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

Kitundu’s Laptop

A recent performance by Kronos Quartet played a central role in a story I published last week, at newmusicbox.org, on the history of “laptop music.” Three laptops were involved in the performance: one played by a member of Matmos in that duo’s piece with Kronos at the end of the second set; one employed by Kronos’ sound engineer/designer, Scott Fraser; and one by Walter Kitundu, the composer and instrument maker who performed with Kronos at the end of the first set.

In the article, I noted: “if Matmos’s use of the laptop best epitomized the aural fact of laptop music, Kitundu’s came closer to an audience’s experience of laptop music: you had no idea what he doing.”

Well, to help clarify things significantly, Kitundu sent me an informative email this evening, and he gave me permission to post it here:

“Just thought I’d demystify my laptop’s role during the Kronos piece at YBCA. I was using software that allowed me to play MP3s with a record on my Phonokora. The digital files were often versions of Kronos’ interpretations of Mingus collages that I’d assembled with turntables. They learned these elements and recorded them using their traditional instruments, and I reused them via the turntable to create some of the atmospheric sound of the piece, and to respond to what they played live during certain sections of the composition. (Mingus 3 or 4 times removed.) The Phonokora now has a USB crossfader… I was interested in mixing the old with the new, strings and bytes, naural/digital — seeing how refiltering ideas repeatedly via the process would affect the outcome. The composition was about memory (of a loved one passed on) and this was a concrete way to examine how memory transforms over time and through experience.”

Thanks very much, Walter.

By Marc Weidenbaum

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  • Marc Weidenbaum founded the website Disquiet.com in 1996 at the intersection of sound, art, and technology, and since 2012 has moderated the Disquiet Junto, an active online community of weekly music/sonic projects. He has written for Nature, Boing Boing, The Wire, Pitchfork, and NewMusicBox, among other periodicals. He is the author of the 33 1⁄3 book on Aphex Twin’s classic album Selected Ambient Works Volume II. Read more about his sonic consultancy, teaching, sound art, and work in film, comics, and other media

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