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tag: live-performance

When a Guitar Isn’t a Guitar

The modular synthesis of R Beny

The above video is a recent piece by R Beny, whose new album, Full Blossom of the Evening, I wrote about late last month (“This Is Glisten”). That record has a prominent string presence, as does this track. In the discussion that — politely and enthusiastically, unlike many public discussion spaces — accompanies the video, Beny mentions that the source of the sound isn’t a guitar but, in fact, one of the synthesizer modules. “It’s the second module you see: ‘Rings,” he explains in response to a viewer’s question, “that is able to produce those guitars and other string type instruments.” He’s referring to the second module in from the left. That tone is heard here as a fairly realistic element, a largely single-line melody that traverses, deep in a lightly warbly echo, an increasingly static-lined zone. The harshness of that latter, low-fidelity noise provides a contrasting atmosphere to the gentle tones of the guitar-like material. Beny is a master of deceptively simple music whose quietude is matched by its attention to detail and its emotional richness, and this live performance is a fine example of what he’s capable of. If this piece strikes your fancy, another live performance featuring the guitar-like module is his “Spring in Blue”:

Video originally posted at R Beny’s YouTube channel.. It’s the latest piece I’ve added to my ongoing YouTube playlist of fine “Ambient Performances.” More from R Beny, aka Austin Cairns of the San Francisco Bay Area, at and

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Live Cinchel Mediated Guitar Performance

A house show in Chicago

This may not be the same Cinchel performance, a “house show,” I caught glimpse of on Periscope a few months back. That piece was softer, more practice-like, more as if we were peering over his shoulder as he worked through new and old techniques. This piece, nearly 13-minutes live, is commanding, as he pushes his electric guitar through (largely) off-screen pedals and software, milking chords for their densely layered, drone-cum-shoegaze intensity. An occasional glimpse of a shoulder and hair suggests this was, indeed, a performance with an audience. It’s authoritative stuff, and a great example of the way ambient/noise guitar — the piece regularly edges past the zen comfort zone of purely blissful music — is as much about the live processing as it is about handling the six-string.

It’s the latest piece I’ve added to my ongoing YouTube playlist of fine “Ambient Performances.” Video originally posted at the channel of Seijin Lee. More from Cinchel, aka Jason Shanley of Chicago, Illinois, at,, and

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Greg Davis & Keith Fullerton Whitman Live in 2002

"the live set was recently unearthed"

Greg Davis and Keith Fullerton Whitman have posted a half-hour set from 2002, recorded on WVUM in Miami, Florida, during a spring tour from March and April of that year. It’s an early document for both. Davis released his first album, Arbor, in 2002, on the Carpark Records label. And while Whitman had been since the late 1990s making recordings (generally self-released), 2002 would also see the release of his breakthrough, Playthroughs, on Kranky.

According to the brief note on Davis’ SoundCloud account, “the live set was recently unearthed.” The two are heard “trading off playing live tracks.” These veer between gentle folktronic material from Davis (ruminative field recordings, guitar above a pixelated beat), and more frenetic, often IDM-flavored material from Hrvatski (rubbery breakbeats, scattered metric logicistics). The tag team approach is emblematic of their camaraderie.

I was fortunate to have seen them play when they hit New Orleans later that month at a show at the Mermaid Lounge. The full tour itinerary is archived at the microsound discussion list. It started at Bard College mid-way through March and ended in Montreal at La Sala Rossa toward the end of April. The microsound-list announcement humorously depicts the tour as a trio, splitting Whitman between his given name and his Hrvatski moniker. Here’s part of the announcement:

hello microsound listers. i’m going on tour starting tomorrow, will most likely end up in a town near you some time over the next few weeks. if you’re in the area come and say hello… -k

starting very soon: spring tour.

hrvatski (planet-mu, reckankreuzungsklankewerkzeuge).
greg davis (carpark, autumn).
keith fullerton whitman (kranky, apartment b).

hrvatski will be performing material from his forthcoming album swarm & dither (planet-mu).
greg davis will be performing material from his recently released debut album arbor (carpark).

keith fullerton whitman will be performing material from his forthcoming debut album playthroughs (kranky) on select dates.
greg davis and keith fullerton whitman will be performing material together as a duo on select dates (as they see fit).

If you want something to read while listening to the performances, I interviewed Davis later that year (“Woodshedding”), and Whitman in mid-2001 (“Army of One”).

Track originally posted at

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The Piano Among the Patch Cables

A formidable live ambient performance by Carl Mikael

This video from Carl Mikael’s Cabinet of Curiosities YouTube channel is an exemplary live ambient music performance. The 14-minute piece shows him at his piano, a modular synth to the side, and a laptop visible just beyond that. He begins at the piano, mic’d closely so the physicality of the instrument’s mechanism is almost as present as the intended notes themselves. Especially when listened to through headphones, the sound is very much caught within the piano, deep in its wooden cavern. Shortly thereafter, the external tools, that array of patched synthesizer modules and the software running on his laptop, is heard echoing, looping, and transforming the piano, gentle chords fading softly as they go. As the loops come to the fore, he then returns to the piano, adding notes, sometimes as accompaniment, sometimes as a source of subsequent looping. Rhythms, albeit gentle ones, are introduced. There’s a mechanized beat early on, and later, near the five-minute mark, he taps on the piano to get a wooden percussion sensation. Later still he knocks a glass bottle against the device. There’s an formidable mastery to Mikael’s performance, how he moves back and forth between the old and new music-making tools, as well as the makeshift ones.

It’s the latest piece I’ve added to my ongoing YouTube playlist of fine “Ambient Performances.” It was originally posted at YouTube. When I started collecting this playlist, I was looking for videos that manage to display the act of making ambient music — something that is rightly associated, in general, with studio production, but that also has a wide range of live practitioners. I’ve collected many such videos so far, and Mikael’s may be the first to show (almost) all the equipment, and the musician’s face as he makes decisions, and the musician’s hands as he makes his way back and forth from one device to another. It’s a great piece.

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Argentinian Feedback

Federico Barabino at the no-input mixer

Institutional murmurs and jackhammer pounding, hovering drones and mellifluous waveforms — these are among the expressive sounds that Federico Barabino summons from, in essence, nowhere in this brief live solo recording.

Barabino’s instrument of choice is the no-input mixer, in which a tool associated with neutrality is fed back into itself to yield all manner of wily noises. The mixer is intended as a clear path for numerous signals. They enter and exit according to the various mixing opportunities — volume, panning, effects. When looped back into itself, the mixer causes feedback noise, noise that can take on the qualities of an instrument after considerable trial and error, as slight fluctuations yield room-filling sounds.

Barabino charts the course with a sequence of volume-level variations that focus the ear on each successive sonic approach. In a post at his website,, Barabino, who is based in Buenos Aires, Argentina, describes his approach:

No-input mixer works as a tool to use in various situations performative, sound art, audiovisual , installations or mixed. The starting point of these investigations on the console is the redefinition of the object itself. Changing its primary function of being a medium between the sound source and amplification to be a sound generator itself. Sounds radically pure as sinusoids or noise frequencies through feedback internally produced material which can then be re-developed and complexify simply the sum of the sound waves through different effects thereof or digital/analog external.

Connecting the inputs to the outputs by wires, the entire system of knobs becomes itself an instrument, a tool for sound generation, requiring an interpreter aware micromovements within the object itself. The “error” as a point of departure for an exploration is often denied, the natural extension of what we believe can make objects as a whole and a continual search inside and outside margins are concept and essence of this constant work in progress.

Track originally posted at More from Barabino at

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