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Listening to art.
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Monthly Archives: March 2008

Hollywood Boulevard Sound Art @ LACE (Los Angeles)

You can hear the sounds when you walk down Hollywood Boulevard. Some that your recognize, some that you’ve never even heard before. Not far from where Hollywood meets Vine, these sounds emanate from the gallery LACE, or Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions. They’re a gentle, quiet array of noises, some seemingly melodic, but many with the feel of modified field recordings. I was wandering the star-lined streets a few weeks ago with some guests when I was struck by these noises, delicate but somehow insistent. I let my travel mates wander further down the block, in search of funny wigs and plastic toys, and ducked briefly into the gallery.

LACE’s current exhibit is a collaboration, titled overlooker, between Wendy Mason and Mindy Rose Schwartz. The sounds both inside and outside the gallery are by Aaron Drake, who scored Mason’s film Percolate, which loops on a big indoor screen. Outside, at the entrance, hidden speakers bring the soundtrack into the world. The indoor-outdoor mode is appropriate to Percolate, a collection of brief scenes in which a mysterious octagonal wooden object appears in various locations, its dimensions consistent but its relative size seemingly in flux; the installation mirrors the work’s sense of osmosis and detachment. Below are four screen shots from the video, borrowed from Mason’s website, wendymason.org:

After experiencing overlooker firsthand, I corresponded via email with Mason, who gave permission to reproduce our communication here. She graciously provided background on Percolate and her collaboration with Drake:
In the video, the octagon is filmed between interior and out door spaces. I was thinking of the sound and the smoke being related, filling the room and acknowledging the blurred distinction that often occurs between these spaces. Aaron Drake composed the score for Percolate that then Stephen Chiu and myself integrated it back into the original soundtrack. We then passed that soundtrack back to Aaron which he then remixed for the out door sound installation. It was important in the video that the sound of the outdoors and interior environments spill onto each other, building together to complete a full song at the end of the piece. Essentially my concept was how these segments combine to create something whole or full. The video inside the gallery and audio from the outdoor installation subtly over lap each other creating traces and echoes of one another enforcing the concept of the video.
I asked Mason if the black shape in the center of the octagon was a speaker cone, and she said it isn’t; instead it is “mere black rubber that aids in pushing the smoke out of the hole.”

She also provided some explanation from Drake himself:

At first glance I thought of each size of octagon as its own character – that they were related by genus or family but that they had their own autonomy (e.g. that they were blood relations but individual personalities) and that each of these octagons were specific to location (locations being interior and exterior – even so specific as office/unnatural and outdoor/natural). After working with the materials and seeing the video a number of times however, I realized that the octagon was a singularity which expressed itself differently in the two (+) environments – an echo of itself represented as either an increase or decrease in size. I thought the idea could be reinforced in the two installations as well. Ultimately, the two compositions are the same (video score vs. sound installation) but they express themselves differently in that some of the compositional relationships are more exposed (i.e. volumes of environmental sounds, natural or unnatural) outside – an increase in the composition’s scope – like the increase of the octagon. I also sonically reinforced the difference in environments that was represented in the video by subdividing the composition differently than the video score.

Basically there are three parts to the installation’s composition. Part 1, which is dedicated to the sounds of the office/unnatural, then part 2 with the sounds of outdoor/nature and finally their combination where a dialog is built between the natural and unnatural sounds. The music follows this same transition where musical parts come and go and then coalesce in the final sequence. The ultimate scene is a sort of convergence of environments for me – the inside and outside – and so it made sense that the composition fulfills itself there.

LACE’s storefront provided a perfect place to have this sort of convergence since it has its own sound identity. I think the composition adds a disjunction to the blvd’s sound world – something similar to that of the video – an echo of the concept.

I think its great to hear this soft guitar lullaby, sounds of the outside (animals, wind) and office machines while walking down Hollywood blvd.
More info at the LACE gallery’s website, artleak.org. More info on Schwartz at her website, mindyroseschwartz.com. The overlooker exhibit runs through April 26.

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Matmos Teaser MP3

The dynamic field-recording duo Matmos have turned the tables on themselves. For the forthcoming Supreme Balloon (Matador), they’ve forsaken their sampling of unexpected source materials (rats, liposuction, Björk) in favor of synthesizers. As a teaser, they’ve released one song for free download. It’s a chipper bit of what’s generally thought of as willfully dated Casio pop — Casio in the manner than every photocopy machine is a Xerox and every portable tape player was a Walkman — and probably counts as the most high-profile bit yet of chiptune music, or music approximating the feel of an old video game (MP3).

Guests on Supreme Balloon include Marshall Allen (Sun Ra Arkestra), Jon Leidecker (aka Wobbly), Jay Lesser, Keith Fullerton Whitman, Matthew Curry (aka Safety Scissors), and Sarah Cahill. The cover is a Yellow Submarine-ish watercolor by Robert Wyatt (pictured here). It’s due out May 9. More info at brainwashed.com/matmos and matadorrecords.com/matmos.

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tangents / Video Streams (Shocklee, Monolake, machinima …)

A selection of recent freely viewable videos of note:

Spoken Word: Public Enemy producer Hank Shocklee interviewed (vimeo.com, via createdigitalmusic.com). … Minimal techno figure Robert Henke (aka Monolake) presentation (video.google.com, via createdigitalmusic.com). … Laptop-enabled guitarist Christopher Willits lecture on his process (xlr8r.com). … Soundtrack composer Tyler Bates on the film Doomsday (soundtrack.net). … Alex Ross, author of The Rest Is Noise, speaks at Google (youtube.com).

Ware Demos: Footage of the Nintendo DS port of the Korg synthesizer (youtube.com). … A scratch emulator for the DS (youtube.com); more info at gorgull.googlepages.com. … Video of the scratch software, mixed through a Kaoss pad (youtube.com). … The sound-toy application ranDRUM, for the Palm (the-palm-sound.blogspot.com). … Another neat Palm software application (youtube.com). … And via therestisnoise.com, a software demonstration of Direct Note Access, which “allows you to enter into a recorded track, separate out notes within chords, and change them at will” (sonicstate.com). … David Merrill‘s “The Sound of Touch” is “a new instrument for real-time capture and sensitive physical stimulation of sound samples using digital convolution” (youtube.com, via substation.co.nz).

Caught Live: Now this is what the word “mixtape” should be reserved for; DJ Ramsey rocks the cassette decks (highflight.tumblr.com). … A performance by the Lalala Human Steps dance ensemble to music by Kevin Shields (youtube.com, via Ted Laderas‘s 15people.net). … DJ Krush, Tatata Moto, and Quarta303 in concert (neongrad.blogspot.com).

Short Stuff: A rhythmic mix in which the percussion is all gunfire from the video game Call of Duty 4 (youtube.com, via highflight.tumblr.com). It’s a machinima music video. … A cute little score built entirely from Apple system sounds (youtube.com — thanks, Rob, robwalker.net). … Leave some scientists alone at the Antarctic with a video camera, and they whip up some pop musique concrete (youtube.com, via createdigitalmusic.com). … Footage of an exhibit by Tristan Louth-Robins from the Coriole Winery in McLaren Vale, Australia (stillandmovinglines.blogspot.com). … I’m pretty sure this video — zenithland.com — by Paris Mancini, featuring a performance by Nina Petrochko, was featured in the Root Division exhibit, Sound Device, I wrote about last week (disquiet.com).

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tangents / Reich, Doraemon, Electroplankton …

Quick News, Links, Bits, Reads: The avant-garde rises to the surface in Internet sales of classical music, reports Justin Davidson, guest-blogging for Alex Ross at therestisnoise.com. He’s discussing the charts at emusic.com:

No. 2 is Gavin BryarsThe Sinking of the Titanic, a minimalist portrayal of slow-motion calamity that caused one Floridian subscriber’s spouse to ask: “What’s wrong with the player?”

The Washington Post’s Anne Midgette on a Steve Reich premier performed by the ensemble Eighth Blackbird (washingtonpost.com; thanks for the tip, Mike):

Six musicians are playing a duet with recorded versions of themselves. It is like looking into an electronic mirror. The mirror refracts the rapid, driving beat of piano and marimba; it adds a reflected gleam to long-held chords of strings and winds.

A massive controller for the software Ableton (aux-armes.blogspot.com — via engadget.com, makezine.com). … An anthology of homemade cassettes (from the great radio station wfmu.org, via Rob Walker‘s murketing.com‘s del.icio.us/murketing links). … The blog obscenejester.typepad.com on an Ikue Mori performance to films by Maya Deren: “Yet, as my technologically inclined friend commented afterward, ‘it’s endearing when performers make mistakes, but not when the techs do.’” … The great musicthing.blogspot.com on how Francis Bacon foresaw the recording studio back in 1626, as quoted in a recent history of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop by Steve Marshall (at soundonsound.com):
We have also sound-houses, where we practise and demonstrate all sounds, and their generation. We have harmonies which you have note, of quarter-sounds, and less slides of sound. Divers instruments of music likewise to you unknown, some sweeter than any you have…
At newmusicbox.org, Alyssa Timin on new graphic notation in scores. The image below, one of several in Timin’s article, is by Stephen Vitiello:
Still, why does experimental notation seem to be making a comeback? What happened after composers of the 1960s made notation an object of radical investigation? In recent years, computer notation software programs such as Finale and Sibelius have made standard notation more convenient than ever, further marginalizing the possibility of more experimental approaches. While computer notation programs are ubiquitous among composers these days, there has also been a backlash of composers who treasure the handwritten manuscript and remain resistant to the depersonalization of digitally manufactured scores. At the same time, the most sophisticated computer notation programs now contain the ability to accept symbols entered by a user, and the most techno-savvy composers now have the tools to create their own programs.

The first MP3 celebrated its 10th birthday this month (engadget.com). … Christian Maclay supplied the music for choreographer Jonah Bokaer‘s “The Invention of Minus One,” which was performed in Manhattan at the Henry Street Settlement’s Abrons Arts Center from March 12-16 (chezbushwick.net). … Peter Kirn of createdigitalmusic.com is hosting a “Futuristic Music Design Challenge” at the upcoming yuricdm.com event; deadline April 7. … The Netaudio conference will take place in London from October 22 – 25 (netaudiolondon.cc). … Entries for the Giga-Hertz Award 2008, its second year, for electronic music are due April 19 (via transition.turbulence.org) and the Leonor Hirsch Award has been created to support “electro-acoustic music and video” (also via transition.turbulence.org). …

Jean Michelle Jarre talks with the London Telegraph (telegraph.co.uk):

All those ethereal string sounds on Oxygene IV come from the VCS3 … It was the first European synthesizer, made in England by a guy called Peter Zinoviev. I got one of the first ones. I had to go to London in 1967 to get it, and it’s the one I still have onstage 40 years later.
In the (London) Sunday Times of March 2 (timesonline.co.uk), Jeremy Clarkson on the noise pollution of everyday life:
We are constantly being told that light pollution is ruining life for astronomers, that patio heaters are killing polar bears and that your carrier bags will one day choke a turtle. But I don’t give a fig about aquatic tortoises or astronomy. All I want is a bit of peace and quiet.
Speaking of sound and pollution, the following option popped up when I purchased a ticket to see Cluster in an upcoming show in San Francisco:
Yes, please add $2.35 USD to my order to help green my experience. This equates to 1 green ticket(s) @ $2.35 each which offsets approximately 348 lbs. of CO2. begreennow.com.
Audio-Games: The Loop Machine for the Wii had achieved version 2.o status (theamazingrolo.net). … Apparently that Korg synth port to the Nintendo DS will be released worldwide, not just in Japan (via the-palm-sound.blogspot.com). … Cool, Doraemon-themed, glove-music toy in Japan (imprinttalk.com, via engadget.com and numerous friends). The five fingers each have a sensor that triggers a note on the scale when pressed, and to complete the octave there are three more buttons on the wrist band. … An NES game cartridge doubles as a harmonica — that is, as a “harmonesica” ( makezine.com). … Guitar Grip coming to the Nintendo DS (engadget.com). … Online, user-created FAQ for Electroplankton: gamefaqs.com. … And there is a stage for Electroplankton in the new Wii video game Super Smash Bros. Brawl, alongside stages for Pokémon, Mario, Wario, Yoshi’s Island and other favorites. Image below from the coverage at wiisworld.com. Video at youtube.com. Additional coverage at gamersmark.com, wii.qj.net, and the game’s official home page, smashbros.com:

Score Keeper, News on Quiet, Minimal and Otherwise Atmospheric Music on the Big and Small Screens: Pop-techno figure Paul Oakenfold scores the new Bourne Conspiracy game (music4games.net). … Yes, the score for the romantic comedy Definitely, Maybe was by the same Clint Mansell who scored Requiem for a Dream, The Fountain, Abandon, World Traveler and Pi (theplaylist.blogspot.com). … Director Anthony Minghella (January 6, 1954 – March 18, 2008) passed away (iht.com). Minghella’s movies showed special attention to their scores, featuring excellent work by Gustavo Santaolalla (Cold Mountain), Underworld (Breaking and Entering) and Gabriel Yared, his most frequent collaborator (The Talented Mr. Ripley, and collaboration on B&E with Underworld). … Also passing this month, composer Leonard Rosenman (September 7, 1924 – March 4, 2008; Fantastic Voyage, Barry Lyndon), who helped bring atonalism to film scores (nytimes.com).

Grey Market: The excellent hip-hop MP3 blog 33jones.com posted audio of two classic instrumental tracks, Run-DMC‘s “Peter Piper” (MP3) and Original Concept‘s “Knowledge Me” (MP3), the latter produced by the “other” Doctor Dré, not the N.W.A member but the MTV VJ.

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Quote of the Week: Gaming Feldman

It’s not every day that a video-game critic opens a post with an image of an image of a brooding Morton Feldman, especially when the purpose is to “defend” a video game. The game in question is Portal (see half-life2.com). The defense is from Chris Dahlen‘s savetherobot.wordpress.com:

And the defense I tried to mount is that it should be judged the way we’d look at, say, a piece of contemporary music. … Take For Philip Guston, which lasts four hours. It’s slow, pensive, elegant, and non-repetitive. It’s utterly absorbing. You can throw it on as background music — I used to play it while I was working on programming assignments alone in my apartment — yet it’s always gripping part of your mind, a constantly evolving experience with a subliminal tension and a graceful 50-or-so-minute denoument. But I don’t know that it’s about anything, other than itself.
Technically, this quote of the week appeared a few weeks back. Dahlen’s post is dated March 2.

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