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tag: classical

Vinyl Context and Purloined Notes

The classical remixes of Bstep

Classical Rmxs is as it sounds. The new Bstep collection, two dozen tracks total, is a beat-heavy selection of snippets of various classical-music pieces set to downtempo, hip-hop-informed metrics. Bstep is Ben Stepner, who previously took a favorite by proto-minimalist composer Morton Feldman, “Triadic Memories,” and rendered it into something loungey and soulful, and just a little bit funky. Often on Classical Rmxs, as in “Black Dragon,” the music’s vinyl context is as much a part of the end composition as is the music itself — the sway of the surface noise is on repeat, right along with the handful of purloined notes that serve as its core. “Strange Days” pulls from a full orchestra, a pixel bit of static serving as a percussive grace note. Not all the source audio is instrumental. On “Qigong” it appears to be choral sample, rendered spectral in its misty repetition. Nor are all the additions simply beats. On “Qigong” there’s a sudden, occasional, truly funky emphasis in the form of an r&b grunt. It’s quite a pleasure to get lost in the small segments that Stepner focuses on, tiny moments from long-form works turned, themselves, into voluminous chasms where beat machines run free.

Album, all 24 tracks, originally posted at bstep.bandcamp.com. More from Stepner, who is based in Newton Centre, Massachusetts, at benstepner.com, soundcloud.com/benstepner, and twitter.com/bstepbeatz.

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Alvin Curran Finds His (Dad’s) Trombone

And records a tribute to its weathered tone

Alvin Curran, the composer (b. 1938), lost his dad’s trombone, only to have it relocated decades later. In a New York Times essay this past weekend, “The Trombone Comes Home,” Curran tells the story of the instrument’s role in his childhood education and activities, before he switched to piano and, later still, composition. He also tells the story of its reappearance. The discovery provides an emotional end to the tale:

I let it sit for a few days to acclimatize. The with my wife, Susan, snapping pictures I carefully removed the layers of wrappings one at a time with a kitchen knife — and then opened the latches to reveal an unpolished silent brass corpse inside, smelling exactly the same as it did when I surreptitiously opened that case for the first time some 70 years earlier in Providence.

Included alongside the essay is a nearly two-minute composition by Curran, “The Lost Trombone.” It’s described, succinctly, as follows:

A composition built on a single B flat note played on the recovered trombone by the author, electronically processed and produced with Angelo-Maria Farro.

For unclear reasons the essay itself makes no direct connection to the piece, and in no way gets into its existence, let alone its composition and recording process. It’s a riveting miniature of repetition, the threadbare note echoed and layered, its held tone circling round and round, building if not to an orchestral impact, then at least that of a sizable chamber ensemble. You enter into the weathered tone, much as Curran himself was taken by its accrued meaning and experience:

For me, it was the essence of unabashed musical Americana, its mouthpiece an amalgam of chopped liver, Mom’s tuna salad, kosher hot dogs, kasha and planetary garlic breath fused with silver and steel and a century of house mold.

The audio isn’t embeddable, so you’ll need to click through to the nytimes.com site to listen in full. More from Curran at alvincurran.com.

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This Week in Sound: 3D Crimes + Posthuman Postrock

+ caption studies + !@#$ patents + Google metronome + iPad conducting + seismic listening

A lightly annotated clipping service:

3D Crimes: The hum of a refrigerator may not be enough to allow identification of its make and model, and the electric car may have let us to make our engines sound like something else entirely (see the SoundRacer), but more consequentially the rumblings of a 3D printer may contain sufficient detail for the someone “to reverse-engineer and re-create 3D printed objects based off of nothing more than a smartphone audio recording”: 3ders.org, via Barry Threw.

thirdarm

Posthuman Postrock: There is now a “wearable third arm” for drummers, which brings to mind both the opportunities for posthuman postrock, and the kit developed for Rick Allen of Def Leppard after he lost an arm in the mid-1980s. Above photo shows Tyler White accompanied by Gil Weinberg: gizmag.com, via twitter.com/showcaseJase.

[Heavy Breathing]: Last year, Sean Zdenek published Reading Sounds, a book about captions, about how the audio of filmed entertainment (dialog, diegetic sound like a passing car, and non-diegetic sound like a score) is represented with words superimposed on images. Now there’s a two-day “virtual conference” on captions (Caption Studies) scheduled for August 1 and 2 of this year. If you’re the sort of person, like me, who thrills to “[dramatic music]” and “[ninjas panting],” then I’ll see you there. Well, that is, we’ll be online simultaneously: captionstudies.wou.edu.

!@#$ Patents: This sounded like an April Fools joke, but it appeared on Business Insider on March 31, and appears to be the case: Apple has technology that automatically removes the curse words from songs. Filed in 2014, the patent is titled “Management, Replacement and Removal of Explicit Lyrics during Audio Playback.” Keep in mind that two years prior to that, in 2012, the Apple Match service — which adds to your cloud the albums you already own, saving you the perceived hassle of ripping and uploading them — accidentally replaced people’s NSFW versions with the “clean” edits that play in fast-food restaurants and on cautious radio stations — via factmag.com, Scanner, and King Britt

metronome

Google BPM: Well, Google the word “metronome” and you’ll be provided a functioning metronome that allows you to select an integer between 40 and 208 and hear what that click track sounds like: androidpolice.com.

iClassical Pro: Alan Pierson, of the adventurous chamber ensemble Alarm Will Sound, has uploaded to Medium an article first published two years ago on the group’s blog, but it’s new to me. It’s Pierson talking about how he moved from using paper scores to digital scores when conducting. His take: “And while conducting off tablet is safer in many ways, it’s almost certainly more prone to catastrophe on any particular gig than working off of paper scores: a PC crash is probably more likely than music falling off a stand or out of a binder and harder to recover from. But the plusses seem to far outweigh the minuses.” At least now Google can help with the BPM.

Ear on the Apocalypse: “Seismologists at the University of Alaska Fairbanks Alaska Volcano Network have developed a refined set of methods that allows them to detect and locate the airwaves generated by a volcanic explosion on distant seismic networks.” That is to say, scientists are listening for earthquakes: “This study shows how we can expand the use of seismic data by looking at the acoustic waves from volcanic explosions that are recorded on seismometers”: uaf.edu.

This first appeared, in slightly different form, in the April 5, 2016, edition of the free Disquiet “This Week in Sound” email newsletter: tinyletter.com/disquiet.

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Remixing the Chamber Ambient Music of Christina Vantzou

Steve Hauschildt reworks "Stereoscope"

Christina Vantzou’s first three solo albums of chamber ambient music are numbered, like Led Zeppelin’s before hers. There is Nº1, Nº2, and Nº3, the most recent of which was released late last year. Naturally the collection of remixes is seen as an iteration, not a release unto itself. Its title: 3.5. She’s assembled a great crew to rework the originals, and the first track, Steve Hauschildt’s take on her “Sterepscope,” was posted a few days ago as a promotion. Other participants in 3.5 include Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe (aka Lichens), Loscil, John Also Bennett, Tara Jane O’Neil, the Sight Below, CORIN, and Francesco Donadello. Bennett played all the synthesizers on Nº3, Vantzou told me when I interviewed her last year (“The Bell Jar Filter”). Bennett and Loscil also contributed to the Nº2 Remixes collection, and Loscil was also on the Nº1 Remixes album. If the original “Stereoscope” was quiet and unassuming, with a glitchy undercurrent that suggested rain on a living-room window, then Hauschildt’s rendition is full-on orchestral. (You can stream the original at youtube.com for comparison.)

Track originally posted at soundcloud.com/platform. The album will be available as of March 18 at christinavantzou.bandcamp.com. More from Vantzou at christinavantzou.com.

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The One-Key Piano

And how Google Android explains itself in music

This one is certainly tailor made for the course I teach about the role of sound in the media landscape, which focuses often throughout its 15-week run on the way things — organizations, people, services — express themselves through sound. There’s a recent Android operating system TV commercial from Google in which pianist Ji-Yong Kim plays a piece of music, the third movement of Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata, on a grand piano, and then alternates between a standard grand piano and a grand piano set up so that each key plays the same note. The “joke” in the ad is a tweak at the perceived uniformity of Apple’s product line. The tagline is “Be together. Not the same.”

One unintended consequence of the advertisement is the rising awareness that there’s an audience out there for such an uber-minimalist music in which rhythm is the closest expression evident to something that approximates melody. The video has had almost one million views since it was posted on February 15. The one-note piano approach, dubbed the Monotune, is now the subject of a 10-track album, available for free from Google Play (play.google.com). Oddly, the Moonlight Sonata doesn’t appear to be on the album, which includes “Three Blind Mice,” “Claire du Lune,” and “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.” All the compositions seem to be, like the Moonlight Sonata, in the public domain.

While the Monotune album is an entertaining peek into the one-note tweak on familiar music, the real pleasure in the TV ad is how it moves back and forth between the extroverted and muted performances. Perhaps a follow-up collection will attempt to capture that quality.

There’s a making-of interview, posted the same day as the Monotune commercial, of how the one-key effect was accomplished. The short version: you can’t tune an entire piano to one note. You have to shorten many of the strings first. There’s a great moment at 1:43 when pianist Kim responds the first time he hears the peculiar responsiveness of the stunted piano:

Found via androidpolice.com.

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