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: live-performance

Can You Hear the Arctic?

And can you play the arctic? Ask Karen Power and John Godfrey.

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For some reason, the track page for this live improvisation by Karen Power and John Godfrey isn’t allowing me to embed it here. So, to hear it, head over to Power’s SoundCloud page, at soundcloud.com/karenpower.

Earlier this year, back in January, Power worked with Joyce Majiski on an installation at the Yukon Arts Centre titled Inside the Glacier. Both of the women were part of an Article Circle Residency Program expedition to the Yukon to collect sounds and develop art from them. This recorded performance teamed Power with musician John Godfrey, and together they, through live improvisation, developed a sonic response to the Yukon soundscape that emanated from another room in the gallery where this was all recorded. Their initially tentative plucks and whirs emerge from the winds and watery sounds of the arctic audio documents. At times the sounds are distinct from the sourced audio, but much of the time their playing achieves a naturalistic presence: strange birds in strange weather.

There is a host of images from her arctic trip at karenpower.ie, depicting the use of omnidirectional microphones inside a wooden boat, microphones inside the remains of a locomotive, hydrophones inside icebergs, and much more. Power produced this half-hour documentary, Can You Hear the Arctic?, about her acoustic experience in 2013:

Track originally posted at soundcloud.com/karenpower. More from Power, who has a PhD in acoustic and electroacoustic composition from SARC (Sonic Arts Research Centre) in Belfast, Ireland, at karenpower.ie. More on the installation at yukonartscentre.com. Photo up top by Tina Kohlmann, from the British Library site at britishlibrary.typepad.co.uk.

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The Eternal Life Aquatic with Laraaji

An interview with the ambient grandmaster in his 72nd year

Larrajii

In recent years, there has been much discussion about distinctions between “ambient” music and “new age” music. It is quite likely that the primary distinction between the two is a matter of just how foregrounded are spiritual matters — in the music’s conception, and in its presumed consumption.

If anyone can weigh in authoritatively on such distinctions, it is Laraaji, the longtime, holistic-minded musician whose most prominent release, 1980’s Ambient 3: Days of Radiance (Editions EG), was produced by a world-famous skeptic: ambient godfather Brian Eno. As has been well documented over the years, Eno came upon Laraaji playing his electric-enhanced zither in Manhattan’s Washington Square Park. That chance encounter helped introduce Laraaji to the world, and to this day he travels widely and records and performs frequently, often as part of spiritual conferences.

Born Edward Larry Gordon in 1943, and later taking the name Laraaji as part of a spiritual awakening, he studied music at the historically black college Howard University and then moved to New York City to pursue a career in standup comedy. The impetus for this interview was the announced release of three of his archival cassette tapes by Leaving Records, dating from just before and just after Days of Radiance.

The collection is titled All in One Peace, and it contains the lush, aquatic, and deeply trippy Lotus Collage (1978), Unicorns in Paradise (1981), and Connecting with the Inner Healer Through Music (1983). They are being made available as cassettes not simply because the audience for cassettes has expanded in recent years, but because cassettes — easy to transport, inexpensive to reproduce — were the medium on which Laraaji originally sold his music when he busked in Washington Square Park.

all-in-one-peace

In advance of the interview, which was spurred on by Boing Boing’s Xeni Jardin, with whom I share an enthusiasm for Laraaji, I asked her and several musicians I admire if they had any questions for Laraaji. To begin with, his name is pronounced as three straight, even syllables, none of them emphasized. In addition to Jardin’s question about the connection between music and healing, I asked for Scanner (aka Robin Rimbaud) about Laraaji’s thoughts on melancholia in music — this due to Laraaji’s profound emphasis on laughter — and for Greg Davis I asked about the origins of a specific record album, Essence Universe.

In the interview, Laraaji talks about many things, including what Washington Square Park was like back in the day, how he achieves his watery sonics, bridging the spiritual gap with the great skeptic Brian Eno, finding peace in the process of tuning the zither’s 36 strings, and his early career as a standup comic.

Marc Weidenbaum: How did this reissue collection, these three albums, come to be?

Laraaji: I think it stared with a gentleman named Douglas Mcgowan of Yoga Records who, maybe two years ago, when he was releasing an LP of mine he mentioned some people in California who might be interested, as an independent company, to release my music. Over about a year or two, eventually he connected me with Matthewdavid McQueen, in Los Angeles. Well, actually, I met David and his wife at an event that myself and a partner and music collaborator gave in Los Angeles — I think a year and a half ago, in October. And he met me there and handed me a CD and I met his wife, and maybe about a half year later he contacted me and mentioned that he was very much interested in checking out my early music on cassette, and asked if I sent him out whatever I had he would go over them and examine them and take it from there, on what to do with them. I sent him out a bunch of my old cassettes and he found three that he wanted to release immediately and he got my approval, very easy agreement, and he began to work on preparing the cassettes as close to the way they looked back when I did them myself. With Leaving Records and Stones Throw and all of our connections since I met him in Los Angeles, about a year and a half ago, have been through email and phone.

Weidenbaum: It’s a beautiful collection, and the packaging is gorgeous. I was familiar with two of the albums through YouTube, but of the three cassettes, one I had never heard of before. It’s titled Connecting with the Inner Healer Through Music

Laraaji: For that one I had a limited release on it because it was really for the people who are familiar with that annual excursion conference that takes in Greensboro – the South Eastern Spiritual Conference. I occasionally presented workshops for music for these conferences over the years. One year, 1983, I offered a three-day workshop called “Connecting with the Inner Healer,” and I prepared music for the people in the class. This is the music that came out of that experience. So I hadn’t tried to release that set too widely, mostly for people who are familiar with my workshop programs.

Weidenbaum: It’s incredible how little mention of it there is on Google as of now, just nine search returns as of today [July 21, 2015], several of which are for the phrase but have nothing to do, actually, with your album.

Laraaji: Yes, I’m not a great big promoter. I delegate that to other qualified people. I’m surprised there’s that many mentions.

Weidenbaum: I’d imagined it must have some sort of unique provenance. Please elaborate on Connecting with the Inner Healer. I want to also talk about your music and life, but because of the timing of these re-releases, I want to focus first on these albums, especially this one, about which so little is known. Was the music recorded at the conference?

Laraaji: It’s either I did the conference and it inspired me to do the music, or at the time I was preparing to give the workshop this recording happened as part of my preparation. I don’t remember the exact sequence. It was 1983. If I knew the month that would tell me more. The conferences were usually in July. The theme of this particular conference was healing, consciousness, and transition. My music was always being invited to be shared at these conferences. Connecting with the Inner Healer was a way for me to get deeper into the therapeutic side of music. These kinds of conferences offer many different speakers around the idea of spirituality, altered life, consciousness — so, I was constantly being exposed to ideas of healing, ideas of healing, healing lifestyle. I’m being reminded that my music had healing qualities, which I wasn’t surprised by, because it grew out of my experience with meditation in the early ‘70s. It grew out of my exposure to imageries and visions of altered states of consciousness in the mid-‘70s. That started me exploring for a music experience, or musical sound, on this side of the veil that would complement what I heard in altered states. The result was through yoga, meditation, metaphysics, and other modalities. My music began to reflect an inner sense of reality that I contacted through meditation, an inner sense of constant stillness, quiet, harmony, peace and serenity, and universal oneness. These themes found their way into my musical expression, along with, still I did jazz and bop and jam-alongs when I lived in Park Slope, New York. Coffee house jams, loft music jams. We’d go through the whole gamut of music, but my electric zither at that time was surfacing and the music that I offered into all these experiences was usually this flowing ambient textural continual kind of atmospherical space music. That was around the late ’70s. Read more »

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Six-String Rhythm

A remix of my "Six-String Buddha" by Austin-based Antenna Research

Antenna Research is the Austin, Texas, duo of Karin Kross and Bruce Levenstein. They’ve done me the honor of reworking my “Six-String Buddha” track, a brief loop of layered electric guitar intended to emulate the background quality of the FM3 Buddha Machine. Like the earlier remix of the track that Lee Rosevere committed, the Antenna Research version, “Buddha On the Radio,” uses the original audio as the sonic foundation, and then creates an additional layer, a bit more foregrounded, that is based on select segments of the source track. The underlying track is given a buzzy, warbling quality thanks to dense analog reverb, and the percussive material lends it a slight pulse. The rhythmic fadeout is especially appealing.

Write Kross and Levenstein of what they’re up to, for those playing along in a home studio:

We’ve taken Marc’s track and loaded it onto two Radio Music modules. One is looping the entire track, and run through an Intellijel Springy reverb module. The other is playing a short section of the track, with the reset being triggered rhythmically by a Korg SQ-1 sequencer. The bass drum is from a Peaks module, synced to the SQ-1 via a Pamela’s Workout clock divider.

Track originally posted for free download at soundcloud.com/antenna_research. More from Kross, aka Hanging Fire, at soundcloud.com/hangingfire and from Levenstein at soundcloud.com/brucelev.

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If You Meet “Six-String Buddha” on the Internet

Remix it

Yesterday I posted a short piece of music that I recorded for this week’s Disquiet Junto project, which involves layering tonal material into a dense, rich whole. Mine, “Six-String Buddha,” made entirely on guitar with live looping, takes the form of a short Buddha Machine loop. Within 24 hours, two musicians I admire had recorded revisions — remixes, reworkings — of my track. It’s one of the great pleasures of life to hear your own work refracted back through someone else’s imagination.

Rupert Lally, whose advice on using volume to reduce the percussive attack when hitting a string, mixed my piece up with his own “Sediment Layers”:

Lally describes his process as follows:

A mashup or “a synthesis” of Marc Weidenbaum’s piece for disquiet 0189 (“Six-String Buddha”)and mine (“Sediment Layers”). Marc’s piece is processed via my modular synth: Make Noise FxdF and RXMX into Mutable Instruments Clouds Parasite and looped once. Some reverb was added in Ableton Live.

Lee Rosevere’s reworking consisted entirely of my piece, repeated to nine times its original length, and then enhanced with segments extracted from the original:

Writes Rosevere of his process:

I edited the original loop just slightly so it had a natural loop point (there was a tiny little click at the original end) and loaded into Ableton Live sampler. I played the original loop with reverb for 9 mins, then went back and played extracts of the loop at different pitches with different fx/eq, and then did it a third time. I had to be careful with the 2nd and 3rd sample passes, as I was trying to add little colours here and there, and not oversaturate the original.

Lally piece originally posted at soundcloud.com/rupertlally. Rosevere piece originally posted at leerosevere.bandcamp.com. The work originated as part of the 189th weekly Disquiet Junto music project.

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“Six-String Buddha”

A looped ambient guitar track I recorded for the 189th weekly Disquiet Junto project

I set out to make my own version of a Buddha Machine loop: a short phrase that loops over and over, yet is “ambient” enough that it can settle into the background. This one-minute track was recorded on my electric guitar, with no effects except for a little delay that’s built into my amplifier. I used the guitar’s volume knob to remove any sense of the attack when I hit the string: I hit the string with the volume at 0, and only then began to turn the knob up slowly to 10. I also nudged the volume control from 10 back down to 0 to accelerate the end of the tone, but sometimes I let it fade out on its own. The whole thing is comprised entirely of single extended notes, probably 20 separate instances in total. I lost count. There is no evidence of the accrual process in this recording. That is, no notes are added as it proceeds. I didn’t hit “record” until the full set was layered and complete, and then I just let it play on repeat. The looper is the introductory-level Ditto from TC Electronics. The amp is a Roland Micro Bass Cube. I used a Zoom H4N to record it, with the mic about a foot from the amp. I edited it in Audacity simply to trim the length and introduce a gentle fade-in and fade-out at the beginning and end. The guitar is a 2005 Fender Stratocaster (made in Corona, California) that I bought for myself last week as a birthday present, after playing ukulele for five years.

Thanks to Disquiet Junto regular Rupert Lally for advice on the volume control, advice that contributed to the development of this project.

This was recorded for the 189th weekly Disquiet Junto project. Though I created the Junto series and moderate the projects each week, this is only, I believe, the second or third project I’ve actually contributed a track to.

More on this 189th Disquiet Junto project (“Create a dense stack of attack-free tonal material from one audio source”) at:

http://disquiet.com/2015/08/13/disquiet0189-tonelayer/

More on the Disquiet Junto at:

http://disquiet.com/junto/

Join the Disquiet Junto at:

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

Disquiet Junto general discussion takes place at:

http://disquiet.com/forums/

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