A cross-cultural probing by Ethan Hein
What is great about Ethan Hein’s participation in the public discussion of music isn’t simply that he writes exuberantly about the making, the distribution, and the consumption of his subject, or that he ably employs images to point out the Venn Diagram that is funk or the constellation of pop that orbits a single sampling data point, but that on top of it all, he uses music itself to pursue ideas. For example, he explored a Bach invention by using MIDI to apply the note sequence to the Latin percussion pack that is part of the popular music software suite Ableton. The effort is doubly effective because in addition to sounding out Bach’s classical piece in what, cultural context might suggest, is a more populist instrumental realm, Hein also connects back to the piano being, for all intents and purposes, a well-tuned percussion instrument itself:
Here for reference is the Bach in question performed on, you know, a piano:
Hein’s work originally posted for free download at soundcloud.com/ethanhein. More from Hein at ethanhein.com.
[ Also tagged free download
And vice versa, from Leeds-based Chrissie Caulfield
The track “Weavezyme” is Chrissie Caulfield turning noise into music, specifically machine noise, and specifically something with a distant yet clinging association to classical music. The track is from a recent collection, titled Mechanisms, in which Caulfield’s violin and, to a lesser degree, cello join up with transformed recordings of machinery in action — here sodden thud and distant clank and rumbling drone. She notes in a brief accompanying statement, “This is an album based loosely on ‘mechanisms’ of various kinds. Many of the tracks feature actual mechanical noises, but some are just a nod to classical compositional ‘mechanisms’ or structures.” That sentence makes a helpful parallel to the concept of language itself being a form of technology.
Track originally posted at soundcloud.com/progchick. The album Mechanisms is streamable in full and available at “name your price” on music.chrissieviolin.info, via Bandcamp. More from Caulfield, who is based in Leeds, England, at chrissieviolin.info and twitter.com/chrissie_c.
[ Also tagged recommended stream
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.
[ Also tagged free download
"External Cabinet" by Yiva Lund Bergner
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.
More from Bergner, who hails from Sweden and currently lives in Copenhagen, Denmark, at ylvalundbergner.com.
[ Also tagged live-performance
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.