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

Monthly Archives: June 2009

Raz Mesinai’s “String Quartet for Four Turntables” (MP3)

Closing the month’s Disquiet Downstream entries on a particularly high note: Raz Mesinai‘s technologically mediated chamber music. Titled “String Quartet for Four Turntables,” it’s a shifting, elegiac piece that plays with the textures and tenets of classical music. The instrumentation is the standard: two violins, one viola, one cello. But if the individual parts appear to have a subtle yet clearly discernible give, that’s because the performers are not playing in tandem, at least not literally.

Mesinai composed the quartet and recorded it, but he produced a separate 12″ LP for each of the four parts, and then manipulated them as a group on a set of turntables (MP3).

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According to his June 24 post at razmesinai.blogspot.com, the piece had its debut at Lincoln Center in Manhattan in 2000 with a performances by DJ Olive and DJ Toshio Kajiwara. The version heard here, though, was recorded by Mesinai for the dqxt.org/dubwar podcast series. There is a fifth sonic element: an intense layer of distressed vinyl, the result of conscious lack of care that Mesinai took with the LPs. Though all vinyl can eventually take on this crusty patina, it seems especially fitting to the antique aura of chamber music.

The work serves as an intersection of many of Mesinai’s interests. Its appearance on Dub War cements its provenance with some of his earliest music, the electronic dub he did under the name Badawi, which occasionally he would shoot through with dramatic string arrangements. And in its use of live studio performances as raw material, “String Quartet for Four Turntables” resembles the manner in which he recorded the album Before the Law (for John Zorn’s Tzadik label), on which various improvising out-jazz musicians, including violinist Mark Feldman, committed short, sharp elements to tape, which Mesinai later put together into his own, arguably “unplayable” constructions.

I’d love to hear an album in which a half dozen different DJs take their turn with the material.

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Super-Refined Afrobeat MP3s (Tony Allen)

The masterminds behind the remix contest focused on famed Afrobeat drummer Tony Allen (best known as the backbeat of legend Fela’s band) want us to download the 15 constituent parts of the single “Secret Agent,” the title track off his new album on World Circuit label. And no doubt the promise inherent in those tracks will draw in participants. But there’s much pleasure to be had in the raw materials — how often, when you think about it, do we get nearly six straight minutes of Tony Allen drumming, which is freely available here, a trenchant rhythm that’s liked the most stripped-down Meters metric you’ve ever heard? Likewise, amid the emotive backing (and foreground) vocals and syrupy-slick guitars, there’s a fine synthesizer line available all on its delectable lonesome. And for those truly looking to Zen out, there’s even five-plus minutes of a low-volume shaker, rattling along as steady as can be.

The contest is hosted at soundcloud.com, which provides the following handy interface for accessing the goods:

For those who want to make something of the available mixing-board tracks, the due date for the contest is July 7. More details at tonyallenremixcontest.blogspot.com. More on the release at worldcircuit.co.uk.

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Image of the Week: Guggenheim’s Orbit

Photo shot during performance of late spatial composer Henry Brant‘s “Orbits” at the Guggenheim in Manhattan a week ago today.

Photo by Robert Stolarik. It originally appeared in June 22 issue of the New York Times, accompanying an article by Times critic Anthony Tommasini (nytimes.com). The caption reads: “Neely Bruce, at bottom of photo, leading 89 trombones, a soprano and an organ in the East Coast premiere of Henry Brant’s ‘Orbits’ in the rotunda of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Guggenheim Museum on Sunday night, part of both the museum’s Works & Process series and the citywide festival Make Music New York.”

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Quote of the Week: Hardcore of the Infinitesimal

How musician Christof Migone describes his conceptually driven, often microsonic music:

    “A hardcore of the infinitesimal”

From an anecdote in a report by Carl Wilson on the belated reception of Mignone’s 2004 album Escape Songs, a collaboration with Veda Hille, in the Globe and Mail (theglobeandmail.com). More on Migone at christofmigone.com, and on Hille at vedahille.com.

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Past Week at Twitter.com/Disquiet

  • Doing lawn work in backyard. Flashback thought: "After these chores, I can go to my friend's house and play Steve Jackson's Melee & Wizard." #
  • Back from gym, where yet again I found myself listening (on Android phone) to two things at once: consonant, interesting, believable as one. #
  • Pretty much done with our dissection of Dave Hickey's book The Invisible Dragon at artsjournal.com/gap. Conversation better than the book. #
  • Foghorns out of control in San Francisco Richmond District today. Need to get good mic to record them, to play on dreadfully sunny days. #
  • What music without Michael Jackson sounds like: memorial playlist of MJ & (Jackson 5) instrumentals, lacking his vocals: http://is.gd/1ep3p #
  • If you Twitter it's #followfriday: metal/breakcore monster @drumc0rps & sound artist @kabircarter & sound designer/musician @hugoverweij #
  • Listening to various Michael Jackson instrumentals, in light of his reported death today. None of them sound particularly good without him. #
  • Excellent music-making news for Nintendo DSi: an expanded Korg DS-10 cartridge is coming its way http://tinyurl.com/lpzwu8 — RT @Nobuooo #
  • Afternoon sounds: electronic whine, engorged photocopier/printer, patterns of overlapping typing, murmur below, radios inside and outdoors. #
  • A bunch of us are discussing Dave Hickey's book The Invisible Dragon over at artsjournal.com/gap. Feel free to join in. (Hickey has.) #
  • Quite likely I am addicted to habanero. I start salivating at the word. Goes well with cold beer. And Madlib, Royce da 5'9", & Prefuse 73. #
  • Morning sounds: typing, refrigerator whir, laptop fan, and the more frequent occurrence of buses during the commute window. #
  • After 13 years of constant use my Dell Quiet Key keyboard is being retired. There's no repairing it. Words don't fail me, but characters do. #
  • For all my love of movie scores, there are days when I wonder if, even at their most subtle, they're not much different from laugh tracks. #
  • Thousandth Twitter post / Haiku of the Internet / Data ricochets #
  • 20 years ago today near dawn, I stood — with buddy Andrew Jaffe, aka @defjaf — in Manhattan's Battery Park taking in Sun Ra & Don Cherry. #
  • Wind's been so strong today, it hadn't even occurred to me until now to put on any music. #
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