February 13, 2014, is the official release date for my 33 1/3 book on Aphex Twin's 1994 album Selected Ambient Works Volume II, available at Amazon (including Kindle) and via your local bookstore. • F.A.Q.Key Tags: #saw2for33third, #sound-art, #classical, #juntoElsewhere: Twitter, SoundCloud, Instagram

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

tag: classical

Vicky Chow’s Piano Is a Machine

A work by Adam Basanta

Vicky Chow performs the 20-minute “This Machine Breathes to the Rhythms of Its Own Heartbeat,” a recent composition by Adam Basanta. Basanta’s website describes the work a being “for solo piano, electronics, and two surface transducers.” What that description lacks is mention of the voice with which the piece begins — a monologue that serves as the contemporary classical equivalent of the sort of procedural introduction to an episode of a show like Dragnet or, more recently, Southland. It lays out the facts, which have the plainspoken quality of the piece’s title, with limited emotion, a distance that lends the everyday a peculiar level of depth and intensity, of foreboding. The music then does those suggested qualities full justice. “This machine will not communicate. All it knows to do is turn on and off. This machine does not operate according to our timescale,” and so on. From there a mix of droning feedback and rarified piano figures alternate, the former no doubt originating in the latter. The result is an exploration of vibrant mechanical activity, from the white noise of strong feedback to the snare-drum-like rattle of open chords to isolated keys that echo like pin drops.

Track originally posted at soundcloud.com/vicky-chow. More from Basanta at adambasanta.com. More from Chow at vickychow.com.

Also tagged / / Leave a comment ]

What Is Julia Mazawa Reworking?

Glitch chamber music from Oakland, California

Screen Shot 2014-10-19 at 11.08.49 PM

Glitch isn’t inherently entropic. Glitch may sound like things falling apart, but in capable hands it can also sound like things coming together. In more neutral terms, glitch may be considered a means of taking stock of something by considering as its underlying structure not the work itself but the reciprocal connection between the work and the medium on which it was recorded and reproduced. “Mere Anarchy” is the title of Julia Mazawa’s gracefully broken bit of chamber music, a piece heard as embedded in vinyl and then looped in small fragments thanks to digital technology. In Mazawa’s piece, the sounds heard being reworked are not unlike a memory playing over and over in one’s head, slowly reassembling after some extended period of disregard. Tiny flecks of strings are looped, at first a few seconds of alternating moments, then a more extended excerpt, then just after the eight-minute mark a separate violin, pitched higher and more foregrounded. The format of the memory is vinyl, evident in the scratchy surface noise that, with each repetition, takes on the semblance of a percussive element. Mawawa performs a kind of ecstatic exploratory surgery on the original, never quite revealing it, but laying the parts bare and reveling in their inherent qualities. I had it in mind to send Mazawa an email asking her to help identify the source material, but decided to first see if anyone reading this might recognize it.

Track originally posted for streaming at soundcloud.com/juliamazawa. Mazawa, who is based in Oakland, California, opened the final night of the recent San Francisco Electronic Music Festival, and has a piece in the “Sonic Frame” installation that I developed for the 45th-anniversary exhibit Momentum: an experiment in the unexpected, which opened October 2, 2014, and runs at the San Jose Museum of Art through February 22, 2015.

Also tagged / / Leave a comment ]

Morton Feldman, Crate Dug

A beat built from the composer's "Triadic Memories"

An instrumental hip-hop beat crafted from a snatch of “Triadic Memories” by the late composer Morton Feldman, who is beloved for his extended and extravagantly silent music? Why yes, thank you. This is “Memory” by Bstep. It’s barely a minute in length and takes a single, five-note segment — a splinter, really — of Feldman’s celebrated solo piano work, and then lays it above a spare metric pulse. The added beat is so spare, so old-school, it might have been something that Feldman, who died in 1987, heard during a visit to Manhattan for a concert premiere in his later years. What makes “Memory” work is how it teases out of that final note of the five-note figure a thin wisp of sound that then lingers over the beat like a fog.

Track originally posted for free download at soundcloud.com/benstepner. More from Bstep, aka Ben Stepner, at twitter.com/bstepbeatz.

Also tagged , / / Leave a comment ]

Vocal Confection

A new track from Brooklyn-based Lanx

Layers of vocal elements combine to form “As We Fall,” some of them hazy and textural, while others feature a restrained but formidable coloratura one might listen for in opera. The track, just over five minutes in length, moves through several phases, in a suite-like fashion, each punctuated with occasional pneumatic beats, chimes, and other percussive elements.

The track is by Lanx, who is based in Brooklyn, and who I believe is Christine Papania of the ensemble Pantree Owl.

Bonus: There’s video of a vocal track-in-progress on vine.co:

Track originally posted for free download at soundcloud.com/lanx-music. More from Lanx at twitter.com/__Lanx. More from Pantree Owl at pantreeowl.bandcamp.com.

Also tagged , / / Leave a comment ]

Chamber Ensemble Stasis

New music from Christina Vantzou

Like the earlier Christina Vantzou piece covered here (“Going Backwards to Recover That Which Was Left Behind,” back in January), her “Brain Fog” is a work of chamber music whose density masks its complexity, the full context of its internal machinations willfully lost in the near stasis of the undertaking. The sheer drone-like, slow-motion grace of the piece is so consuming you can lose track of all the timbral activity, the constant shifting that makes the drone so difficult to fully focus on in the first place. Like the earlier track, “Brain Fog” is from her highly recommended new album, No. 2, which the record label Kranky released on February 24.

Track originally posted for free download at soundcloud.com/kranky. More from Vantzou at christinavantzou.com.

Also tagged / / Leave a comment ]