In Brief: Great interview with Steve Roden at acloserlisten.com, and there remains a full second part, due in a week. ¶ Some albums keep on growing, even after their initial release. 3m33s, organized by Montreal-based Le Berger, contains 33 drones, each three seconds over three and a half minutes in length, and each by a different participant (among them Grzegorz Bojanek, Scott Lawlor, Cinchel, Nils Quak, Matthew Barlow, Guy Birkin, Katie Gately, Ted James, subnaught, and the OO-Ray). Purchase a copy and you will also get any additional tracks that are produced: leberger.bandcamp.com. The music is excellent (it streams in full below), but that aside, the model is worth emulating.
¶ Lasers made from sound (wired.com), and resulting discussion whether phonic-based lasers are “phasers.” ¶ New book from Carsten Nicolai (aka Alva Noto), syn chron, “brings art, architecture, and music together in one inventive project” (gestalten.com). Sample image:
¶ Deaf Gaming: Interesting anecdote from a recent gamasutra.com piece on the late video game creator Kenji Eno, written by Brandon Sheffield. The “Eno” in this is, of course, Kenji (not Brian), and the Saturn is the Sega game console from the mid-1990s:
“For his next game, Sega wanted to make it an exclusive — whatever it was. Eno had recently met with some sight-impaired folks who liked to play action games, and he asked himself, “What if you made a game that the blind and the sighted could play equally?” So he created the game Real Sound, which is an audio-only retail game, and made Sega promise that if he made the game exclusive to them, they would donate 1,000 Saturns to blind people, and he would supply 1,000 copies of the game. Again, this was an unusual idea for 1996, but he felt the stagnancy of the industry, and went to great lengths to shake it up.”
Surround Sound: The Tank is a 60’ x 30′ vessel — a “rusted steel water tank” in the words of its caretaker, Bruce Odland, who has made use of its inherent 40-second reverb since 1976. He’s set up a kickstarter.com campaign to ensure its future use:
The campaign ends March 31, 2013. More on the project at kickstarter.com. (Thanks for the tip go to Joshua Izenberg, whose filmSlomo just won the Documentary Short prize among the Short Film Jury Awards at the 2013 SXSW festival. Jeremiah Moore, the sound designer on Slomo, is apparently also involved in this Tank project.)
¶ Electretymologies: There’s a hair’s-breadth matter of word choice in today’s “playlist” by Jon Pareles in the New York Times. In a single column he reviews six records. For Suuns’ Images du Futur he mentions “the repeating synthesizer tones of early electro.” For How to Destroy Angels’ Welcome Oblivion he mentions both “dank electronic sounds” and how “the electronics mostly give way to the acoustic.” And for Draco Rosa’s Vida he mentions “dipping into new wave, Caribbean styles, electronica and, at the end, hard-rock blasts.” The emphasis is mine. Those are four distinct terms, all variations on a core root prefix, all used in close proximity: electro, electronic, electronics, and electronica.
¶ Twang Bar Theory: This is pretty great. Over at youtube.com, Adrian Belew (King Crimson, Talking Heads, Nine Inch Nails) as part of the Chicago Humanities Festival back in 2011, discussing the “history and future of guitar noise”:
¶ Docusound Platform: Promotional video for the site docusound.org, “a platform for producing and distributing audio documentaries”:
¶ Sonifying Auckland: Sound designer Tim Prebble, along with filmmaker Denise Batchelor, is a 2013 artist in residence of the Auckland regional parks system. Details at scoop.co.nz. Here is description from the announcement: “He’ll record local native birdcalls, slow the recordings to allow notation and then ‘play with this as the DNA of music’, embellishing and orchestrating it. On completion, his music will be played at a local venue and a CD, tentatively called The Bird Song Preludes, will be available after his residency.” More from Prebble at musicofsound.co.nz.
¶ Celluloid Heroes: The first of two parts of a documentary about Celluloid Records, over at youtube.com, featuring among others Bill Laswell, DXT (formerly Grand Mixer DST), and label founder Jean Karakos:
¶ Re-scanning: Great interview at thequietus.com with Scanner, aka Robin Rimbaud, about his range of activities. He goes project by project, talking about his early work with the technology from which he took his name (“The scanner was connected directly into a tape deck the whole time. This was ’91, ’92, this was anticipating an idea of the internet, there was no access to this kind of networked world that we’re so comfortable with today. These voices and accessing them suddenly took you into a very private place that you could never otherwise be in.”), collaborating with filmmaker Derek Jarman and artist Mike Kelley, and “re-soundtrack[ing]” the final two minutes of Michelangelo Antonioni’s L’eclisse, and much more.
¶ In Brief: There’s a 30-part audio documentary titled Noise: A Human History being presented starting tomorrow, March 18, on BBC 4 by David Hendy of the School of Media, Film and Music at the University of Sussex: bbc.co.uk (via bl.uk). ¶ The palmsounds.net provides a brief overview of a talk Rob Thomas (of Reality Jockey) gave in London about mobile music. ¶ In the Field: The Art of Field Recording is a new book containing interviews with artists whose work employs field recordings. Among those are Andrea Polli, Christina Kubisch, Francisco López, Hildegard Westerkamp, Jez Riley French, and Lasse-Marc Riek. (Thanks for the tip, John Kannenberg.) ¶ “Why Do People Use ‘Nope’ Even Though ‘No’ Is Shorter?” (at slate.com, via Quora). The short version is that “no” may have half as many letters but the hard stop at the end of “nope” arguably makes it more succinct. The author, Marc Ettlinger, has other theories as well, including an informative bit on “sound symbolism.” ¶ Robert Henke, aka Monolake, is coming to the San Francisco Bay Area as a visiting instructor at CCRMA, the computer music department at Stanford University. In a warm-welcome gesture, the department made the page announcing his course look just like a page from Henke’s own monolake.de website. ¶ That White House petition to make unlocking cellphones legal, mentioned here recently, has gained President Obama’s support. ¶ The 62nd Disquiet Junto project had 44 participants, each making music from three sine waves. ¶ Here’s a recording of Steve Reich’s “Radio Rewrite,” his new adaptation of Radiohead’s “Jigsaw Falling Into Place” and “Everything in Its Right Place”: youtube.com. (Note, it’s audio only. Found via the indispensable rgable.typepad.com.)
The great resonancefm.com podcast has posted “Rarely Heard Music by Dieter Roth,” the avant-garde art figure, as part of its ongoing Wavelength series. It features rambling, chaotic mixes of everyday noise like shuffled paper and dog barks and more familiar musical elements, like guitar strumming (MP3). There’s also some biographical material, excerpted from the book Dieter Roth, Books and Multiples (Hansjörg Mayer), including the first-hand experience of a collaborator about Roth’s early, instinctual use of a multitrack personal recorder.
Asked about a perceived “thickness” to the soundtrack of his film Eraserhead, the director David Lynch responded to his interviewer, Chris Rodley, as follows: “I’m real fascinated by presences — what you call ‘room tone.’ It’s the sound that you hear when there’s silence, in between words or sentences. It’s a tricky thing, because in this seemingly kind of quiet sound, some feelings can be brought in, and a certain kind of picture of a bigger world can be made. And all those things are important to make that world.”
The New Zealand–based sound artist Jo Burzynska explores the nature of room tone by taking the sounds inherent in the room and playing them back in the room, listening to how the space responds to its own space-ness, how an echo echoes. She recognizes the perceived silence as a misperception, and the result of her efforts is a kind of feedback loop, a sonic tesseract. Under the name Stanier Black-Five, she performed this investigation of space at Silo 6, a highly reverberant location, pictured above, in Auckland as part of the Audio Foundation’s Now! Here! Festival back in December of last year. The excellent Touch Radio series has now posted it online. “All the reverb is natural. No effects were used,” reads an accompanying note (MP3). This is the sound of silence daring the listener to call it silence.
Track originally posted for free download at touchradio.org.uk. The audio was recorded by David Hornblow, the live sound was overseen by Shaun Collins, and Malcolm Riddoch was responsible for the mastering. More from Burzynska at her stanierblackfive.com website. Above photo by David Cowlard. The David Lynch quote is from the book Lynch on Lynch, published by Faber and Faber.
¶ Buchla Doc: Director Connie Field has launched a Kickstarter for a documentary on Don Buchla, a legendary figure in the development of the music synthesizer. Her colleague on the prospective documentary is editor Gregory Scharpen, who records as Thomas Carnacki.
¶ Designing Sound: Over at domusweb.it, Maria Cristina Didero talks with Domitilla Dardi, who along with Elisabetta Pisu curated “Disegnare Oggetti Sonori,” which translates “Designing Sound Objects,” an exhibit presented by Fondazione Musica per Roma and the IMF Foundation about the intersection of sound and design. Parallel to it was a Anna Cestelli Guidi–curated show by Zimoun.
Q: Can sound also be design? If so, how?
A: Sound is designed by sound designers but is also a phenomenon that guides many designers’ thinking. In the exhibition we have set up three approaches to sound design: that of Listening, through means conceived to transmit sound in absolute purity; Music, with instruments chosen for their experimentation with new ways of playing based on ergonomics, gestures and entertainment; and Sound Objects, everyday objects that associate a practical-utilitarian function, like an alert, background, or inspiration from the world of music.
This, part of the exhibit, is Leslie Borg* and **Anita Silva’s sensorial headphones, called “_scape” (2012):
¶ Birds of War: One of the tensions peculiar to reading about animal science is the underlying sense that the research, based in the field and enacted by individuals who generally appear to have a deep affection for their subject, is in fact at some level, perhaps discreet or perhaps quite obviously, funded by the military — that the study of life is, in fact, the study of death. This is, at a psychic level, something out of a story by Richard Powers (think of the corporate operations of Gain, or the computer science of Plowing the Dark). This sense permeates “The Owl Comes into Its Own”, a story by Natalie Angier in Monday’s edition of the New York Times. There’s much in the piece about the natural engineering of the owl’s wings, and what aeronautics can learn from them: “Researchers have traced that silent flight to several features. The bulk of the wing is broad and curved — the ideal shape for slow gliding — and is abundantly veined with velvety down plumage to help absorb sound.”
There’s also a fascinating moment when Angier plays an owl call from her phone and the owls respond: “I played the call again, the male grew bored, and I was about to put the phone away when suddenly the female — the larger of the two owls, as female birds of prey often are — pitched her body forward on her perch, lifted up her heavy, magnificent wings and belted out a full-throated retort to my recorded call.”
¶ In Brief: The entire score to Stoker, from director Park Chan-wook (Oldboy, Thirst), is streaming for free at blackbookmag.com. Get the full track listing at soundtracksonvinyl.com. The score is by the great Clint Mansell, best known for his work with Darren Aronofsky. The stream includes a new piano duet by Philip Glass, among a few other non-Mansell pieces. ¶ This weekend there are two streaming Autechre events in advance of the release, next week, of the duo’s Exai album. More info at mixlr.com. ¶ Just noticed that the productivity website 43folders.com has an Oblique Strategy in its footer. The current one reads “Honor thy error as a hidden intention” but they may rotate. Brian Eno as the new Stephen R. Covey. ¶ The 60th Disquiet Junto project closed this past Monday at 11:59pm, and we ended up just shy of 55 tracks; each features a different member of the Junto talking about his or her work. This Junto project was part of a larger SoundCloud audiobio project, more on which at blog.soundcloud.com. If you participate at SoundCloud, I strongly encourage you to join in the project. ¶ Impressively thorough overview of the score to Portal 2, the video game, at reddit.com. Also includes this solid response by the author to a snide commenter: “I understand, and am flattered when others choose to read this, I understand when others don’t. What I don’t understand is others taking time to tell me that they didn’t.” (Via twitter.com/dpnem.) ¶ Carl Stone links to Phnom Penh field recording he employs in his work: soundcloud.com/larbneur. File under “Cambodian Aerobics.” ¶ Via the increasingly excellent io9.com, “Yes, you can actually hear microwave pulses.”
Spring 2013: The Disquiet Junto is assisting Geoff Manaugh in a course he is teaching at Columbia University's GSAPP, "San Andreas: Architecture for the Fault." Details at bldgblog.blogspot.com.
February 26: I'm giving a three-hour guest lecture about listening to a class on writing for radio productions at the Academy of Art in San Francisco.
May 15, 2013: Last day of 15-week course I'm teaching about sound in the media landscape at the Academy of Art in San Francisco, California.
Ongoing: In January 2013 I became part of the SoundCloud Heroes project, more on which in the near future. In the short term, full disclosure, I was gifted the top-level account, Pro Plus. Initial post here: "What I'm Up To."
Ongoing: The film The Children Next Door (2012), on which I served as music supervisor and collaborated with Taylor Deupree on sound design, is currently touring festivals. It won a special jury prize at DOC NYC and has also played at the Denver and Hamptons festivals. Directed by Doug Block, produced by Lynda A. Hansen. More at thechildrennextdoor.com.
Down the Pike: Concerts in the Disquiet Junto series are in various stages of planning for London, England; Portland, Oregon; and elsewhere.