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Disquiet Junto Project 0227: Treated Chord

Record a piece of music in which what changes is the treatment of the notes that comprise a single chord.

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Each Thursday in the Disquiet Junto group on SoundCloud.com and at disquiet.com/junto, 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 in the Junto is open: just join and participate. There’s no pressure to do every project. It’s weekly so that you know it’s there, every Thursday through Monday, when you have the time.

This project was posted in the afternoon, California time, on Thursday, May 5, 2016, with a deadline of 11:59pm wherever you are on Monday, May 9, 2016.

These are the instructions that went out to the group’s email list (at tinyletter.com/disquiet-junto):

Disquiet Junto Project 0227: Treated Chord
Record a piece of music in which what changes is the treatment of the notes that comprise a single chord.

Step 1: Choose a chord, any chord.

Step 2: Make a list of the notes that the chord is comprised of.

Step 3: Record each of the notes of the chord as a separate track.

Step 4: Create a piece of music in which each of those tracks plays from start to finish, and that as they play those tracks are manipulated individually (echo, texture, effects, relative volume, etc.).

Background: This project is inspired by the tape-cassette music of Amulets, aka Randall Taylor of Austin, Texas.

Deadline: This project was posted in the afternoon, California time, on Thursday, May 5, 2016, with a deadline of 11:59pm wherever you are on Monday, May 9, 2016.

Length: The length is up to you, though between one and three minutes feels about right.

Upload: Please when posting your track on SoundCloud, only upload one track for this project, and be sure to include a description of your process in planning, composing, and recording it. This description is an essential element of the communicative process inherent in the Disquiet Junto. Photos, video, and lists of equipment are always appreciated.

Title/Tag: When adding your track to the Disquiet Junto group on Soundcloud.com, please in the title to your track include the term “disquiet0227.” Also use “disquiet0227” as a tag for your track.

Download: It is preferable that your track is set as downloadable, and that it allows for attributed remixing (i.e., a Creative Commons license permitting non-commercial sharing with attribution).

Linking: When posting the track, please be sure to include this information:

More on this 227th weekly Disquiet Junto project (“Record a piece of music in which what changes is the treatment of the notes that comprise a single chord”) at:

http://disquiet.com/0227/

More on the Disquiet Junto at:

http://disquiet.com/junto/

Join the Disquiet Junto at:

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

Subscribe to project announcements here:

http://tinyletter.com/disquiet-junto/

Disquiet Junto general discussion takes place at:

http://disquiet.com/forums/

Image associated with this project adopted from a photo by Dan Barbus, used thanks to a Creative Commons license:

https://flic.kr/p/4mcFS8

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A Chord Made of Cassette Tape

A video of live ambient performance

This weekend I introduced a new playlist on YouTube. Titled “Ambient Performances,” it’s slowly amassing a collection of videos of people playing ambient music live. There’s an interesting tension there — several tensions, really. The main one, perhaps, is that ambient music often supposes stasis, while performance suggests activity. The videos I’m focusing the playlist on explore the activity required to achieve a semblance of stasis — the motion necessary to give the effect of immobility, you might say. Now, all music takes place over time, so it’s false to suggest ambient music is truly still. What ambient music is is more still than other forms of sonic expression.

This piece, by the Austin, Texas–based Amulets, is a great example of what the “Ambient Performances” playlist is all about. To begin with, it adheres to the two main rules of the playlist:

Rule #1: I’m only including recordings I’d listen to without video.

Rule #2: I’m only including recordings where the video gives some sense of a correlation between what the musician is doing and what the listener is hearing.

What Amulets is up to in the piece is engaging, even as the music being produced provides a sense of disengagement. As described in the brief text accompanying the video, what Amulets has done is record four notes that make up a chord, each note assigned to a different track on the four-track recorder. He then effects change on each of those notes separately as the tape plays. The result is, as he puts it, “a droning, evolving, ambient soundscape.” I recommend using the listenonrepeat.com service to, indeed, play it on repeat.

Video originally posted at youtube.com. More from Amulets, aka Randall Taylor of Austin, Texas, at amulets.bandcamp.com, synthhacker.blogspot.com, and soundcloud.com/amulets.

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Watching Lee Ranaldo Loop Live

(And reverse-engineering YouTube music tutorials)

This video shows Lee Ranaldo, of the late Sonic Youth, earlier this year performing a short, two-minute improvisation for looping pedals. It’s a test run of a piece of equipment, a hardware looper made by the company TC Electronic, and I was watching it to consider including the clip in the video playlist of ambient performances I started yesterday. The playlist grew out of my increasing attention to YouTube videos over the past year or so. That attention coincided with my getting into making music, into learning more about the tools and techniques employed by the musicians I write about and increasingly, through the Junto and my projects as a music supervisor, work with.

I spend a lot of time watching video tutorials. Often the music in these tutorials — for hardware and software — isn’t necessarily bad, but it isn’t remotely what I’m interested in myself trying to play. Given much the equipment I’ve been exploring (the OP-1, a small DJ console, a Monome, and a modular synthesizer rig, for example), it’s often glossy EDM or strict-meter techno that I find myself required to listen to while learning what a given knob on a piece of equipment does. Guitar pedal videos in particular are given over to arpeggio-crazed pop-metal and roots rock. (I have the lowest-cost version of the looper Ranaldo is testing in the video.) Occasionally, though, you’ll find someone like Ranaldo, an outsider to rote pop techniques, in the YouTube feed.

The “ambient performances” playlist began as me working backwards — rather than locating ethereal/ambient/experimental videos in the channels of equipment companies, I would instead look at live performance videos of ethereal/ambient/experimental musicians and pay attention to what equipment they’re using (often enough the comments to a given video will surface such factoids — the Ranaldo video comments, for example, unpack other equipment at his feet). I’m not sure the Ranaldo clip will make the Ambient Performances playlist, as it gets a little raucous toward the end, but no matter. It’s enticing to watch him develop the piece one layer at a time.

Video originally posted at youtube.com. More from Ranaldo at leeranaldo.com, twitter.com/leeranaldo, and instagram.com/leeranaldo.

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A YouTube Playlist of Ambient Performances

Starting off with Andreas Tilliander, Christina Vantzou, Ryuicki Sakamoto, Nils Frahm (as a member of Nonkeen), Jon Hassell, and others

This “Ambient Performances” set is a playlist-in-progress of live performance videos on YouTube of ambient music by a wide variety of musicians using a wide variety of equipment.

Rule #1: I’m only including recordings I’d listen to without video.

Rule #2: I’m only including recordings where the video gives some sense of a correlation between what the musician is doing and what the listener is hearing.

Rule #3: By and large, the new additions to the playlist will simply be, reverse-chronologically, the most recent tracks added, but I’ll be careful to front-load a few choice items at the beginning.

YouTube proved frustrating the past day. I tried again and again to paste the URL for the “Ambient Performances” playlist into Twitter, and every time I did it broke. That is, the link in the resulting tweet wouldn’t work. Eventually a Twitter-friend suggested I share Twitter’s own shorthand URL, so if you’re interested in sharing the list, try this: bit.ly/1rHFC9l.

As a side note, for reasons I don’t fully comprehend, I have two different URLs for the same account. Perhaps it’s early-adopter blues:

youtube.com/user/mwd1
youtube.com/c/MarcWeidenbaum

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Sarah Davachi on Old Synthesizers and New Ways of Listening

As a guest on Marc Kate's excellent Why We Listen podcast

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So, on Monday I wrote about the drones of Valiska. On Tuesday I wrote about the old-school synthesizer explorations of Sarah Davachi, focusing on her new album, Dominions. After posting that piece, I came to learn that the two musicians, coincidentally, know each other and are, in fact, playing a show together on May 5. On Wednesday I (purposefully) wrote about one of the musicians also playing a set on that same bill. And on Thursday I learned that Davachi is the guest on the latest edition, #36, of the Why We Listen podcast — furthering the coincidence factor, because I was the guest on #35.

The podcast is hosted by musician Marc Kate, who listens to and discusses three (or so) pieces of music with each guest. It’s a genius format to focus the podcast listener’s attention on Kate’s subject, because we listen to him listen. Davachi brought with her Dennis Wilson’s “Mexico,” James Tenney’s “Critical Band,” and John Frusciante’s “Untitled #11” and “Untitled #12.” In addition to talking about the pieces, Davachi talks about her own performance and compositional work. Subjects include moving from piano to synthesizer, working at a musical instrument museum, and bringing her “fidelity standards” down. There’s a great moment when she talks about how ambient music makes listeners uncomfortable because they don’t know — lost in the timeless-ness of it, in contrast with the attention-deficit nature of much pop culture — “what to do with their hands.”

The podcast is available at whywelisten.wordpress.com and on iTunes at apple.com. This link goes to the MP3 for direct download. More from Sarah Davachi, who is based in Montréal, Québec, at sarahdavachi.com.

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