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Listening to art.
Playing with audio.
Sounding out technology.
Composing in code.

tag: video

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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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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The World-Weary Robots of Wouter van Veldhoven

Something akin to a team-up between Pierre Bastien and Nam June Paik

Before hitting play, consider expanding this video to full-screen, and turning off your lights, and wearing headphones, and maybe even dimming the screen a bit. For 10 minutes, immerse yourself in this compound-like studio installation of Wouter van Veldhoven. The performance is titled “automated reed organ, old televisions, radios and other machines,” which is helpful, because otherwise we’d very much be in the dark, quite literally, about what’s going on. Lights swell and recede, giving snapshot glimpses of equipment, notably a wide array of old reel-to-reel tape recorder-players, and cathode-ray TVs tuned to no channel in particular. The pacing and the clack of the momentary illumination suggests a slide projector is in effect. The “automated” aspect of the title gives some sense of what’s going on, that the machines are being triggered in various ways that treats them more like samples in physical form than as musical interfaces, and the line items of equipment explain what’s being triggered. The result is something akin to a team-up between Pierre Bastien (robotic derivations of old-world instrumentation, notably that sad-sack reed organ) and Nam June Paik (Cold War–era media art). It’s a tremendous piece, bringing to mind steampunk aesthetics, but exploring them without the emphasis on fashion filigree. There’s little here that doesn’t need to be here. There’s no visual artifice added to the tape machines or the TV, for example. They’ve just been jacked into a hand-made system that produces archaic, romantic music. Part of the romance relates to van Veldhoven’s presence. He’s seen coming in and out of view, apparently tweaking the apparatuses, like a custodian from a Hayao Miyazaki movie who is charged with the constant maintenance of some fragile, failing infrastructure.

Video originally posted at the YouTube channel of Wouter van Veldhoven, who is based in Utrecht. More from him at and

It’s the latest piece I’ve added to my ongoing YouTube playlist of fine “Ambient Performances.”

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Disquiet Junto Project 0243: Synth Trial

The Assignment: Share the best track from your audition tape for Blade Runner 2.


Each Thursday in the Disquiet Junto group, 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. A SoundCloud account is helpful but not required. There’s no pressure to do every project. It’s weekly so that you know it’s there, every Thursday through Monday, when you have the time.

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

This project was posted in the morning, California time, on Thursday, August 25, 2016, with a deadline of 11:59pm wherever you are on Monday, August 29, 2016.

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

Disquiet Junto Project 0243: Synth Trial
The Assignment: Share the best track from your audition tape for Blade Runner 2.

Please pay particular attention to all the instructions below, in light of SoundCloud having closed down its Groups functionality.

Big picture: One thing arising from the end of the Groups functionality is a broad goal, in which an account on SoundCloud is not necessary for Disquiet Junto project participation. We’ll continue to use SoundCloud, but it isn’t required to use SoundCloud. The aspiration is for the Junto to become “platform-agnostic,” which is why using a message forum, such as, as a central place for each project may work well.

And now, on to this week’s project.

Project Steps:

Step 1: As you now know, Jóhann Jóhannsson was selected to score Blade Runner 2. The news means, among other things, that you didn’t get the gig. Please reconcile yourself with this.

Step 2: Please share your favorite track from the audition tape you sent to Ridley Scott.

Five More Important Steps When Your Track Is Done:

Step 1: Per the instructions below, be sure to include the project tag “disquiet0243” (no spaces) in the name of your track. If you’re posting on SoundCloud in particular, this is essential to my locating the tracks and creating a playlist of them.

Step 2: Upload your track. It is helpful but not essential that you use SoundCloud to host your track.

Step 3: This is a fairly new step, if you’ve done a Junto project previously. In the following discussion thread at post your track:

Step 4: Annotate your track with a brief explanation of your approach and process.

Step 5: Then listen to and comment on tracks uploaded by your fellow Disquiet Junto participants.

This project was posted in the morning, California time, on Thursday, August 25, 2016, with a deadline of 11:59pm wherever you are on Monday, August 29, 2016.

Length: The length is up to you. Three minutes seems like a good maximum.

Title/Tag: When posting your track, please include “disquiet0243” in the title of the track, and where applicable (on SoundCloud, for example) as a tag.

Upload: When participating in this project, post one finished track with the project tag, 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.

Download: It is preferable that your track is set as downloadable, and that it allows for attributed remixing (i.e., a Creative Commons license permitting non-commercial sharing with attribution).

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

More on this 243rd weekly Disquiet Junto project — “Share the best track from your audition tape for Blade Runner 2” — at:

More on the Disquiet Junto at:

Subscribe to project announcements here:

Project discussion takes place on

There’s also on a Junto Slack. Send your email address to for Slack inclusion.

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