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: video

Watching Lee Ranaldo Loop Live

(And reverse-engineering YouTube music tutorials)

This video shows Lee Ranaldo, of the late Sonic Youth, earlier this year performing a short, two-minute improvisation for looping pedals. It’s a test run of a piece of equipment, a hardware looper made by the company TC Electronic, and I was watching it to consider including the clip in the video playlist of ambient performances I started yesterday. The playlist grew out of my increasing attention to YouTube videos over the past year or so. That attention coincided with my getting into making music, into learning more about the tools and techniques employed by the musicians I write about and increasingly, through the Junto and my projects as a music supervisor, work with.

I spend a lot of time watching video tutorials. Often the music in these tutorials — for hardware and software — isn’t necessarily bad, but it isn’t remotely what I’m interested in myself trying to play. Given much the equipment I’ve been exploring (the OP-1, a small DJ console, a Monome, and a modular synthesizer rig, for example), it’s often glossy EDM or strict-meter techno that I find myself required to listen to while learning what a given knob on a piece of equipment does. Guitar pedal videos in particular are given over to arpeggio-crazed pop-metal and roots rock. (I have the lowest-cost version of the looper Ranaldo is testing in the video.) Occasionally, though, you’ll find someone like Ranaldo, an outsider to rote pop techniques, in the YouTube feed.

The “ambient performances” playlist began as me working backwards — rather than locating ethereal/ambient/experimental videos in the channels of equipment companies, I would instead look at live performance videos of ethereal/ambient/experimental musicians and pay attention to what equipment they’re using (often enough the comments to a given video will surface such factoids — the Ranaldo video comments, for example, unpack other equipment at his feet). I’m not sure the Ranaldo clip will make the Ambient Performances playlist, as it gets a little raucous toward the end, but no matter. It’s enticing to watch him develop the piece one layer at a time.

Video originally posted at youtube.com. More from Ranaldo at leeranaldo.com, twitter.com/leeranaldo, and instagram.com/leeranaldo.

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A YouTube Playlist of Ambient Performances

Starting off with Andreas Tilliander, Christina Vantzou, Ryuicki Sakamoto, Nils Frahm (as a member of Nonkeen), Jon Hassell, and others

This “Ambient Performances” set is a playlist-in-progress of live performance videos on YouTube of ambient music by a wide variety of musicians using a wide variety of equipment.

Rule #1: I’m only including recordings I’d listen to without video.

Rule #2: I’m only including recordings where the video gives some sense of a correlation between what the musician is doing and what the listener is hearing.

Rule #3: By and large, the new additions to the playlist will simply be, reverse-chronologically, the most recent tracks added, but I’ll be careful to front-load a few choice items at the beginning.

YouTube proved frustrating the past day. I tried again and again to paste the URL for the “Ambient Performances” playlist into Twitter, and every time I did it broke. That is, the link in the resulting tweet wouldn’t work. Eventually a Twitter-friend suggested I share Twitter’s own shorthand URL, so if you’re interested in sharing the list, try this: bit.ly/1rHFC9l.

As a side note, for reasons I don’t fully comprehend, I have two different URLs for the same account. Perhaps it’s early-adopter blues:

youtube.com/user/mwd1
youtube.com/c/MarcWeidenbaum

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The Blur of Music Discovery

And the video work of the third act on a Calgary synthesizer bill

I’ve written a bit about my confusion regarding the continued fortitude of the word “discovery” as it relates to automated, generally algorithm-derived music recommendations on streaming services. My sense is that the primary beneficiary of “discovery” is less the individuals that hear the music than the companies vying for those individuals’ attention, and not so much for their attention as, far more neutrally, their presence on the given service. There’s a difference between attention and competitive benefit. Apple Music doesn’t really care much if you’re really listening closely; it just cares that you’re using Apple Music and not using Spotify or Deezer or Google Play Music or another service.

There’s a long-running quip about how “writing about music is like dancing about architecture,” but in fact writing about music is, as it relates to many people’s listening habits, more like writing about wallpaper, or writing about perfume, or writing about lighting, or writing about something else that describes a largely inattentive, passive presence in one’s life, something more akin to casual cultural affinity than to strong feelings, let alone to matters of art.

In any case, this comes to mind because yesterday I wrote about Dominions, the phenomenal new album of synthesis by Sarah Davachi, and the day prior I wrote about “Loop1,” a track of restrained drones by Valiska (aka Krzysztof Sujata). What I didn’t realize until after I posted the Davachi write-up is that Davachi and Valiska know each other — and in fact are playing a concert together on May 5 at a place called Good Luck Bar in Calgary, Canada. Now, I know for a fact that the Davachi has been in my to-write-about bookmark folder for awhile, so it wasn’t simply a matter of having written about “Loop1” by Valiska, I then happened upon Davachi. And I’ve written about Valiksa, a longtime Junto participant, at least as long ago as 2012, so neither was it a matter of my Davachi listening having introduced me to him. In any case, I have no idea how this coincidence occurred, but the blur gets, innocently, at the myriad ways that musicians connect with each other and with audiences, leading to awareness that can be difficult to trace back, even if your browser’s cache and history remain intact. The pair’s music has little in common, and yet there is this association.

Perhaps the two posts in a row simply is a coincidence, but today’s post isn’t. When I mentioned the pairing on Twitter I got a reply from the third act on the Good Luck Bar bill, a duo called SH-2000, which consists of Barnaby Bennett and Patrick Whitten. It was Bennet who wrote to me (“maybe you can write about us in SH-2000 to round out the bill coverage? ;)”). They have a recent album out, Shhh (2015) that’s available for stream and purchase. Be sure, as well, to check out this video, titled “Oblique Quantumization,” by Bennett (and M. Geddes Gengras). It randomly plays through a variety of brief combinations of blippy synthesis and test-pattern visuals. The combination is quite hallucinogenic, at times disturbing, in a Saturday-morning pre-cartoon surveillance-state sort of way, and at other times quite elegant and entrancing:

More on the video at barnabybennett.snack.ws. More from Bennett at soundcloud.com/barnaby-bennett.

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Maria Chavez’s Turntables in Houson

At the Contemporary Arts Museum

The talented avant-turntablist Maria Chavez performed recently at the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, which has uploaded a nearly seven-minute video of her playing. She has a one-turntable setup, in which she samples the records — 7″s and 12″s, one of the latter beautifully transparent — in realtime and layers and mixes the material as she proceeds, with an emphasis on broken beats and surface noise. Video posted at the museum’s youtube.com channel. It was recorded on March 17, 2016. Chavez is from Houston originally, having been born in Lima, Peru, and now lives in New York City. More from her at soundcloud.com/maria-chavez, mariachavez.org, twitter.com/chavezsayz, and instagram.com/chavezsayz.

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DJ Krush at Dawn

A live performance at the Zōjō-ji​ Temple in his native Tokyo, Japan

This short performance video captures DJ Krush doing a solo turntable-and-laptop set at the site of the Zōjō-ji​ Temple in his native Tokyo, Japan. The footage captures not just the turntablism itself, but Krush walking to the temple and setting up his equipment. As the sun slowly rises, the seeming black and white of the setting lets in hints of blue and Krush’s music gains depth and complexity. Fittingly his raw audio includes wooden flutes, finding a commonality with the ancient traditions of the venue. Simple beats are layered amid echoing effects. As a sonic artifact, the video documents not just the sound of his performance but the sound of his preparation: cables being snapped into place, equipment being arranged. The multi-camera shoot moves easily back and forth between framing Krush’s stage setup and providing extended glimpses of his fingers in action. Later, in the open-air setting, bird calls provide an uncanny parallel to Krush’s own vinyl manipulation.

Video originally posted at youtube.com. More on the set at thump.vice.com. The video was directed by Toshihiko Morosawa. More from Krush at sus81.jp/djkrush.

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