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Monthly Archives: July 2006

Trimpin Sound-Art MP3

The first two syllables in “Conloninpurple,” the name of Trimpin‘s current installation at the Ojai Valley Museum in California, are indeed in reference to composer Conlon Nancarrow. The late Nancarrow is best known for having used the player piano to write music largely unplayable by human hands. Trimpin, a Seattle-based musician/inventor whose work has gotten attention from the New Yorker in the past year, created a computer-propelled musical instrument that fills a room. According to the museum’s website, “It consists of sixty sounders covering five octaves. Each sounder is driven by an electrical solenoid, which, when triggered, strikes a block of wood of a given length. The note given off is naturally amplified and directed by a tuned, resonant tube of anodized aluminum. Each pipe consists of an inner and outer sleeve, allowing the length to be adjusted as the inner sleeve slides in or out of the other.” One sample audio recording is available for download (MP3), a kind of Fourth World calypso. More info at ojaivalleymuseum.org, the website of the museum where the piece will remain until August 31. (Via musicthing.blogspot.com.)

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Generative Monolake MP3s

A new version of the popular music software Ableton Live has been announced. Ableton is gearing up to release Live 6. Musicmakers will be happy to check out the Ableton website, ableton.com, and read about drag’n’drop movie importing, project management tools and “multicore” processing, not to mention its massive “library of meticulously sampled and selected instruments” and a new emulator of vacuum tubes.

Now, whenever there’s a new edition of Live due out, a release by the musician Monolake (aka Robert Henke) isn’t far behind. This is because Monolake is one of the programmers on Live, and the Ableton company was founded by Gerhard Behles, who was Henke’s partner in Monolake for its early releases. Monolake music releases are almost always timed to the arrival of a new Live software release, but Henke is more than just the company’s marquee clothes horse; he’s also its most celebrated alpha-tester, working the software hard in advance of it being offered to the general public.

A quick check of Monolake’s website, monolake.de (look at the “download music” page), indeed reveals two MP3s that appear to have been built on early versions of Live 6. Under the heading “generative ambient,” Monolake lists two freely downloadable files, explaining, “these are pieces created using random operations in Ableton Live (six tracks with Random>Scale>Chord>Operator>Audio FX, triggered via Follow Actions, sets will be posted in software section after Live 6 is out.) They run forever. I just made a recording while they were running.”

By “generative,” Henke means that the files contain music that was less composed in a traditional sense than that it is the result of systems he put together in Live 6 and let run freely. According to his post, once Live 6 has been released, he’ll make some of these patches, or subroutines, available for download as well. In other words: an impending software upgrade engenders experimental music, which engenders more software. (Though Live 6 isn’t commercially available yet, a beta version will be posted for free download and further testing. More info at ableton.com.)

Judging by the file names of the generative Monolake tracks, the shorter of the two, a bouncy, 14-minute round of ping-pongy restraint (MP3), was produced on June 26 and the longer piece, an hour-plus excursion into far more subtle, gently vibrating tones that suggest a tour of an imaginary landscape (MP3), was done as recently as July 6.

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Glitchy MP3

The Fallt label regularly posts inventive electronica downloads that emphasize precision, elegance and glitch. The “spring 2006 exclusive” currenly on its site (fallt.com) is six and a half minutes of brittle minimalism: “Pumilum,” courtesy of Tonne (aka Paul Farrington), the lightly crackling textures of which suggest a lo-res digital fireplace with its embers dialed down (go to this page for the MP3: fallt.com). Those pixelated percussives disperse a rapid-fire array of beats, and amid them Tonne places a minimal-techno series of held notes. The final fade out is particularly enjoyable.

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Tangents (Beethoven, radio, PKD)

Quick Links, News and Good Reads: (1) Excellent interview with soundtrack composer Ennio Morricone, ever cantankerous and reticent to share (guardian.co.uk), though he does take the time to (advisedly) criticize Hollywood’s distinction between composing and arranging: “In the history of music, composition is instrumentation.” … (2) A review of a solo show by William Anastasi at Bjorn Ressle Fine Art in Manhattan, including a “2005 version of his “Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony,” originally done in 1965 using a Bruno Walter audiotape, now uses a videotape of a performance conducted by Herbert von Karajan, unrolled from its reel and hung on the wall so that gravity determines its snarled drape” (nytimes.com), through July 31. … (3) David Stubbs on Resonance FM (guardian.co.uk), whose dominance as a web outpost for avant sound belies the fact that it reportedly has about 100,000 listeners to its London signal, 104.4FM (resonancefm.com). … (4) Bill Fontana has mic’d the Millennium Bridge in London for a Tate Modern sound-art piece (nytimes.com): “My art involves focusing on something from the real world and delineating its musical structure.”

(5) In the June 4 edition of the New York Times Sunday Magazine, a story called “Unhappy Hour” described a scenario in which a jukebox at “an amiable dive bar” in New York played Brian Eno‘s Thursday Afternoon, much to the author’s consternation, and that of her boyfriend (nytimes.com). And (6) two weeks later, a letter to the magazine noted, “In that setting, Bach‘s ‘Goldberg’ Variations would have evoked a similar response.” … (7) Interview with Matthew Herbert on the occasion of his new album, Scale. Where did the name of his website, magicandaccident.com, come from? “It’s Don DeLillo, from Underworld” (pitchforkmedia.com). … (8) Steve Reich will be back at the Whitney Museum in Manhattan for a series of events this coming October. Reich’s music was part of the Anti-Illusion show there in 1969, curated by Marcia Tucker, who referred to his work as “extended-time pieces” (whitney.org).

Four sound-art links via the great e-flux mailing list (e-flux.com): (9) The Brighton Photo Biennial, running through October 2006, includes a “sound installation” of Orson WellesWar of the Worlds, curated by David A. Bailey in collaboration with Gilane Tawadros (bpb.org.uk). … (10) The art-venue-as-website radiogallery.org promises to present a dozen experimental audio recordings over the course of the next three months at a rate of one per week, curated by Anna Colin. Participants include: Abake, Thibaut de Ruyter, Raimundas Malasauskas, Dirk Fleischmann, Nav Haq with Tirdad Zolghadr, Loris Greaud with Karl Holmqvist, Jeremy Deller with Alex Farquharson, Olivia Plender, Matthieu Laurette, Sinisa Mitrovic with Susan Philipsz, Ryan Gander with Francesco Manacorda, Konst2 with International Festival, and Steve Webber. … (11) Among the pieces in the exhibit Nothing at the Schirn Kunsthalle in Frankfurt, Germany, is “Work No. 401” (2005) by Martin Creed: “consisting of a small loudspeaker with a sound loop that makes a lapidary ‘pfft’ sound only. The sound was produced by the artist himself as an act of acoustic self-renunciation” (schirn.de), through October 1. … (12) Among the participants in New Works: 06.2 at Artpace in San Antonio, Texas, curated by Yuko Hasegawa, is Luz María Sanchez, whose works “isolate and amplify politically charged frequencies such as Arab radio broadcasts and the U.S./Mexico border soundscape” (artpace.org), through September 10.

(13) R.I.P., Syd Barrett (1946 – 2006), of the first Pink Floyd lineup, one of psychededelic rock’s founding fathers, and certainly one of its most tragic Icaruses (villagevoice.com, nytimes.com, guardian.co.uk).

… YouTube Treats: After last week’s Disquiet Tangents included video found on youtube.com of Brian Eno talking about Can and of Robert Fripp performing live, a reader wrote in, “wow i thought mostly youtube was about guys lighting their farts and car ads.” … Here’s some more youtube.com goodness: (1) Steve Reich‘s Eight Lines (four minutes) with dance performance (youtube.com). … (2) A really funky little segment of Matmos live at Festival Villette Sonique in Paris (seven minutes). The brief vocal isn’t entirely “workplace safe,” as they say, but it is in English (youtube.com). … (3) James Tenney‘s Swell Piece Number 2 serves as the score to 10 minutes of footage of people silk-screening mail art (youtube.com). … (4) Good news: six-plus-minute interview with French musician and instrument-inventor Pierre Bastien. Bad news: no English subtitles (youtube.com). … (5) Alvin Lucier‘s “Music for Solo Performer,” which involves attaching electrodes to said soloist (four and a half minutes). In this case, the performer is Andrew Brouse. The brief note for the video states: “This interpretation was done directly from the poetic score, never having heard or seen the original music performance” (youtube.com). Thanks to youtube.com, apparently that won’t be much of an issue from now on.

… Heavy Rotation: (1) Graham Reynolds and the Golden Arm Trio outdo themselves with scene-insinuating backdrops and helter skelter mania for the new flick A Scanner Darkly. The CD lacks the four Radiohead-related tracks that play in the movie, directed by Richard Linklater, including “Black Swan” from The Eraser (Radiohead singer Thom Yorke‘s new, Aphex-ish solo outing) and the Four Tet remix of “Skttrbrain,” but it has got bits by DJ Spooky and Jack Dangers (aka Meat Beat Manifesto). … (2) Robert Curgenven‘s recent album, Cichaczem (released late last year on the Privatelektro label), takes its name from the Polish term for “something done quietly or as a surprise.” Its three tracks are absolutely beautiful distillations of sound, mixing the familiar textures of field recordings, including falling snow and the period after a thunderstorm, with hyper-sensitive recordings of a grand piano that suggest the open spaces only alluded to by most synthesizers. … (3) Timbaland‘s production on the new Nelly Furtado album, Loose, is far from perfect. “Maneater” has a beat better suited to one of the Neptunes’ rock outings and little more to its credit, but the instrumental version of “Promiscuous,” aside from some uncharacteristically unsubtle synth-keyboard overlays, displays plenty of Timbaland’s penchant for modal melodies and disarmingly hard-to-snap digital percussion. … (4) This week’s key Disquiet Downstream entry is Scanner‘s participation in the Tate Modern’s tribute to John Cage‘s Musicircus (link).

… Score Keeper: All updates via imdb.com: (1) The duo tomandandy are on The Koi Keeper by Dogma-certified director Michael Sorenson. … (2) Tyler Bates is again with Rob Zombie, on the metal-auteur’s remake of Halloween. … (3) Kent Sparling is on Bonneville as sound designer. … (4) BT seems suited to the surveillance-themed Look. … (5) Raz Mesinai is attached to The Saint of Avenue B and The Projectionist.

… Quote of the Week: So much for microsound. “Acclaimed by the Police forces of many areas of the United Kingdom, the Mosquito ultrasonic teenage deterrent has been described as ‘the most effective tool in our fight against anti social behaviour'” (from promotional materials for the widely reported teen-averting, cornerstore-protection device, at compoundsecurity.co.uk).

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Saskatoon Noise-Art MP3s

Credited to Jon Vaughn, Carrie Gates and Scant Intone, three live tracks recorded at PAVED Arts (in Saskatoon, Canada) are testaments to the imagination-inducing powers of small sounds. Titled “Spindle” (MP3), “Needle” (MP3) and “Loom” (MP3), they are marvels of minute sonic artifacts. Until a humorous gargle appears toward its close, “Loom” sets a low hiss behind dropped trinkets, eventually disolving into something utterly private and crackling. “Spindle” goes from light air currents to greedy static before folding into (nearly) pure tone. And “Needle” is, by far, the most inherently consistent of the batch, comprised as it is of small scrapings and distant, jittery noise. Available from the Panospria netlabel. More info at pavedarts.ca and panospria.com.

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