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.

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Pachinko Fury

A field recording with a warning label

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I’ve regularly said that a multi-floor pachinko parlor in Tokyo is by far the loudest, most aggressive sound I have experienced in person, and I’ve said that as someone who has seen Metallica, Danzig, Fugazi, Slayer, Godflesh, and Napalm Death live in concert, just to name a few bands famed for their volume. The closest I’ve come to the pachinko parlor intensity was probably a Dinosaur Jr. show that was so loud people walked out of the concert hall, though the lack of enthusiasm may also have been because Nirvana was the opening act on that tour, and Nirvana, then still on the rise, was the portrait of a tough act to follow. In any case, as mentioned here recently, Seth S. Horowitz, author of The Universal Sense: How Hearing Shapes the Mind, is currently in Japan and making binaural field recordings of what he witnesses. His latest item from that information-gathering trip is a pachinko parlor, which he tweeted about earlier this evening:

His description of the track, six minutes of white noise so dense with treacly pop music, mechanical fury, and crowd chatter is as follows: “In-ear binaural recording of a soundwalk through 3 floors of the Maruan Pachinko Tower in Shibuya, Tokyo at 11 AM. WARNING: Incredibly LOUD. Use low volume to listen.”

Track originally posted at soundcloud.com/universalsense. More on Horowitz at neuropop.com. Image found via wikipedia.org. Image found via wikimedia.org.

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The Central Nervous System in the Machine

Quality noise from the "no-input mixer" approach

The sound of the no-input mixer is not so much the ghost in the machine as it is the machine’s central nervous system. That’s part of what John Cage claimed to have heard in his famous encounter with an anechoic chamber: the sound that results when there is no other sound. Peter Kirn of createdigitalmusic.com has helpfully explained the “no-input mixer” approach as utilizing “controlled feedback rather than any other source of sound” and he has quoted Canadian composer Christian Carrière as called it “the sound of the circuits inside the mixer singing.” In the hands of Philadelphia–based Joo Won Park, the “no-input mixer” is less a matter of singing than full-on, tantrum-level glossolalia, a heavy gurgle of electric fissues. Up above is Park’s “October 1402 (for no-input mixer and computer),” which at times sounds like an arcade game on its last legs, and at others like freakazoid hardcore free jazz improvisation.

The track was originally posted for free download at soundcloud.com/joowon. More on Park at joowonpark.net.

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Disquiet Junto Project 0080: Interior Metronome

The Project: Create music with a metronome.

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Each Thursday at the Disquiet Junto group on Soundcloud.com 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.

This assignment was made in the evening, California time, on Thursday, July 11, with 11:59pm on the following Monday, July 15, 2013, as the deadline.

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

Disquiet Junto Project 0080: Interior Metronome

This project explores the interior life of that ubiquitous timekeeper, the metronome. The project requires access to an analog metronome and a contact microphone. The instructions are as follows:

Step 1: Set your metronome at 120bpm and record it for at least 10 consecutive seconds with a contact microphone.

Step 2: Slow down that recording to a pace that you find welcoming, useful for musical exploration.

Step 3: Augment the recording that resulted from Step 2 so that the difference between the impact of the beat and the space between beats is considerably less distinct. Focus on things like the echo of the beat and the interior sound of the mechanism.

Step 4: Make an original piece of music in which you add additional sonic elements to a loop of the recording that resulted from Step 3, in order to draw out its melodic, rhythmic, and microsonic content. You can add up to three additional sound sources, and you can alter the source material as you wish, but the sound of the metronome should always be steady and present.

Deadline: Monday, July 15, 2013, at 11:59pm wherever you are.

Length: Your track should have a duration of between two and five minutes.

Further Background: This project is being done in coordination with the artist Paolo Salvagione, who this previous weekend, on Saturday, July 6, in and near Regensburg, Germany, debuted works that focus on the influence of Johann Nepomuk Mälzel, who in 1815 perfected the metronome as we know it. This project is part of Salvagione’s effort, over the next two years, to have Mälzel recognized for his influence on the 200th anniversary of his lasting accomplishment.

Information: Please when posting your track on SoundCloud, 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.

Title/Tag: Include the term “disquiet0080-interiormetronome” in the title of your track, and as a tag for your track. Also use the tags “Walhalla” and “Salvagione” for your track.

Download: Please consider employing a license that allows for attributed, commerce-free remixing (i.e., a Creative Commons license permitting non-commercial sharing with attribution).

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

More on this 80th Disquiet Junto project, in which the internal mechanism of a metronome is explored in for its musical content, at:

http://disquiet.com/2013/07/11/disquiet0080-interiormetronome/

More on Paolo Salvagione’s art at:

http://salvagione.com/works/malzel/

More details on the Disquiet Junto at:

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

And these are the project instructions in German, translation courtesy of Tobias Reber:

Disquiet Junto Projekt 0080: Inneres Metronom

In diesem Projekt erkunden wir das Innenleben jenes allgegenwärtigen Zeitwächters, dem Metronom. Für das Projekt benötigst du ein analoges Metronom und ein Kontaktmikrofon. Die Anweisungen lauten wie folgt:

  1. Schritt: Stelle dein Metronom auf 120bpm und mach mit dem Kontaktmikrofon eine mindestens 10 Sekunden lange Aufnahme.

  2. Verlangsame diese Aufnahme auf ein Tempo das dir gefällt und das du als geeignet für ein musikalisches Erkunden erachtest.

  3. Verändere die verlangsamte Aufnahme so dass der unterschied zwischen den Schlägen selbst und dem Klang zwischen den Schlägen weniger deutlich wird. Richte deinen Fokus auf Aspekte wie das Echo der Schläge und den Klang der Metronom-Mechanik.

  4. Kreiere ein eigenes Musikstück, in dem du weitere musikalische Elemente zu einem Loop deiner transformierten Metronom-Aufnahme hinzufügst und ihren melodischen, rhythmischen und mikro-klanglichen Gehalt herausarbeitest.

Deadline: Montag, 15. Juli, 2013 um 23.59 Uhr deiner Zeit.

Dauer: Dein Stück sollte zwischen zwei und fünf Minuten lang sein.

Hintergrundinformationen: Dieses Projekt wird in Zusammenarbeit mit dem Künstler Paolo Salvagione durchgeführt. Salvagione zeigt seit dem 6. Juli in und um Regensburg (Deutschland) neue Arbeiten über den Einfluss von Johann Nepomuk Mälzel, der im Jahr 1815 das Metronom in seiner heutigen Form perfektioniert hat. Das Projekt ist Teil von Salvagione’s Bestreben, Mälzel während der nächsten zwei Jahren zu mehr Anerkennung für den andauernden Einfluss seiner Errungenschaft zu verhelfen.

Information: Bitte Beschreibe deinen Arbeitsprozess wenn du dein Stück auf SoundCloud postest. Diese Beschreibung ist ein integraler Bestandteil des kommunikativen Prozesses in der Disquiet Junto.

Titel/Tags: Bitte füge deinem Stück-Titel auf SoundCloud die Beschreibung “disquiet0080-interiormetronome” bei und verwende diese Information zusammen mit “Walhalla” und “Salvagione” auch als Tag für dein Stück.

Download: Bitte ziehe für die Veröffentlichung deines Tracks eine Lizenz in Erwägung, die attribuiertes, nicht-kommerzielles Remixen zulässt (z.B. eine Creative Commons-Lizenz, die das nicht-kommerzielle Teilen mit Attribution erlaubt).

Links: Füge deinem Track bitte die folgenden Informationen bei wenn du ihn postest:

Mehr zu diesem 80. Disquiet Junto-Projekt, in dem der innere Mechanismus eines Metronoms auf sein musikalisches Potential erkundet wird:

http://disquiet.com/2013/07/11/disquiet0080-interiormetronome/

Mehr über Paolo Salvagiones Werke zu Mälzel:

http://salvagione.com/works/malzel/

Mehr Informationen über die Disquiet Junto:

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

Image adopted from an original design by Brian Scott of Boon Design (boondesign.com), developed for Salvagione’s work.

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Cues: 1,100 Tracks, DG Sublabel, Amon/Kronos

Plus: an iOS magazine, sounds of Coke bottles, more

Random Access: Jos Smolders, back in the golden age of the compact disc, 1994, released Music for CD Player, a collection of 99 short tracks intended for the listener to sequence. He’s now released a sequel in the form of an 1,100-track album, titled Music for FLAC Player. Yes, that is 1,100 tracks, the overwhelming majority of which are one second or less in length, and all but 30 or so of which are under 45 seconds:

Writes Smolders of the project:

The [Music for CD Player] disc contained 99 tracks. The original plan, however, was to have many more tracks. However CD Redbook protocol allowed a maximum number of 99 tracks, with a minimum length of 3 seconds. With the Internet as a platform these limitations are gone. The number of tracks for an online album are limitless and the length of the tracks can be near zero.

Recomposing DG: The esteemed classical label Deutsche Grammophon is launching a new label called Panorama (via classical-music.com). The first Panorama album will be from the highly collaborative Schiller (aka Christopher von Deylen). DG had previously released a series of genre-pushing “recomposed” albums including Max Richter’s reworking of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons and Matthew Herbert’s reworking of Mahler‘s 10th Symphony.

Amon v Kronos: “V838 Monocerotis” is the title of a new piece Kronos Quartet has commissioned from Amon Tobin as part of the ensemble’s 40th-anniversary celebration: amontobin.com, kronosquartet.org.

iOS Care: I Care if You Listen is a new iOS multimedia magazine about contemporary (i.e. classical) music. The initial issue features interviews with composers Clint Mansell and Arlene Sierra.

Sonic Footnotes: Ora, the occasional broadcast/podcast by Daniela Cascella and Salomé Voegelin about “listening and writing,” has followed up its debut episode with a reading list, featuring the hosts’ own books and titles by Gert Jonke, W.H Auden, and Clifford Geertz, among others.

Donut Hole: Jordan Ferguson is, like me, writing a book for the 33 1/3 series. Like me, he is focused on something that is fairly unusual for the series, in that both our books are about albums that have little in the way of words, let alone of lyrics. My book-in-progress is on Aphex Twin’s Selected Ambient Works Volume II. Ferguson’s is about J Dilla’s Donuts. And like me, he submitted to an interview for the publisher’s website. But, being a smart guy, he did his as a video:

Also, Evie Nagy (formerly of Rolling Stone, now at Billboard) has been interviewed about her 33 1/3 book, which will focus on Devo’s Freedom of Choice.

Sounds of Brands: Coca-Cola employed Kurt Hugo Schneider to milk sounds of its cans and bottles to make music. From Adweek’s coverage: “The recording obviously has some studio bells and whistles layered on it, but Adweek was assured that Schneider is truly playing the Coke ‘instruments.’” In another sound-related entry in the Coke series, you’re invited to see how long you can listen to someone singing “ah.”

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Mälzel’s Metronome 3/3: The Metronome Countdown / Der Metronome Countdown

The third of three essays for works by Paolo Salvagione

Metronome_disquiet

This Saturday, July 6, a series of works by artist Paolo Salvagione will debut in Regensburg, Germany, and at the nearby Walhalla. They all revolve around the life and work of Johann Nepomuk Mälzel (1772-1838), best known as having perfected the analog metronome as we know it. As part of my continuing work with Salvagione, I wrote three essays about the Regensburg/Walhalla/Mälzel project. The first, posted two days ago, was “Time Changes Everything” / “Zeit verändert alles.” The second, posted yesterday, was “Eternal Partners” / “Ewige Partner.” This is the third of them:

The Metronome Countdown

The year 2015 will mark the 200th anniversary of the introduction of a device that set the pace for all music that followed. The device is the metronome, which in 1815 was perfected by a roguish tinkerer named Johann Nepomuk Mälzel, who was born in Regensburg, Germany, 43 years prior. That would be 1772, the same year as romantic poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge, utopian philosopher Charles Fourier, and rocket artillery pioneer Sir William Congreve. If both technology and the arts experienced revolutions during this era, the metronome’s pendulum teetered at their fulcrum.

The influence of Mälzel’s metronome cannot be overstated. Long before the Internet set the digital clip for contemporary life; long before turntables were equipped with buttons marked 33, 45, and 78; long before the atomic clock employed electromagnetism to dictate the highest standard for timekeeping, the humble metronome employed mechanical means to give shape to time, and to make those shapes consistent, communicable, universal.

In his lifetime, Mälzel’s most advanced early adopter was none other than the composer Ludwig van Beethoven, who was two years Mälzel’s senior. Beethoven was early on intrigued by Mälzel’s contraption, and late in life, long after he had lost his hearing, he went back to his earlier symphonies and notated what he deemed the “correct” timings. That these metronomically precise timings were considerably quicker than considered appropriate to musicians at the time (and to this day) remains something of a musicological mystery.

As for Mälzel, he remains as ubiquitous as his device, yet his presence is so prevalent as to be nearly invisible, rendered as a mere pair of initials: the “MM” notation that in traditional musical scores states the pace of a work. (The double M stands for “Mälzel’s Metronome.”) His device is music’s training wheels, its click track. It is the beat that percusses through rehearsal halls and yet is — with some notable exceptions, such as György Ligeti’s 1962 “Poème Symphonique,” composed for 100 metronomes — mute by the time the curtain rises.

The goal of the celebration this year in Mälzel’s hometown, as the two-century anniversary of his invention comes into view, is to build public support for his wider recognition — to bring Mälzel’s mechanical triumph to the foreground.

And this is the German translation:

Der Metronome Countdown

Das Jahr 2015 markiert den 200. Jahrestag der Perfektionierung eines Gerätes, das das Tempo für jede Musik festlegte, die nach dessen Erfindung komponiert wurde: Das Metronom.

Dietrich Nikolaus Winkel reklamiert die Erfindung des Musik-Chronometers für sich, aber verfeinert und schließlich vollendet wurde das Metronom 1815 von einem schelmischen Bastler namens Johann Nepomuk Mälzel, der 43 Jahre früher in Regensburg zur Welt kam. Es handelt sich um das Jahr 1772, in dem unter anderem der romantische Dichter Samuel Taylor Coleridge, der utopische Philosoph Charles Fourier und Raketenartillerie Pionier Sir William Congreve ebenfalls das Licht der Welt erblickten. Wenn man die Revolutionen in den Bereichen Technik und Kunst dieser Zeit betrachtet, dann symbolisiert das Metronom mit seinem Pendel genau diesen Dreh- und Angelpunkt.

Der Einfluss von Mälzels Metronom kann nicht hoch genug bewertet werden. Lange bevor der digitale Clip das zeitgenössische Leben prägte, lange bevor sich auf Plattenspielern die Umdrehungen 78, 45 und 33 einstellen ließen, lange bevor die Atomuhr mit Hilfe von Elektromagnetismus den höchsten Standard der Zeitmessung diktierte, verwendete das bescheidene Metronom mechanische Mittel, um der Zeit eine Form zu geben und diese Form konsistent, übertragbar und universal zu machen.

Der erste moderne Anwender von Mälzels Erfindung war kein geringerer als Ludwig van Beethoven, der nur zwei Jahre älter war als Mälzel selbst. Von Anfang an war Beethoven von Mälzels komischem Apparat fasziniert. Gegen Ende seines Lebens, als er schon lange seinen Gehörsinn verloren hatte, kehrte Beethoven zu seinen ersten Symphonien zurück und notierte diese neu in der jetzt “richtigen” zeitlichen Festlegung. Diese neuen präzisen metronomischen Anweisungen waren deutlich schneller und wurden von den damaligen Musikern (zum Teil auch jetzt noch) als unangemessen angesehen und bleiben bis heute ein musikwissenschaftliches Rätsel.

Mälzel ist zwar als Person allgegenwärtig wie sein Gerät, jedoch macht dessen weite Verbreitung ihn gleichzeitig auch fast unsichtbar. In Erscheinung tritt er lediglich durch seine Initialen “MM”, die in traditionellen Partituren das Tempo des Werkes angeben. (Das Doppel M steht für Mälzels Metronom). Mälzels Gerät ist das Rückgrat der Musik, die Click-Spur. Es ist der Beat, der durch die Proben schwingt und verstummt, sobald sich der Vorhang hebt. Mit einer bemerkenswerten Ausnahme, dem „Poème Symphonique“ von György Ligeti, einer Komposition für 100 Metronome, aus dem Jahre 1962.

Mit unserer Kampagne wollen wir im Rahmen dieser einmaligen Veranstaltung auf der Walhalla die Gelegenheit ergreifen, Mälzel in seiner Geburtsstadt zu feiern und das 2015 anstehende 200-jährige Jubiläum seiner Erfindung einer größeren Öffentlichkeit bekannt zu machen. Wir werben für eine breitere Anerkennung seiner Leistung und rücken Mälzels mechanischen Triumph in den Vordergrund.

More information at salvagione.com. Design by boondesign.com. German translation (from English) by Simone Junge. Initial project announcement: disquiet.com, theater-regensburg.de.

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