My 33 1/3 book, on Aphex Twin's Selected Ambient Works Volume II, was the 5th bestselling book in the series in 2014. It's 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

Piano Phase Is Urban Noir

A Reichian piece by J.C. Combs

The title for J.C. Combs’ simple piano piece references the beading rhythmic experiments of famed minimalist composer Steve Reich. But it arguably has as much Gershwin in it as it does Reich. “Phase Study for Paul Muller” manages a small amount of swagger, a fair measure of swing. The driving pulse of the music has the busy urban nightscape quality of Reich’s early works in this manner, where musical lines of close derivation create sonic moiré patterns. Perhaps its the compact length, at barely three minutes, but Combs’ seems bustling and jaunty, rather than hallucinogenic and geometric.

Track originally posted for free download at soundcloud.com/jc-combs. More from Combs, who is based in Seattle, Washington, at jccombs.com.

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She Steadies the Noises with Her Harmonium

"External Cabinet" by Yiva Lund Bergner

20150107-ylb

The harmonium is the steadying presence in “External Cabinet” by Yiva Lund Bergner. Amid her sheer, chilling, buzz-saw noise, and fragile splinters of sharp, momentary bursts, and whirligig juts, and rattly percussive overlays, there is the settling calmness of gently speculative keyboard movements. The organ sound provides an underlying drone that in turn serves as a glue for the other constituent parts.

The piece is fully scored for harmonium and electronics, and the score is available for download as a PDF from her website. The detail shown below, from the first page of the score, describes how the percussive elements, as the composition’s title suggests, are the result of using the harmonium casing as an instrument unto itself.

20150107-ylb-score

More from Bergner, who hails from Sweden and currently lives in Copenhagen, Denmark, at ylvalundbergner.com.

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Office/Bus Playlist

Also a test run toward a year-end top 10.

What’s on repeat, in estimated relative order of frequency.

  • Loscil’s Sea Island (Kranky, 2014): Gentle beeps and light burrs, so much happening from so little. I was asked, on Twitter, what this sounded like when I was just three tracks in, and I replied: “like a rainy day after the Singularity.” Many days of listening later, it still does.

  • Stafford Bawler, Obfusc, and Grigori’s Monument Valley (Original Soundtrack) (ustwogames, 2014): The score to the beautiful “casual” game is the perfect backdrop for a game that is itself only slightly more active than wallpaper.

  • Gavin Bryars Ensemble’s The Sinking of the Titanic (Recorded Live on 2012 Centenary Tour) (GB Records, 2014): A live performance of a work that always felt like a studio concoction. Listen as a band continues its performance even after the ship goes down.

  • Grouper’s Ruins (Kranky, 2014): Haunting, at times willfully unintelligible, dirges.

  • Michel Banabila and Oene van Geel’s Music for Viola and Electronics (Tapu, 2014): A lovely duet for complementary toolsets, one analog, the other digital. It’s to the album’s credit that it isn’t always clear where one of those ends and the other begins. One track, “Dondergod,” gets a bit intense, in a European free improvisation sort of way, but the rest is elegant as could be.

This post first appeared in the Disquiet email newsletter: tinyletter.com/disquiet.

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Alarm Will Tag

A #dense #textural work by Jay Lin with the heart of a swarm

In a compact parallel to micro-fiction, liner notes have not so much gone away as been reduced to bare essentials. Liner notes more often than not these days take the form of a complementary blog post, or a brief text accompanying a track posted online, or — in the perhaps most constrained format — just a series of tags. Such is often the case with Alarm Will Sound, the highly regarded chamber ensemble, which regularly posts performances it does of works outside the standard chamber literature. Not that standard chamber repertoire is its modus operandi. This is the group that made its name initially with an album of Aphex Twin covers. The group’s SoundCloud page gives a false impression of its activity. The “spotlight” section up top focuses on music released about a year ago, if not longer. But down below more recent items pop up, including “Half-Glimpsed” by composer Jay Lin. It was posted just today. Recorded live at the Mizzou International Composers Festival on July 27, 2013, it is primarily built around a frenetic series of organized cacophonies. Even the quieter moments early on are antic, with strings and horns playing against each other in a swarm-like manner: individually at their own pace, but collectively forming something spacious and very much alive. And for context, there is just that datestamp and this brief collection of tags:

#sinfonietta
#noise
#textural
#dense
#contemporary classical
#chamber orchestra

Track originally posted at soundcloud.com/alarm-will-sound.

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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.

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