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Sounding out technology.
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Monthly Archives: September 2007

Martin Neukom’s Golden Ratio MP3 Set

Perhaps as many artists have pursued truth in the golden ratio as entrepreneurs and adventurers have sought gold. Martin Neukom‘s new 13-track collection on the domizil.ch netlabel, Studie 18, is among the most recent such investigations.

The pieces are intended to be listened to in surround sound, and playback information is provided for those fortunate enough to have a 5.1 surround sound system available. However, the works’ algorithmic rigor and beauty is not lost on standard headphones.

Each piece plays out as the result of one of Neukom’s investigations of patterns. Many have the pointillist detail of data in motion, like the water-drop effect of “Studie 18.11” (MP3) and the Lilliputian xylophone of “Studie 18.3” (MP3). The held tones that distinguish “Studie 18.7,” for example, are multiplied and varied, but occasionally overlap so as to become indistinct from each other (MP3). And the romper-room glissando of “Studie 18.10” is attributed to the Doppler effect (MP3).

The collection comes with a detailed, and elegantly designed (by Medusa Cramer), PDF that documents the math behind each of the tracks. The image up top, for example, provides a visual explanation for “Studie. 18.11.” Writes Neukom, “The perception of one sequence is influenced by another sequence.”

More on Neukom at the website for the Zurich-based Institute for Computer Music and Sound Technology, where he heads the computer music department (icst.net).

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Quote of the Week: Destroy Athens

The following is the description-cum-manifesto of the “Destructive Sound Events” curated by ILIOS as part of the first Athens Biennial:

A sound monster will occupy certain Athenian territories and will transmit a destructive sound wave. Here we don’t talk about bringing THE truth to you, we are not the good ones and the rest are the bad ones, no pioneers, no avant-guard, no entertainment, no substitution for the fake, there is just action, physical action, action that one can hear, see and even feel it as vibration.
The event will be held on October 13 and 14 in Athens, Greece. Participants in the “Destructive Sound Events” will include: Costes, Antimatter/Z. Karkowski, Scott Arford, V/VM, Dave Philips, Michael Gendreau, and FamilyBattlenake (the latter in a DJ set). “Destroy Athens 2007” is the theme of the biennial. The performances are a parallel presentation to the biennial and are hosted by remapkm.com. More info at athensbiennial.org.

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Open/Other Music/Minds

A handy guide to a confusing quartet of musical organizations, color-coded for clarity’s sake:

Other Music: Downtown Manhattan (and online/download) record store. Kind of like San Francisco’s Aquarius, just on a different ocean (othermusic.com).

Other Minds: San Francisco-based new-music promoter and organization, run by Charles Amirkhanian (otherminds.org). … Also a philosophical conundrum (see plato.stanford.edu).

Open Mind: Fine used (and new) record store in San Francisco, relocated in 2007 to Market Street from Divisidero Street (at yelp.com). … Also a Swedish vinyl resource with an emphasis on psychedelic music (openmindrecords.se).

Open Music: Many things, including (1) a foundation focused on “how new forms of visual expression on the page can lead to previously-unknown forms of musical expression” (openmusic.us); (2) a programming language and music interface (ircam.fr); (3) an open-source (i.e., community-built) music directory (musicmoz.org); (4) a Creative Commons application of communal software conventions to music publishing (magnatune.com); (5) an archive of “out-of-copyright sound recordings” (openmusicarchive.org); (6) an ensemble with a rotating membership, led by flute player Bob Downes.

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Indie-Pop-Tronic MP3s

The album Frerk by My First Trumpet is less electro-acoustic than it is indie-electronic. The Hamburg, Germany-based Trumpet (born Kevin Hamman) mixes the shopworn rhythms and mood of indie pop with lo-fi digital instrumentation and effects. The Frerk track “Autonarkose,” for example, blips along like the perfect soundtrack to a bike ride through suburbia: clackety, downtempo instrumental pop just this side of maudlin (MP3). Well, a very short bike ride, unless you put it on repeat.

Another track, “D Kitt,” sets a simple guitar line above one of the most minimal drum patterns imaginable, but the piece eventually blossoms into something fuller, even if the result feels more like a rough draft than a finished piece (MP3). Of course, that sketchbook quality is part of the album’s considerable charm. The songs on Frerk add layers as if they had been recorded on an old four-track, and a bridge always arrives just in time to keep your feet from getting too cozy with the groove.

What’s enticing about all of Hamman’s songs is the threadbare elements from which they’re built. And if you desire to focus on the sounds themselves,  then the song that closes the album, “The Owl Likes to Bowl,” is worth hanging around for, or jumping ahead to. Sedative little tones inch their near-melodic way above a lightly squelchy foundation, and the song effortlessly resists the urge to become anything more than it is (MP3). It’s like a song that consists entirely of a bridge, just an elegant, attenuated pause.

Get the full album, all 12 tracks, at the releasing netlabel, aerotone (aerotone.300l600.de). More on Trumpet/Hamman at his myspace page, myspace.com/myfirsttrumpet.

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Vancouver Field Recording MP3s

To this day, the name of the field-recording netlabel wanderingear.com still suggests an extra “g” — it still reads like “wandering gear,” which is no less applicable a term. The label collects high-grade recordings of raw sound caught out in the world, and occasionally remixes thereof. That is to say, it collects the sound work of individuals who carry microphones like the rest of us carry megapixel digital cameras. The label’s latest collection is of eight tracks caught off the coast of Vancouver, British Columbia. The sound-spotter is Lance Olsen, who says of the set, “With minimum editing and interference I have tried to present an aural experience of the harbour both then and now. The work is designed for careful listening through headphones and is deliberately low key.” His depiction is fully accurate, for even by field-recording standards, these are blissfully mundane documents, from mild creaks against a diminishing background whir (MP3) to slow lapping that dissolves into a mix of birdsong and ambiguous electronic buzzing before a final, almost humorous plunge (MP3). Olsen has edited to maximize the minimal, to emphasize the understated. The set is titled Edges: An Audio Portrait, and the word “edges” might refer as much to the periphery of perceived hearing as to the coastline. Get the full release at wanderingear.com. More on Lance Olsen at lanceolsen.ca.

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