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Monthly Archives: February 2012

Cross-Country Dreamtime (MP3)

Matthew Barlow tracks a sonic course

The less we know, the easier for the imagination to draw seemingly self-evident correlations. Two points make a straight line, and in the case of musician Matthew Barlow, who goes by AllDaySleep, those two points of late have been Sedona, Arizona, and Asheville, North Carolina. Barlow and his wife just moved from the former to the latter. “Clouds Moving Across an Endless Sky” was recorded in one or the other, at the start or end of the trip, or perhaps somewhere in between. The track’s title certainly suggests the way the world’s ceiling presents itself during an extended journey: an unbroken cover whose expansiveness challenges the brain’s comprehension of space, time, and proximity. And the music, a cautious cumulus of light textures, telegraphs the odd mixture of stasis and momentum that characterize a lengthy drive, especially one that marks a point of transition in one’s life.

Track originally posted at soundcloud.com/matthewbarlow. More on Barlow at matthewbarlow.tumblr.com/.

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The Museum Never Sleeps (MP3s)

John Kannenberg documents the sonic archeology of an archaeology museum.

Few sounds are as dutiful as those of simple machines working properly. John Kannenberg captures the workaday, slow-motion apparatus that is the semi-automated storage facility at the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology in Ann Arbor, Michigan:

The sounds he recorded carry with them several meanings. To begin with, they are in stark contrast with the more general, ambient noises that Kannenberg has documented at various museums around the world, from the Art Institute of Chicago’s Modern Wing to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio, an ongoing homage to John Cage’s famed 4’33”. While so much documentary audio captures the wide swath of noise at a specific location, there is little in Kannenberg’s Kelsey shelf documentation aside from the creak of gears, the rattling of wheels, the sedimentary slamming of heavy metal structures. The sounds are, furthermore, significantly distant from the more politically charged museum recordings that served as Kannenberg’s memorial for Ahmed Basiony, the artist slain in the early days of the Egyptian uprising a year ago. And finally, and perhaps foremost, the mortuary aura of these sounds reflects the archeological subject matter of the Kelsey’s holdings.

Kannenberg uploaded the shelf sounds along with another set of library noises, those of a separate mechanical procedure, one in which a human handles the chores. It is the sound of pages being turned in an original edition of the Description de l’Égypte, the 1798 collection of findings from the Napoleanic Expedition. (It isn’t Kannenberg turning the pages, but Egyptologist T.G. Wilfong, who is also credited with “shelf manipulation” on the first track.) The volume is part of the Kelsey holdings:

There is a special beauty to Kannenberg’s sound work here, because he has captured the ephemeral noises, the intangible byproduct, of an institution dedicated to preserving physical artifacts. He has documented the sonic archaeology of an archeology museum.

Both files were posted to Kannenberg’s soundcloud.com/stasisfield account. More on the Kelsey at lsa.umich.edu. This coming month, Kannenberg will have an extensive exhibit, which involves performance, at the museum. More on that exhibit, titled Hours of Infinity, at hoursofinfinity.tumblr.com. I wrote the foreword to the exhibit’s catalog. More on Kannenberg at johnkannenberg.com.

(The above image is a detail from a mummiform coffin, part of the Kelsey collection, dating from 525 BC.)

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The Birthday Gift (MP3)

Piano-infused bliss on a happy occasion

Thomas Raukamp knows how to make friends. On the occasion of the birthday of one such friend, Fabrizio Paterlini, he recorded a thick swath of piano-infused bliss. One can only imagine how many friend requests he received after having done such a thing. The track mixes the piano — itself a combination of clearly heard notes and slowly decaying echoes — with a bright, holiday sensibility, the shards of chimes at times suggesting late December. The ending is particularly beautiful, as the more self-evidently musical element of the piano finally is one final time, after which the underlying sounds, quite like some little mechanical device, play on until fading away.

Track originally posted at soundcloud.com/thomasraukamp. More on Raukamp, who is based in Rendsburg, Germany, at his Tumblr page. Paterlini is himself a musician, based in Mantova, Italy. He’s at soundcloud.com/fabrizio-paterlini.

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The Dada of the Buchla (MP3)

A series of brief experiments with the modular synthesizer

Pretty much the full run of recent tracks posted by the near-anonymous ngngngngngngng (from: “easthampton, United States”) share a single tag designation: “Buchla,” as in the modular synthesizer. Many of the tracks are annotated with little more than the numerical signifiers of which modules are being employed. For example, “secreters” is listed as “259e 266e 281e 292e,” to which is appended a more human-readable “ping pong delay.”

Another, more chaotic series of beeps and bloops, titled “Plastic Walls,” is labeled “Playing the 259e with the 222e through the 250e’s external inputs.” And it adds, showing that memory can be even more obfuscating than a desk of patch-cord spaghetti: “At least I think that’s what’s happening, this is an older recording i just found.”

As for the image up top, it’s from a track titled “272e01”: “Very simple patch. 281e pulsing quickly through 3 station presets one tuner of the 272e.” It’s like a super-fine radio dial switching back and forth, like the most taut pause tape you might imagine.

More from ngngngng at soundcloud.com/ngngngng. The small pieces are well worth following, especially given the promise of something more substantial down the road.

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Disquiet Junto Project 0007: “Subtraction and Sculpting”

The Assignment: Create a new track by removing from an existing track.

Each Thursday evening at the Disquiet Junto group on Soundcloud.com a new compositional challenge is set before the group’s members, who then have just over four days to upload a track in response to the assignment. Membership to the Junto is open: just join and participate.

The seventh Junto was by far the most restrictive. Everyone shared a track, and the restriction wasn’t merely a matter of not being able to work in additional sounds. The goal was that everyone would create a new track only through the process of removing material from the existing track. Hence the name: “Subtraction and Sculpting.”

The assignment was made late in the day on Thursday, February 16, with 11:59pm on the following Monday, February 20, as the deadline. View a search return for all the entries: disquiet0007-subtract. As of this writing, there are 72 tracks associated with the tag.

Here are the instructions that were presented to members of the Disquiet Junto:

Disquiet Junto Project 0007: “Subtraction and Sculpting”

Instructions:

Deadline: Monday, February 20, at 11:59pm wherever you are.

Plan: The seventh Junto project is a shared-sample project. Everyone will work from the same source audio, which is provided below. You will take the provided sound sample and from it make an original work. You will do this only by subtracting sound from the sample. You won’t add anything to it. You won’t slow it down. You won’t speed it up. You won’t cut it up, and you won’t otherwise reorganize its contents. You won’t play it backwards. You will only “remove.” The word “remove” is up for interpretation — but generally speaking, I’d say that it means various acts of lowering the volume of a narrow or wide band of the audio spectrum for either a short or long period of time. And, of course, “lowering the volume” can mean be interpreted to mean “muting.” The act here of “removing” is the sonic equivalent of sculpting something from a marble block.

Please use the WAV file at the following URL:

http://www.freesound.org/people/Luftrum/sounds/48412

Length: Your piece will, due to the nature of the assignment, be the exact same length as the original recording on which it is based: two minutes (02:00).

Title/Tag: When adding your track to the Disquiet Junto group on Soundcloud.com, please include the term “disquiet0007-subtract” in the title of your track, and as a tag for your track.

Download: As always, you don’t have to set your track for download, but it would be preferable.

Linking: When you post the track, please include this information:

The source audio for this composition is a recording by Luftrum of waves crashing on the shore of Kalundborg Fjord at Røsnæs, Denmark:

http://www.freesound.org/people/Luftrum/sounds/48412

More details on the Disquiet Junto at:

http://soundcloud.com/groups/disquiet-junto

The results were interesting — not just the sounds, but the context in which those sounds arrived. On the one hand, it was by far the most active of the projects thus far, at least in terms of number of tracks. Within 24 hours there were as many tracks, and it was almost the case again after 48 hours. Some contributors of tracks noted that there may have been less comments for this project than previously, and it appears that the individual tracks were listened to less than in the past. That is all quite possible, and not contradictory.

I probably listen to too much of the more arid regions of the catalogs of musicians such as Ryoji Ikeda and Alva Noto to be a fair judge of such things, but I found the minor variations between tracks to be very interesting to observe, especially as they proceeded in sequence in sets of ten down the search-return pages of Soundcloud. A contributor named High Tunnels managed to get a groove in his (“Erosion”), and the contributor jet jaguar (in “Tide’s Out”) managed to get beats by shaping, as it was put in the track’s liner note, the volume.

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