Generative Kirschner Piece

Kenneth Kirschner is a New York-based composer whose format of choice is not 12-tone, nor drum’n’bass, nor electroacoustic, but Flash. That’s Flash, as in Macromedia Flash, the pervasive multimedia software platform that powers countless websites. Kirschner composes in layers. He sets up batches of MP3 segments, groups of sounds that complement each other. He crafts those sounds himself, and then lets them float in a Flash system, a program that allows the MP3s to run atop one another, starting at random intervals, each item preset to fade in and out. Because of the randomness, each time you play (perhaps “run” is the correct word) one of his constructions, it’s different. Kirschner has hosted a few of these generative compositions, amid more traditional, static MP3s, on his website,, and there’s a new one up. Like all his previous work, the new piece takes a date as its title, in this case “January 15, 2005.”

The music is soft and steady, extended periods of light buzz and the occasional glittering field; sometimes like tones match up, but there are also moments of silence, and others when sounds are coming up and going away simultaneously. Unlike with some of his earlier pieces, none of the sounds are familiar; they’re all drones, not representational, not sampled from a recognizable source. A lot of quiet music seems limitless, but in form and function that description is a matter of fact in Kirschner’s work. You also can dig beneath the hood if you’d like, and check out the 14 individual component MP3s of “January 15, 2005” (link), which are elegant in their own right. The Flash programming is by Craig Swann, Kirschner’s collaborator.

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