Yesterday would have been John Cage’s 95th birthday. What better way to belatedly celebrate his serendipitous musical philosophy than to fill your MP3 player with 100 short tracks, select gapless playback and hit shuffle?
That’s the theory behind “One Hundred Ambient Tones,” a collection of, well, 100 very short sound clips credited to Zen Pho, which I take to mean a kind of zen soup, packed with tasty goodness — and that’s exactly what this is.
The files range in length from 4 seconds to just under a minute and a half. All but three are under a minute. Half are half a minute or less. Sonically, they don’t so much range across a continuum as they do hit lots of specific spots, from feedback to clatter, pings to lush drones, noisy constructions to raw field recordings, concise tone poems to jagged fragments. On shuffle, they stream into a montage of mundane fantasies.
In the brief liner notes at archive.org, where the set is housed, Zen Pho (born Phill Phelps) explains that a few of the tracks have specific models in mind. One, titled “Laputa Clouds,” in reference to Hayao Miyazaki’s Tenkû no shiro Rapyuta (aka Castle in the Sky, aka Laputa: The Flying Island in the U.K.), “pays respects to Japanese film sound designers Kazutoshi Satou and Hironori Ono of Studio Ghibli,” Miyazaki’s production house.
The 100 tracks are available as individual files (like “Motif – Flurry 1,” MP3, and “Fake Rain,” MP3), but it’s best to download the full set as an archive of the 100 MP3s (ZIP). More on Zen Pho at www.zenpho.co.uk.