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Taylor Deupree: Robot, Ukulele, Cicada (MP3s)

Checking in again on Taylor Deupree‘s “One Sound Each Day” project (at 12k.com/onesoundeachday), we have “a toy robot crawling around [his] snare drum” (MP3), evidence that he “found a nice chord progression on the ukulele” (MP3), and that inevitable field-recording subject: cicada (MP3); the insects, he reports, “are popping up everywhere, just listening off the deck .. humming.”

Deupree’s sound diary, recorded daily but released in multi-entry spurts, has been interesting to track, as he’s moved from field recordings to studio experiments, and back again. Of course, for a musician like Deupree, the line between those two modes is fairly hazy; his rich ambient sound is often comprised of audio that others would dismiss as background, of chance static and constructed noise. This trio of recordings fits almost precisely in between the two poles of found and composed, of noise and signal.

The robot (August 6) is a whimsical experiment, but it’s also an inexpensive accomplishment in generative sound, the mechanical toy feeling its way across the surface area of the highly reverberant drum.

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The key thing about the ukulele (August 5) may be Deupree’s description, which invokes the word “found.” What he means is, he came upon this progression while fiddling on his ukulele (presumably, then, fiddling “with” his ukulele might suggest he was employing a violin bow, which he was not). But the word “found” comes freighted with meaning in field recordings, because a field recordist who documents the unmediated environment specializes in what are called “found sounds.” Thus, in the context of this broader field-recording series, the “found”-ness of the ukulele progression carries the feel of — and falls into the context of — the more common idea of “found” noise, like sirens, and traffic, and street preachers.

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And the cicada (August 4) is, of course, the classic example of natural sound that has the feel and texture and allure of electronically produced noise.

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Though it’s only August, I’m already feeling an early onset nostalgia for this project of Deupree’s, which will reach its natural end point at the end of December — a longer life cycle, certainly, than that of a cicada. I don’t necessarily want this specific series to continue into 2010, but its regularity and effectiveness will be missed.

By Marc Weidenbaum

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