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: remix

Playing a Tape Cassette by Hand

Listening to a new device, the HC-TT


This little device, called the HC-TT, is a “human controlled tape transport.” It plays standard tape cassettes with no motor, no automation. The only power is a turn of that large knob. The knob moves backward and forward, allowing for gestural effects, as demoed in this Instagram from the account of the manufacturer, the Brooklyn-based Landscape:

A video posted by Landscape (@landscape_hc_tt) on

In this next example, it’s paired with a looping machine, the Elektron Octatrack:

A video posted by Landscape (@landscape_hc_tt) on

There’s a large set of audio examples at Landscape’s SoundCloud account, drawing from flamenco, hip-hop, business self-help, and other sound sources:

The tape cassette has proved to be a useful tool for musicians in recent years to inexpensively release physical documents of their recordings. It’s also prevalent as an instrument, for such things as old-school tape echo and looping, thanks to both reclaimed reel-to-reel systems and cassettes. The HC-TT brings a modern, gadget-maker ingenuity to the medium.

More on the HC-TT at It ships with a power supply and “one randomly selected old cassette tape.”

Also tagged / / Comment: 1 ]

Remixing the Chamber Ambient Music of Christina Vantzou

Steve Hauschildt reworks "Stereoscope"

Christina Vantzou’s first three solo albums of chamber ambient music are numbered, like Led Zeppelin’s before hers. There is Nº1, Nº2, and Nº3, the most recent of which was released late last year. Naturally the collection of remixes is seen as an iteration, not a release unto itself. Its title: 3.5. She’s assembled a great crew to rework the originals, and the first track, Steve Hauschildt’s take on her “Sterepscope,” was posted a few days ago as a promotion. Other participants in 3.5 include Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe (aka Lichens), Loscil, John Also Bennett, Tara Jane O’Neil, the Sight Below, CORIN, and Francesco Donadello. Bennett played all the synthesizers on Nº3, Vantzou told me when I interviewed her last year (“The Bell Jar Filter”). Bennett and Loscil also contributed to the Nº2 Remixes collection, and Loscil was also on the Nº1 Remixes album. If the original “Stereoscope” was quiet and unassuming, with a glitchy undercurrent that suggested rain on a living-room window, then Hauschildt’s rendition is full-on orchestral. (You can stream the original at for comparison.)

Track originally posted at The album will be available as of March 18 at More from Vantzou at

Also tagged , / / Leave a comment ]

Disquiet Junto Project 0207: Remixing Marilli

Rework source audio from Michel Banabila's 1983 album, Marilli.


Each Thursday in the Disquiet Junto group on and at, 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.

Tracks will be added to this playlist for the duration of the project:

This project was posted in the early afternoon, California time, on Thursday, December 17, 2015, with a deadline of 11:59pm wherever you are on Monday, December 21, 2015.

These are the instructions that went out to the group’s email list (at

Disquiet Junto Project 0207: Remixing Marilli
Rework source audio from Michel Banabila’s 1983 album, Marilli.

Step 1: Michel Banabila, the Dutch musician, this past week released a freely downloadable album of reworkings of his 1983 album, Marilli. (Full disclosure: I contributed a track to the remix collection.) He’s provided three brief samples from the album for the Junto to remix. The first step is to download the three samples from the Dropbox folder at this link:

Step 2: Create a new track using only those three samples.

Step 3: Upload your completed track from Step 2 to the Disquiet Junto group on SoundCloud.

Step 4: Then listen to and comment on tracks uploaded by your fellow Disquiet Junto participants.

Deadline: This project was posted in the early afternoon, California time, on Thursday, December 17, 2015, with a deadline of 11:59pm wherever you are on Monday, December 21, 2015.

Length: The length is up to you, though between one and three minutes seems appropriate.

Upload: Please when posting your track on SoundCloud, only upload one track for this project, and be sure to 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. Photos, video, and lists of equipment are always appreciated.

Title/Tag: When adding your track to the Disquiet Junto group on, please in the title to your track include the term “disquiet0207-remixingmarilli.” Also use “disquiet0207-remixingmarilli” as a tag for your track.

Download: Having provided the samples, Banabila has asked that you assign a Creative Commons license allowing for downloads but not for subsequent reworkings or commercial use.

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

More on this 207th weekly Disquiet Junto project (“Rework source audio from Michel Banabila’s 1983 album, Marilli”) at:

The audio was sourced from the 1983 album Marilli by the album’s composer, Michel Banabila. This project marks the release of the 2015 album Marilli Remixed:

More on the Disquiet Junto at:

Join the Disquiet Junto at:

Subscribe to project announcements here:

Disquiet Junto general discussion takes place at:

Also tagged , , / / Comments: 2 ]

Remixing Michel Banabila’s Marilli (1983)

Along with 19 other people

I was asked by Michel Banabila to contribute a remix to Marilli Remixed, a collection of reworkings of tracks from his very first album, Marilli, released in 1983. I selected the fourth track on the first side of the LP.

The original was elegant, but had percussion throughout. I wanted the ambient quality more formalized, and the percussion a little more muted and arhythmic.

The full list of contributors to Marilli Remixed is: Andrés G. Jankowski, Andrew Lagowski, Arno Peeters, Bogumil Misala, Mike Kramer, Hanyo van Oosterom, Hero Wouters, Jos Smolders, Koos Derwort, Rutger Zuydervelt (Machinefabriek), Marc Weidenbaum, Martin Hoogeboom, Naoyuki Sasanami, Peter Van Cooten, Frans de Waard (QST), Radboud Mens, Roel Meelkop, Theo Calis, Wouter Veldhuis, and Lukasz Szalankiewicz. The full album is available for download at

. . .

Here are some notes on my remix. I’ll note in advance, they’re fairly technical, as a notebook entry on what went into this, and what I learned in the process.

I used the my modular synthesizer (mostly filters, and a little triggered live sampler), the software Audacity (to sequence it, and also for some effects), and my Monome (running the mlr patch in the software Max).

First I stretched a relatively percussion-less segment of the original track to get an ambient bed, yielding in the end something about 30 seconds long. I set it to run eight times in a row, overlapping to varying degrees at each repeat.

Then I extracted a small percussion loop from the original. I did a “live performance” of that percussion loop with the Monome (four simultaneous tracks: one straight through, two running tighter sub-loops against each other a little quieter, and one in reverse even quieter still, though it’s also the last bit to fade out of that sequence, so it has a little moment in the sun). The loop ran a little slower than the original, and I used a small Novation Launch Control to manage the relative volume of the four tracks within mlr.

And then I used my modular synthesizer to create variations on the ambient bed, which I layered in at various stages.

In the end I had eight tracks in Audacity:

The 1st and 3rd tracks are the eight sequential repeats of the ambient sound bed, each intersection overlapping to varying degrees.

The 2nd track is a filtered version of the ambient bed, which has a slow LFO on it (giving it a light Laurie Anderson–ish “ha ha ha” feel) and some echo. This was done on the modular using a filter (either the A-121 or the A-136 or the Z2040 — my notes are unclear — influenced by a digital LFO, the Hikari Sine, and then run through an Eko module).

The 4th is the “live performance” on the Monome of the percussion loop, running mlr. It has four tracks of the loop doing different things. I used a Novation Launch Control to balance the volume of those four tracks.

The 5th is a copy of the ambient sound bed, pitched lower for the full length of the loop. This gives it that deep vibe for the penultimate repeat of the ambient bed. In track 1 at that same stage the volume of the original ambient bed is a little quieter, to let the deep version sound even louder than it is, in relative terms.

The 6th track is a copy of the ambient bed but pitched higher, and I just use it for a very short moment, a final peak before the track fades out.

And the 7th and 8th are two different instances of the same tweak of the ambient bed, which I did in the modular using a Harvestman Polivoks. It’s a tingling, slightly irritating sound, a momentary breach in the ambience.

The whole idea is it opens with this expanse, and then goes to something a little tribal, and then returns to the expanse. I’ll be honest about my influences here. The ambient bed is striving toward Brian Eno’s Thursday Afternoon, and the rhythmic part has Peter Gabriel’s soundtrack to The Last Temptation of Christ in mind. The first appearance of the Polivoks “irritant” is then repeated toward the end to provide a sense of reflection on where the piece started, but in between is that percussion performance. The deep vibe in track 5 gives an orchestral sense of closure, and the peak in track 6 is little filigree, like the clouds breaking, before it all ends.

At least that’s where I ended up. It wasn’t where I started. When I started, it was all gonna be about this firecracker/rattle sound in the original, but in the end I went a totally different direction.

Again, the full album is available for download at More from Banabila at and

Also tagged / / Comment: 1 ]

The Bell Jar Filter

Talking with Christina Vantzou about graphic scores, structuring improvisation, and the compositional facets of post-production

Vantzou (standing) in a performance at M-Museum in Belgium with a six-piece cello ensemble

Vantzou (standing) in a performance at M-Museum in Belgium with a six-piece cello ensemble

Christina Vantzou makes a dense, rich music that brings old-world classical textures into a contemporary electronic realm — and vice versa. She directs her own videos, drawing not only on the slow-motion aesthetic that guides her music, but also on the training she received as an art student in Baltimore, Maryland. Video is what brought her into music in the first place. She collaborated with, among others, Adam Wiltzie, of Stars of the Lid, and their work together culminated in recordings under the name the Dead Texan.

Having lived in Brussels, Belgium, for over a decade, Vantzou has released a trio of solo albums whose evocative stasis never fully hides the sense of sheer effort that is required for her to consistently achieve this level of concerted, sublime quietude. This interview was timed to coincide with the release of her latest full-length record, Nº3 (Kranky). She agreed to be interviewed, and after some phone calls we did this via email as a back-and-forth. What follows is a lightly edited transcript of that discussion, in which she details her compositional process, describes how she interacts with chamber ensembles by utilizing graphic scores, and reveals that the sound she most wants to achieve may be that of an orchestra performing inside a giant bell jar. Her use of graphic scores and mid-performance flash cards bring to mind the experiments of Frank Zappa and, later, John Zorn. For one track on the new record the “score,” as she describes it, was a prepared recording that musicians listened to on headphones and responded to in real time. We discussed her website, which she launched to explore common ground between visual artists and musicians, including John Also Bennett, Peter Broderick, and Julia Kent.

Interspersed throughout are photos shared by Vantzou that depict her visual scores and her live interaction with musicians. Also below are two videos from the album, both of which she directed. (And full disclosure: Vantzou contributed a score to a museum installation, “Sonic Frame,” that I developed for the 45th anniversary of the San Jose Museum of Art based on a video by artist Josh Azzarella.)

Vantzou makes music that doesn’t so much blur the lines between what is broadly considered “classical” and “electronic,” as it is that she lets the two conceptions overlap until wonderful moiré patterns result from where they do and don’t inherently align.

Marc Weidenbaum: Just to start with, what brought you to Brussels?

Christina Vantzou: I was passing through. I was on my way to Greece. I’m half Greek, so I would travel to Greece a lot, and I had a plane flight that was rerouted through Brussels. So, I had an unexpected stop in Brussels, and I liked it and decided to stay. Well, I did go to Greece, but I ended up moving to Brussels not long after that. It was all these unexpected circumstances that introduced me to Brussels. I’ve been there since 2004. When I moved to Brussels I spoke the kind of French that you learn when you learn French in American schools, so very little, but I did take French classes in elementary school and high school.

Weidenbaum: That’s around when the Dead Texan work came out.

Vantzou: Yeah, the Dead Texan work started in transition from when I was living in Baltimore. I remember starting there and then continuing in Brussels. I was working on that for a couple years — 2003, 2004 — and then focused on touring with the Dead Texan the next few years.

Weidenbaum: Please say a little about your art-school education.

Vantzou: I went to MICA, the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore. They had a general fine art degree, which is common now in art schools, but it was not so common at the time. It was the “newest” major in a lot of art schools. You could shift around to different departments. It got made fun of within the school at that time. While now interdisciplinary work is really well accepted, at the time I remember the general fine art department — which was called “GFA” for short — was referred to as “generally fucking around.” [Laughs.] I got into art school after I got a full scholarship based on a very strong ceramics portfolio. [Laughs.] I was doing a lot of ceramics but I thought I would be a painting major. And then after my first foundation year I decided I wanted to do GFA as a major where I ended up doing mostly photography at first, black-and-white and color, and then slowly I started focusing more and more on video. My last two years I took mostly all video and animation courses. I took a sound class and learned Pro Tools, which I still use today. I think on my degree it says “general fine arts major with an emphasis on video.”

Weidenbaum: Were there instructors there who were especially instrumental in honing your sense of what you wanted to do?

Vantzou: Yeah. There were two or three people in particular who were influential in their open-minded approach to being practicing artists in the world. I remember there was one teacher in particular. We spent a lot of the class time just watching music documentaries. We watched the Maysles Brothers’ Gimme Shelter, Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, Don’t Look Back, about Bob Dylan, and on and on. Anyone could recommend one; we’d watch it. I got really interested in this genre and even thought, as a video artist at the time, that I would work in this field. I was really inspired by cinéma vérité and the artists making these documentaries. That particular class had a number of individuals in it who have become successful visual artists. I think the teacher inspired a lot of us. His name was Jeremy Sigler, and his class was called “Parapainting.” We also had to form bands as part of the class and each band played a show at the end of the semester. Read more »

Also tagged , / / Leave a comment ]