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Milton Babbitt Remix MP3

Up at the website of Bad Plus pianist Ethan Iverson (well, mostly Iverson, with the other members occasionally joining in — thebadplus.typepad.com): a sort of remix of work by 20th-century classical composer Milton Babbitt.

It’s just over a minute long, but Iverson has taken the jazzy inflections of Babbitt’s 12-tone original, “Semi-Simple Variations,” heard here with Monk-ish drums added in a live performance by fellow Plus member Dave King, with some subsequent editing in the audio program Peak to clean it up (MP3). Iverson describes the process:

After hearing me practice “Semi-Simple Variations” a few times on tour, Dave suggested playing some drums along at the soundcheck in Odense, Denmark. It actually sounded really good!

I … then threw it into Peak and added compression and harmonic rotation. The result sounds a bit like twelve-tone Aphex Twin (of course, Aphex’s tones would be vastly superior).

The complete post is at thebadplus.typepad.com. Iverson’s post is a lengthy program note to a concert he’s put together for this coming October 30 with New Yorker music critic Alex Ross — part pre-Halloween bash, part celebration of Ross’s recent book, The Rest Is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century.

The fact of a jazzy, electronically mediated rendition of a piece of fairly hardcore serialism is exciting, certainly. (It doesn’t hurt that it follows quickly on critic Anthony Tommasini’s helpful overview of the state of serialism in the New York Times, at nytimes.com.) But even more exciting is the expansion of the idea of a remix: the MP3’s basis in an original, impromptu recording; the use of software to warp a proper performance. (Via Ross’s therestisnoise.com.)

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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