Radiohead (radiohead.com/deadairspace) and David Byrne (journal.davidbyrne.com), and the monthly home-page posts by Scanner (scannerdot.com). What distinguishes Hardison’s blog, which he does under the name My Fun, is that the entries take the form of a diary-in-sound.

Some are raw field recordings, such as two from Hampstead Heath, London, posted in March (MP3, MP3), both quiet strolls that bring to mind the perambulatory tape-art of Luc Ferrari. Others are so specific as to be universal, like a quick sliver of frying posted on February 28 (MP3). But much of the sound is processed, like a glitchy conglomeration of elements from the first of March (MP3) and, perhaps best of all, a tasteful expanse of textured undulations from March 9, titled “Improv Loops” (MP3). Just yesterday Hardison posted a rapidly spliced cutup of individual words culled from radio and elsewhere (MP3), as if William S. Burroughs had manned his own Conet Project station.

Each entry is accompanied by an photo, some self-evident, like the pan full of potatoes that illustrated the “Fried” MP3, and others less so, like a vertiginous peek up (or down) a shaft that was posted along with the loops. Again, this is where Hardison’s blog is on to something. Lots of online MP3 sources post images along with their sounds, but those are usually the web-browser equivalent of an album cover. Hardison has constructed something more singular and balanced; it’s worth trying to recognize his photos as having equal weight with his sounds: photography complementing the phonography.

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Maker Faire Instrument Panel MP3

This is a first. I’ve been doing the almost-daily Disquiet.com Downstream entries since October 14, 2003, and today is the first time I’ve linked to something I did myself. This past Sunday I moderated a panel discussion at the inaugural Maker Faire, put on by Make magazine (makezine.com). The subject: “Making Instruments, Making Music.” The panelists: Krys Bobrowski, Tom Koch (aka univac) and Chachi Jones. Bobrowski brought along some fantastic horns made of dried kelp and an oversized glass ‘armonica designed for extended glissando. Jones and Koch brought numerous homebrew gadgets, most of which are broadly summarized as circuit-bent: Speak’n’Spells and Teletubby dolls with extra switches added on, like the hybrid “remades” of China Mieville’s fiction.

The panel took place at 11am on Sunday in a room called the Makers Lounge. The soundboard guy told us what we’d already figured out: the hall had poor acoustics at best. Plus, we shared the space with a loud bunch of retro pinball machines. (The folks who created the new USB musical interface Monome [monome.org] were in the room on Saturday but managed to relocate on Sunday.) As a result, the file’s audio isn’t the greatest quality, and my voice sounds like it’s going, as I tried to compensate for the noise and cross-traffic.

Still, it was a great experience. The audience was very responsive, and Krys, Chachi and Tom did a great job. The full file (MP3) is 45 minutes long. About 25 minutes in they perform a five-minute collaborative improvisation, and then take questions from the audience. I’ve posted the file at archive.org, the Internet Archive, along with additional information about the event.

PS (May 1, 2006): Steve Cooley of somejunkwelike.com was in the audience at the “Making Instruments, Making Music” panel and he posted two short videos (one of Krys Bobrowski on her Gliss Glass, the other of the full trio improvisation) and three photos (panel, panel, audience). Thanks, Steve!

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Electroplankton MP3

Among the keywords in the audio catalog at the Internet Archive, aka archive.org, is the name of a recent video game created for the Nintendo DS handheld: Electroplankton. As many have noted, the game is less a game than it is a toy, in that it has no intended end; it’s a musical tool with a playful graphic interface. There are three Electroplankton-derived musical downloads at archive.org currently (see the tagged files as they accumulate here), most recent among them “Grey Matters” (MP3), credited to JR Nielsen. It’s true to Electroplankton’s aquatic metaphors, with enough burbling to fill a small brook and enough light mallet-sounding work to suggest the chamber music of Tortoise.

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Noise Art MP3s

At home amid the ruptures of constantly shifting sonic data, Stephane Leonard has produced a three-track set for the Luv Sound netlabel (luvsound.org), titled tri, that is far more listenable than it should be. One track (“Trails 2,” MP3) extends for 10 minutes into sharp if attenuated noise, the background static of a bad dream; midway through, something that sounds like a teletubby injects a scary-cute “la la la.” It would be distracting were it not so perfectly placed that you look forward to it on each listen. The keeper, “Kreisstueck” (MP3), opens with real-world audio, the distant car horns like an orchestra tuning up, the wind rushing by a familiar rough texture to anyone who’s dabbled in field recording, only to step suddenly through a window into something entirely synthetic. More info at stephaneleonard.net.

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Frippertronic Soundscape MP3

Robert Fripp has been steadily releasing Internet-only commercial sets, sometimes sweetening the pot with a free download. The most recent, a solo soundscape titled “Coda at the End of Time” (MP3) recorded this past February live at the Variety Playhouse in Atlanta, is a six-minute expanse of gaseous effect, with a lead line that is fairly clearly delineated throughout, even when it threads well below the cloud cover. (More info at dgmlive.com).

Fripp is about to participate in a brief tour with a supergroup of sorts. Named Slow Music, it also features Peter Buck (guitar), Fred Chalenor (bass), Matt Chamberlain (drums, percussion), Bill Rieflin (“piano sounds,” synthesizer, percussion) and Hector Zazou (synthesizer, computer). Rieflin describes Slow Music as “long-form live improvisations working with ambient/textural/environmental ideas.” (More info at jambase.com)

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