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: iphone

Drone + Video = Vrone

Exploring the sonic potential of the Vine app

2013-vinelogoThe app called Vine facilitates the easy production of six-second audio-video clips. It has managed to locate an entertaining parallel between tweets and animated gifs, between short outbursts of self-expression and the hypnotic splendor inherent in repetition.

My first Vine post (I’m @disquiet on Vine) was of a 7″ single playing on a turntable, specifically a 7″ that was a compilation of locked grooves, short loops in which the record needle gets stuck and plays forever. The length of the loop and length of the video do not quite match, and the seam is all too evident, but it was a fun experiment, especially because it used an old nifty bit of loopy pop culture to test out a new nifty bit of loopy pop culture:

(The compilation 7″ in question was released in 1993 on RRRecords. It features pieces by Big City Orchestra, Controlled Bleeding, Randy Greif, Jim O’Rourke, Gregory Whitehead, and 95 other contributors. View the full track list at discogs.com. There’s a picture of it at deadformat.net.)

Matthew Barlow has posted several items on Vine that are musical in nature — that is, they emphasize the audio as equal to if not over the visual. That is in contrast with the majority of Vine posts, in which the sound is often just the ambient noise of whatever happens to have been going on when the video was shot. Note that outside of the Vine app itself, Vine loops come up muted, requiring the listener-viewer to opt to turn up the volume. One example of Barlow’s exploration of Vine’s sonic potential is this bit of wind chime, which can be thought of as an especially early version of endlessly looping music, though of course its structural complexity makes those sounds more varied that a locked groove. When looped to six circular seconds, the distinction becomes less meaningful. Barlow ingeniously uses multiple seams between short segments of clips of the wind chime to make the overall length of the clip less self-evident than it would have been with a straight single shot:

The core of Barlow’s Vine experiments have tended to focus on a balance of visual and drone. He’s tagged them many things, including #lofi and #loop and #experimental, but foremost is the neologism #vrone. It is a useful term, not only because it suggests a new form, but because the word #drone on Vine is mostly of small flying objects.

Here is an example of his efforts:

And here is another:

Better yet, use vineviewer.co to pull up the results of the #vrone hashtag, and listen to (as of this writing) three of Barlow’s pieces playing simultaneously.

More from/on Barlow, who is based in Asheville, North Carolina, at twitter.com/MattCBarlow and matthewbarlow.bandcamp.com. More on Vine, which is currently only available for iOS, at vine.co and itunes.apple.com.

Postscript: Shortly after this was published, Barlow informed me that the term #vrone was suggested by the musician Sima Kim.

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iOS Dub

A mobile beat by Mike 88

What really makes the melody that floats atop the Casio-inspired beat of “Float On By” by Mike 88 is how it avoids melody-ness. Sure, it is more varied, more melodic, than is often heard in beat-driven, dub-oriented, iOS-generated electronic music, but it is also willfully absent of the key things that make melody melody, which is inward consistency, such matters as cycles of repetition and incremental development. Instead the melody veers between brief riffs and droning mantras, and often ventures into rangy soloing, more like an extended solo by a jazz musician than a verse by a songwriter. It’s heady stuff. Mike 88 states in a brief accompanying note that the whole thing was put together in a series of iOS music tools: DM1, NodeBeat, iKaosilator, and Orphion.

Track originally posted at soundcloud.com/mike-88. More from Mike 88, aka Mike Dayton, at twitter.com/dayton_mike.

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Tangents: RjDj’s Retirement, Android Audio-games, Flavin’s Buzz, …

News, quick links, good reads

Download Before It Expires: The flagship RjDj app of the London-based Reality Jockey firm, home to the Inception and Dark Knight Rises Z+ apps, will no longer be available shortly. It is highly recommended that you download RjDj from the iTunes app store now for your iOS device before the app is retired. Details on the decison at the company’s blog, at rjdj.me. The post mentions that the company’s website will be relaunched on Monday, October 8.

Android Play Pretty Some Day: The website androidmusician.com is a solid compendium of sound/music apps for the Android operating system. It does a much better job than the Play store of displaying the state of tools for such activity. It’s more product-specific than the more cultural/newsy palmsounds.net, and complements it well.

Recent discoveries via androidmusician.com include the generative tool Orbits (screen shot shown above) and the old-school drum machine RD3 — Groovebox (video below):

The site also has a presence at twitter.com/androidmusician. It’ll be interesting to observe, over time, how these app-discovery services function best, whether the users will congregate at sites focused broadly on OS-specific coverage (Android versus iOS, etc.), focused broadly on usage-specific coverage (music, productivity, fitness), or as is the case of androidmusician.com focused at the intersection of a specific OS and a specific user base.

Boinquarius: One of the best music publications about adventurous sounds is the weekly email newsletter of the San Francisco record store Aquarius. The store is located on Valencia Street, not far from such cultural epicenters as the Borderlands science-fiction bookshop and the McSweeney’s pirate store. Aquarius’ newsletter, which usually pops up in email boxes on Friday evenings, has hooked up with the great Boing Boing (boingboing.net). The latter will be publishing one review per day, culled from Aquarius’ loquacious and knowledgeable crew, who are major fans of Krautrock, experimental electronics, and the darkest of death metal, among other things. Here’s a taste of what’s to expect, a review of the Common Eider, King Eider DVD Sense of Place: “wheezy chordal whirs, the vocals layered and wreathed in echo and reverb, a mysterious chorale that instead of building and then fading out, remains somewhat constant, with different voices receding and resurfacing, each part of the music slipping easily from just organ, to organ and voices, making for a constantly shifting landscape of muted melody and vocal texture.” Visit Aquarius Records (online) at aquariusrecords.org.

Sonoma Sound Art: If you’re in the North Bay (and, that is, if the Bay is the San Francisco one), be sure between now and October 14 to take the time to visit the art gallery on the Sonoma State campus, which is currently showing Sound, Image, Object: The Intersection of Art and Music. The participating artists are Mauricio Ancalmo, Terry Berlier, John Cage, Brian Caraway, Chuck Close, Bruce Conner, Lewis deSoto, Chris Duncan, Jacqueline Kyomi Gordon, Victoria Haven, Robert Hudson, Christopher Janney, Paul Kos, Tom Marioni, Jack Ox, Sarah Rara, Steve Reich, Isabelle Sorrell, Alice Wheeler, and William T. Wiley. Indeed, quite a lineup. I hope to have time to write it up soon.

The Reich are a pair of early compositions, including “Clapping Music”; the Ox a set of visuals combining sheet music and architecture drawings (above right); the deSoto a suspended stereo console; the Duncan an LP record made of paper (above left). A tremendous show.

In Brief: Camera-phone footage of Kronos Quartet opening for Amon Tobin last night: youtube.com; apparently someone threw a bra onstage, a first for the ensemble. … Kronos violinist and founder David Harrington submitted a mixtape to wqxr.org, where it is streaming currently; it features Arvo Pärt and DJ Qbert, Erik Satie and John Oswald. … John Kannenberg (of the Stasisfield netlabel) has started a new blog, phonomnesis.wordpress.com; its focus: “Silent memories of sound, art, time, museums, philosophy, and culture.” A definite add to your RSS reader. … In his excellent soundscrapers.blogspot.com blog, Nick Sowers probes a pressing question about fluorescent light sculpture Dan Flavin: “Spending countless hours, days, and years to get his installations just right, was Flavin using the buzzing sound to inform his work?”

The above is a recording by Sowers of Flavin’s buzz.

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Tangents: Alvin Luci(f)er, Eno Automata, Sound Art.sy …

News, quick links, good reads

EVRP (Electronic Voice Recognition Phenomenon): The novelist Richard Kadrey made the following post on Facebook earlier this week. It’s reprinted by permission:

It’s a fascinating — especially because it’s unintentional — spin on Alvin Lucier’s classic “I Am Sitting in a Room.” The incident is particularly tasty if you’re familiar with Kadrey’s novels. His now four-volume Sandman Slim series, which deals with a hell-weary anti-hero, is rich with pop-song (and motion-picture) references to devilish activity. It seems all too perfect that his software would come to recognize a sentient presence in his absence. The EVP, or Electronic Voice Phenomenon, movement seeks to locate the semblance of speech in the noise of static. Kadrey experienced a step further into the metaphysical void: the less perceptible noise of a more generic sort, the everyday room tone. (I’ve known Kadrey for two decades now. He wrote a long profile of Ministry for me when I was an editor at Pulse! magazine and participated in a 2005 discussion here about Brian Eno’s album Thursday Afternoon.)

Composition(al) Rules: Video below of the latest iOS app, Scape, from Brian Eno and Peter Chilvers:

The generativemusic.com website says of the app: “Can machines create original music? Scape is our answer to that question: it employs some of the sounds, processes and compositional rules that we have been using for many years and applies them in fresh combinations, to create new music.” The approach and timing are intriguing since Eno referenced cellular automata in regard to the art installation that led to his forthcoming Lux album on Warp Records. The app and album should be considered in tandem.

Sound Art.sy: The art.sy website has just two artists associated with the “gene” (or genre, or category) for “sound art” (Zimoun and Tom Marioni). It does, however, have a “tag” for “tape” that includes Christian Marclay, Michael Craig-Martin, and a handful of others. The site is still in beta. I have a heap of invites. If you’re interested, shoot me an email to request one.

Far Afield Recordings: The “remix ←→ culture” project on Kickstarter has an interesting take on not only financial models but cross-cultural collaboration as well. The proposed iPad app makes source recordings (initially from Morocco) available for remixing, and channels funds back to the original musicians.

More on the project, led by Hatim Belyamani, at remix-culture.com.

Love the Player (Piano): Also on kickstarter.com, Other Minds is looking to fund “the largest festival in North America dedicated to the life and music of the genius composer Conlon Nancarrow,” Maverick of the player piano Nancarrow would have turned 100 this year, in the shadow of John Cage’s centenary — not to mention Alan Turing’s and, for good measure, Chuck Jones’. For $25, the second lowest level of participation, you’ll get audio downloads of the three-day festival, and a copy of the catalog.

New Meaning to “Co-Op Mode”: There’s a remix contest sponsored by Halo 4 to rework music from the latest iteration of the game. The source material is by Halo 4 composer Neil Davidge, who’s worked extensively with Massive Attack: halo4remix.com.

Glass(re)works: The NPR website is streaming remixes both by Beck and by Tyondai Braxton of the music of Philip Glass. More on the forthcoming Philip Glass – Reworked album at thekorarecords.com. Also contributing are Amon Tobin, Cornelius, Dan Deacon, Johann Johannsson, Nosaj Thing, Memory Tapes, Silver Alert, Pantha du Prince, My Great Ghost, and Peter Broderick.

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“Alternative Musical Interfaces”: Disquiet @ GAFFTA (San Francisco, September 19)

Panel discussion at the new media hub

On Wednesday, September 19, there’s a panel discussion in San Francisco at the Grey Area Foundation for the Arts on “Alternative Musical Interfaces,” and I’ll be serving as moderator.

The panelists include the highly talented trio of Michael Zbyszyński (mikezed.com), Peter Nyboer (see his bayimproviser.com entry), and Spencer Salazar (see his ccrma.stanford.edu page) — more on whom at gaffta.org.

It’s all under the auspices of GAFFTA’s Sound Research Group. GAFFTA is located at 923 Market St, Suite 200, which is between 5th and 6th Streets. The event runs from 7:00pm until 8:30. Tickets are $20, but GAFFTA has a solid “no one turned away for lack of funds” policy.

I’m excited to be headed back to GAFFTA. I last took part in a discussion there in August 2011, when I presented some thoughts on “Sound as Commentary.”

Update (2012.07.25): The following description of the event has been added to the GAFFTA page at gaffta.org:

We’ve seen many shifts in ways to control sound over the millenia; everything from animal skins and bones to hacked Game Boys and everywhere in between. We find ourselves positioned at an interesting point in time for how we manipulate sound in a post-instrument world. The topic of alternative musical interfaces has been discussed by those attempting to redefine how we’ve shaped sound since the tribal era, but the discourse seems to be thriving. We’ve brought together three specialists (see below) who have dedicated large portions of their lives to the noble task of constructing new musical interfaces and pushing musicians to interact with their instruments in new and different fashions. The object of this evening is to gather together those interested in redefining our physical relationship to sounds and music. If you are interested in audio we recommend that you come join in the discussion with us.
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