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Monthly Archives: May 2008

Quote of the Week: Synaesthesia of Danger

Danger Mouse and his partner in Gnarls Barkley, Cee-Lo Green, spoke on Thursday, May 29, with NPR Fresh Air host Terry Gross about the construction of their new album, The Odd Couple. Asked by Gross about how the prevalence of sampling in hip-hop may have influenced the way Danger Mouse thinks about music, he replied:

I was in the bathroom the other day looking at a picture and I saw something in the picture that looked like a certain kind of face, and it was a child’s face, the way it was looking, but when you back away from it, it’s not that at all, it was just a tree branch, you know, and the arm of a bear, or something like that.

But what I saw was that, and if I took that little piece and made a big picture out of that, then it would be the way I looked at or what I saw that was beautiful about it or nice about it or whatever. And with music, it’s a similar thing for me, when it comes to sampling. I just want to work with stuff that’s affecting me.

Check out the full interview at npr.org.

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Ancient Monolake MP3 (& Ableton Set)

Once upon a time, Monolake was a duo, consisting of Robert Henke and Gerhardt Beheles. Beheles exited the duo, which specialized in dank minimal techno, to start the company that created the now popular audio-production and -performance software Live. The company is called Ableton. Henke continued on as Monolake, and he also participates in the engineering at Ableton of each new generation of Live. Live is up to version 7 (7.07, to be more precise). For his latest free MP3 download at monolake.de, Henke reached deep into the software’s past to share a track titled “Ocean of Noise,” which he created back in 2003 — ancient history, by software-development standards — to serve as an example of the then new Live concept called “clip envelopes.” He writes:

This tracks is from September 2003. It was a demo for a new feature of Ableton Live 3, the so called clip envelopes. The track uses nothing but one single short sample of white noise. All sounds and all structural elements are generated by feeding that sample into the effects of Live 3, and modulating these effects with clip envelopes.
The track is far more to the ear than white noise — there is a heavy beat, the gurgling of what could only be thought of as water, and synthy drones with more apparent melodic intent than white noise is associated with.

Per Henke’s request, no direct link is provided here to the MP3. Please visit monolake.de to access it. The track is listed as the May entry in Henke’s ongoing free-MP3 series, so it may only be up through tomorrow. In addition to the MP3, Henke has provided the Ableton Live set that produced the sounds. A demo or commercial version of any edition of Live from 3 on up should be able to play it. (It is available in both Mac and Windows.) More on the software at ableton.com.

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Pixelated Guitar MP3 by Fubsan

Another excellent single from the Yoyo Pang! netlabel, ambulatore.com/yoyo, which specializes in one-MP3 releases. Think of them as free, virtual 7″s. The latest is “I Wish I Had a Watermelon” by Fubsan. Like the pevious YYP release, “Etxeko Improa”by Joseba Irazoki (see the April 2 disquiet.com entry), Fubsan’s is built around a guitar line. But where Irazoki’s piece was all droney and low-slung, Fubsan’s is pixelated and sparkling, locating that perfect spot where digital mediation merely amplifies the effect of strings in sympathetic vibration. To that is added a smattering of clicky, glitchy percussion and a background of whispery noises. More on Fubsan at myspace.com/fubsan and treehouse.catchtheleaves.org.

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Live Cello-Tronic MP3

The same evening that Kranky Records solo laptop artist Chris Herbert opened for the duo Stars of the Lid in Birmingham, England, Ted Laderas was doing his electronified solo cello stuff in Portland Oregon, playing with the duo Unrecognizable Now. And 24 hours later, as with Herbert (see the Memorial Day disquiet.com entry from earlier this week), the Laderas set was available for free download.

From David Darling to Hank Roberts to Zoe Keating, the cello has suggested itself as a focus of electronic manipulation, no doubt due to its rich, deep sonorousness. Laderas uses electronics not simply to enhance the cello’s sound, but to obscure it. (He has christened this technique he’s developed as the Oo-ray.) If you dive midway into the May 21 performance, recorded at the space Holocene, you may take it to be one of those multi-guitar Glenn Brance symphonies. There is a searing noise, as if the bow’s edge were serrated. It’s hard to tell when the texture of that bow ends and the saw waves of whatever electronic processing is involved kick in (MP3). The performance is not just about generating cacophony, though; it veers from layered plucking of strings to orchestral might, from sour melodic activity to gently bowed divination. In a post on his 15people.net site, Laderas describes his mode succinctly: “As always, this set is pretty much completely improvised on the fly. No prerendered loops, no nothing. Just me and my looper.”

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Before & After Chime Transformation MP3s

On her website regarding her Soundbook One project, soundbookone.com, composer Jennifer Stock describes the process behind her effort, which places the laptop in an ensemble setting, including electric guitar, cello, drums and, occasionally, vocals:

The idea of a “Soundbook” was to process a specific set of found sounds in Max/MSP and then to notate the acoustic aspects of the score for a revolving cast of musicians (usually electric guitar, cello, and drumset). For example, I might take a sound of chimes that I recorded and run it through a granular synthesis patch I made and use the result as the basis for a composition.
She also links within that paragraph to documentation of the mentioned “before” chime, the “after” chime-based composition, and the patch in the Max/MSP audio-manipulation software that turned former into the latter.

The original is a 13-second recording of lightly resounding wind chimes (MP3). Set to loop, it reveals background noise — what could be passing cars and nearby bird song. And between each ringing tone is the sharp punctuation of one dangling piece of the chime striking another: the short jolt that is, paradoxically, necessary for the lovely, bell-like music to be produced. (The chime makes an interesting choice for source material, given its role as a distant precedent for what, today, is called generative music.)

Here is a detail of the screenshot of the patch in question. In Max/MSP, the various paths that a sound travels and the effects implemented on that sound are presented in a visual manner, like a flowchart:

Transformed and, in the process, expanded to the length of 1:11, the result, not surprisingly, on first listen bares little resemblance to the original. Yet, after a few repeated listens, one would be hard put to not confuse the two. The background noises are largely gone, and in their place is a lulling swell, something organic, almost like breathing; the chimes are still front and center, but have become something somewhat other, neither lovely tone nor short jolt, but a combination thereof, like taut, drum-like but melodic beat (MP3).

Three provided excerpts of Stock’s ensemble work with Soundbook One, which she dates as taking place between 2006 and 2007, display how the maninpulated field recordings are mixed with live improvisation by the players Karen Siegel (voice), Koven Smith (drums), Mark Dancigers (guitar), Ezra Seltzer (cello) — and, of course, Stock herself, on laptop. A link to a track titled “improvisation” leads to a file titled “Pynchon,” featuring echoed sounds of piano amid sensitive collaborative playing, a cello plucked and bowed, alongside dynamic percussion (MP3).

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