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

Before & After Chime Transformation MP3s

On her website regarding her Soundbook One project,, 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).

By Marc Weidenbaum

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  • Marc Weidenbaum founded the website 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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