Blasts of Silence

A subdued chord, and a subsequent quiet. A hovering drone, followed by a compelling absence of sound. Filaments & Voids is the title that Kenneth Kirschner gave to this collection of his music, four pieces composed and recorded, true to their titles, between September 11, 1996, and June 10, 2008. And true to its title, Filaments & Voids is comprised predominantly by one or the other, by carefully constructed audio of lingering delicacy or by singular silences of ambiguous depth.

Kirschner explains that the title of the album is of cosmological provenance. The term, he says, refers to the “largest-scale structures of the universe.”Though the relative spatial dimensions are not directly correlative, the music heard on the album is, like the night sky, a broad and dark space inhabited by dispersed and luminous materials. And as in the night sky, there are patterns. The constellations of Kirschner’s music follow a pattern as perceptible as Orion’s belt: a motif repeats, interspersed with framing silences. That mode serves as the foundation for three of the album’s four pieces. The sounds that bookend Kirschner’s blasts of silence are a pure breed of composition, artfully sculptured nuggets of sonic effluence suspended in air. Kirschner asks the listener to consider each on its own merits, as well as in sequence, each sound sharing the proceeding timeline with a measure of soundlessness.

Over the course of the album’s nearly two and a half hours, he focuses the listener’s attention on the silence inherent in his sounds, and the sound implicit in the silences. Take, for example, the longest work on Filaments & Voids, “March 16, 2006,”which is built from recorded piano. The piece is dedicated to the late neuroscientist James H. “Jimmy”Schwartz, who employed Kirschner for many years, and whose affection for classical music suggested the piano as source material. The short, plaintive riffs are heard against a grainy backdrop, a weather-beaten timbre fitting for a requiem. Kirschner achieved this effect by re-recording the music onto his iPod via an inexpensive microphone. The result is a piano caught amid the presumed silence of real life, an anarchic silence set in contrast with the digital blankness that arrives at each splice, sometimes quite abruptly. Each repeat of the piano reveals it to be subtly transformed by Kirschner’s technology. The effect is as if the silence is slowly eating away at the music.

The broad, organic silences of “March 16, 2006”contrast with those of both “October 19, 2006”and “September 11, 1996.”The former is a sequence of synthesized, prayer-bowl-like sounds that play against the silence, from which they emerge and into which they fade again. The latter leaves the expected calm at a tantalizing distance — an intimated silence, rather than the other work’s cushioning one. Only one of the four pieces doesn’t bear the telltale signs of silence, “June 10, 2008.”It is, instead, a glistening marvel, built, Kirschner explains, from impossible string instruments modeled in a software package. While the work travels its entire 20 minutes without the pregnant pauses that distinguish the majority of Filaments & Voids, the knowledge that these strings reverberated originally in the artificial space of a computer’s processor provides yet another vantage on the whole concept of silence — a digital silence, the studio as virtual clean room.

It’s necessary at this juncture to say something about the striking photo that accompanies Kirschner’s album. The image was, like those on many 12k releases, shot by the label’s founder, Taylor Deupree. Kirschner says that when Deupree first showed him the image — that stark white room like one of Robert Ryman’s white canvases folded into a cube — he immediately put dibs on it to lend a pictorial reference for his music. Kirschner’s affinity is obvious; the barren space on which Deupree trained his lens embodies absence. It’s a bleak room, lacking evidence of human presence, reduced to texture, bleached by the sun.

However, much like the prescient title of one of Kirschner’s compositions included here, the photo carries unforeseen resonance. Shortly before the release of Filaments & Voids, the apartment where Kirschner lived in New York City was destroyed as a result of a fire, and along with it some of the equipment on which this album had been recorded. I first saw Deupree’s photo prior to the fire. After Kirschner informed us of this loss, I found it impossible to again look at the image as simply architectural or beautiful; henceforth, the image has demanded that I consider what had previously been in that room. Before the fire, the image looked to me like a peaceful if desolate place, a kind of secular ruins. But after the fire, I can’t help but ponder what it had contained, what furnishings and lives had inhabited it, what events had transpired there. Much like the silences that abound in Kirschner’s music, the room is no longer empty to me — what it contains is a chilling, indefinite absence.

More on the release at

Visit Kirschner at

Two Found-Sound Christopher DeLaurenti Projects (MP3)

Sound artist and composer Christopher DeLaurenti is becoming the Studs Terkel of silence.

He’s best known for his recordings of symphony halls in between concert performances, when the musicians are tuning their instruments and, occasionally, playing brief melodic phrases either solo or in spur-of-the-moment groupings ( If Terkel set the standard for documenting the world in the original voices of his interviewees, DeLaurenti deserves credit for his dogged documentation of the presumed silences in human interaction — recordings of passing sounds that he frames, thus allowing them to tell their own stories.

Among his recent discoveries is a 40-minute soundscape “captured from CSPAN,” the cable channel dedicated to broadcasting the U.S. government in action — or, as DeLaurenti shows, also inaction. The track was recorded following President Barack Obama’s inauguration, and in it you can hear helicopter noise, the mumbling of bureaucrats, and a crowd consumed by its ebullience (MP3). The track, “Found Soundscape: C-SPAN Presidential Inauguration, January 20, 2009,” was released earlier this year as a free download on the and/OAR label (

[audio:|titles=”Found Soundscape: C-SPAN Presidential Inauguration January 20 2009″|artists=Christopher DeLaurenti]

Also evidencing a political impulse, late last year DeLaurenti released Wallingford Food Bank in the Public Record Archive series. The collection mixes the rough noise of what seems to be aimless wandering and endless waiting with brief human interactions (example: “Friday,” MP3). The release’s five recordings were drawn from his own personal experience. “Dead broke in 2004,” he writes in the release’s accompanying text, “I stretched my meager income with multiple visits to the local food bank. Remembering that hard work and money often remain incongruent, I collected site recordings, interviews, and surreptitious microphone captures into my testimony of poverty.” Though the presence of voices — that is, of intended communication — in Wallingford distinguishes it from DeLaurenti’s emphasis elsewhere on sounds unintended to be listened to attentively, the impoverished nature of the subjects in its own way sets the material apart from society. Get the full set at

[audio:|titles=”Friday”|artists=Christopher DeLaurenti]

More at his website,

At Play in the Field: Found-Sound Mix

About’s “Listen?”:

This is’s streaming-audio service. The interface immediately below will stream in sequence a series of tracks, 18 total, by various musicians. What they all have in common is that each has taken sounds from the real world and made something new of them. The raw materials include the ambience of Japanese ritual spaces and the noise of European tunnels, brief snatches of frog-song as well as audio documentation of a distant moon. The phonographers — that is, those who record the world in sound (in contrast with, or as a complement to, the more common practice of photography) — visit Iceland, Mozambique, London, and Laos, just to name a few destinations. Some simply turn their microphones toward their own studios.

You can flip back and forth through the playlist using the small arrows. The duration of this album is 55:36. It is titled At Play in the Field.

[audio:,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,|titles=”Church”,”Natural Sounds of the Mountain Lake Sanctuary (Side One)”,”Tunnel Brücke (Excerpt)”,”03 13 09″,”Temple Ambience Kamakura”,”Taya Cavern”,”Liq”,”2 O’Clock: I Love You”,”Resonance”,”Calisthenic”,”Composição n3?”,”Asagaya Matsuri”,”Sleepless City Remix”,”Section of a soundscape of two troops of indris” ,”Huygens Alien Winds Descent”,”January 21, Pound Ridge, 2:09pm”,”Harbourstorm”,”Out of Our Sight”|artists=Scott Sherk,Steve Roden,Totstellen,map~map (Marcus Fischer),Tim Prebble,Tim Prebble ,Helena Gough,Ven Voisey,Aaron Ximm,Aaron Ximm,Cancro (Tiago Jerónimo),Carl Stone,Stephen Vitiello and Scanner, ,HASI Probe,Taylor Deupree,Lori Beckstead and Dave Rose,Chris Watson]

The artists’s creations range from framing a field recording by giving it a beginning and an end, to working the sounds into a composition. In some cases, the listener may even be required to make a leap of faith that the sourced sound is, in fact, buried deep in the mix.

Many but not all the tracks originally appeared in this site’s Downstream section, which focuses on legally free downloads on the Internet


Playlist Guide:

Please note that most of the links below in this post will result in pop-ups, so as not to interrupt the streaming audio. Direct links to download the individual MP3s are provided.

Track 1. (Duration: 02:26.) "Church" is a document of Iceland, recorded by Scott Sherk.
[MP3. More info:, Musician:]

Track 2. (Duration: 06:44.) "Natural Sounds of the Mountain Lake Sanctuary (Side One)" is a clip from a nature-sounds 7" that dates from the 1970s, posted by sound artist Steve Roden on his blog. It is, in effect, a twice-found sound, first by the recordist and years later by Roden.
[MP3. More info:, Musician:]

Track 3. (Duration: 01:40.) "Tunnel Brücke (Excerpt)" by Totstellen is an augmented field recording, taped in a tunnel below traffic, from the album Tunnel Brücke. 
[MP3. More info:,] 

Track 4. (Duration: 03:04.) "03 13 09" by map~map (Marcus Fischer) is, he explains, "a little experiment using field recordings of the pacific ocean."
[MP3. More info:]

Track 5. (Duration: 00:34.) "Temple Ambience Kamakura" was recorded in Japan by sound designer Tim Prebble.
[MP3. More info:, Musician:]

Track 6. (Duration: 00:31.) "Taya Cavern" was also recorded by sound designer Tim Prebble in Japan.
[MP3. More info:, Musician:]

Track 7. (Duration: 04:26.) "Liq" is by Helena Gough, who likes to say she makes something from nothing. She takes field recordings of our real world and creates new audioscapes from them, thanks to microsonic manipulation and an empasis on a narrative-like song structure.
[MP3. More info: Musician:]

Track 8. (Duration: 01:29.) "2 O’Clock: I Love You" is a mix of birdsong and electronic synthesis that serves as the soundtrack to Ven Voisey’s installation "Cuckoo Radio."
[MP3. More info: Musician:]

Track 9. (Duration: 09:49.) "Resonance" by Aaron Ximm, who writes, "Plumbing resonance, reconsidered, in Vang Vieng, Laos. When the stars align, resonance in our bathroom pipes makes them sing." From his album Rockets of the Mekong.
[MP3. More info: Musician:]

Track 10. (Duration: 04:06.) "Calisthenic" by Aaron Ximm is a beautiful piece, just over four minutes long, though it feels much quicker; brief snippets of real world sound are looped to incantatory effect, moving steadily away from silence. Described by Ximm as an "exercise in negative space." Also from his album Rockets of the Mekong.
[MP3. More info:, Musician:]

Track 11. (Duration: 02:23.) "Composição n3?" by Cancro (Tiago Jerónimo) announces itself with a sudden thud and then proceeds like the effort of distant machines as heard from a windowless room.
[MP3. More info:, Musician:]

Track 12. (Duration: 04:05.) "Asagaya Matsuri" recorded in Japan by Carl Stone, who describes it as follows: "An ensemble of drums and flute play while perched atop an elevated scaffold in front of the train station. Add the occasional sound of an ambulance along with the normal sounds of traffic -- incredibly they don’t close the roads but let the paraders mix in with the cars -- and you get a wonderful sound stew which I offer up herewith for your enjoyment."
[MP3. More info:, Musician:]

Track 13. (Duration: 05:18.) "Sleepless City Remix" by Scanner (remixed by Stephen Vitiello). Back in 1996, Scanner got some young British men and women together to talk about, as the website puts it, "how the city at night looks and sounds to their ears and eyes." Among the results of this project was “Sleepless City,”a maudlin track opening with dolorous piano that, characteristic for Scanner, places spoken word by his young subjects amid a soundscape that lends drama and emotional context. This is Vitiello's remix of that track.
[MP3. More info: Musicians:,]

Track 14. (Duration: 00:17.) "Section of a soundscape of two troops of indris" from, which is exactly what it sounds like it promises to be: a menagerie comprised entirely of the sounds of animals.
[MP3. More info:,]

Track 15. (Duration: 01:43.) "Huygens Alien Winds Descent" is a "laboratory reconstruction" of what the audio sensors on the HASI probe (Huygens Atmospheric Structure Instrument) witnessed as the probe descended to Titan, one of Saturn’s moons, on Friday, January 14, 2005.
[MP3. More info:,]

Track 16. (Duration: 01:48.) "January 21, Pound Ridge, 2:09pm" by Taylor Deupree, who writes, "room tone in my studio. recorder placed on stack of external hard drives." Part of his 2009 "One Sound Each Day" series.
[MP3. More info, musician:]

Track 17. (Duration: 02:24.) "Harbourstorm" by Lori Beckstead and Dave Rose is from their Winanga-li: Australian Soundscapes album on the Wandering Ear netlabel. It's the one "composite" track on the album, composed of multiple recordings.
[MP3. More info:,] 

Track 18. (Duration: 02:59.) "Out of Our Sight" by Cabaret Voltaire founder Chris Watson, who writes of it: "Motionless anticipation, along the dry sandy banks of the Zambesi a Mozambique nightjar is sucking in all the remaining light."
[MP3. More info: Musician:]

About the Cover Photo: The image of the pond on the "cover" to this collection is borrowed from Stephen Vitiello's "Pond Set," a series of experimental graphic scores that combine to varying degrees sheet music and high-contrast nature photography. Vitiello did the remix of the Scanner track (#13 above).

NB: To the best of my knowledge, my promotion of these tracks in this manner is all above board. However, if you represent any of these tracks and/or artists and feel that they are being inappropriately utilized here, please contact me directly at [email protected], and I'll rectify the situation promptly.

Serial Collaboration by Loscil, Pierre Bastien, Others (MP3)

The ongoing sound project “Relay” is neither a game of telephone nor a round of Exquisite Corpse, but it shares with both those formats a mode that emphasizes sequential sharing between individuals that leads to a kind of serial collaboration.

“Relay” begins with an MP3 file, five and a half minutes in length, created by the act Chequerboard. Chequerboard, aka the Irish musician John Lambert (, then passed the file to a subsequent musician, who in theory and practice took ideas and sounds from the previous work and made a new work out of them. That subsequent piece is then sent on to yet another musician, and so on. All the entries in “Relay” benefit from detailed explanatory notes written by the individual who created the music. The tracks thus far (there are six) are streaming in sequence here, and additional info as well as direct links to the MP3s appear below:

[audio:,,,,,|titles=”A Year in Sligo”,untitled,”The Sleep Machine”,”Nightly Sweety”,”Reconstructing the Incredible”,”Play Scissors Play”|artists=Chequerboard (John Lambert),Jimmy Behan,Loscil (Scott Morgan),Hulk (Thomas Haugh),Polly Fibre (Christine Ellison),Pierre Bastien]

Lambert’s gambit, his piece that got the process rolling, is an imagined tour of a gallery space. His footsteps mark the path, while individual sounds — sampled separately from around the gallery — are dropped in, and slowly a musical passage enters, making the work less of a documentary, and more of a melodic musique-concrete (MP3).

Then off it went to Jimmy Behan (, who, struck by Lambert’s emphasis on the sounds of place, “tried to imagine what the house, and various objects in it … might sound like if it could hear itself as I slept,” a piece in which all manner of tiny noises — rough scratching, sonar bleeps, rattling items — mix into an intimate suite (MP3).

Behan’s entry went to Loscil (aka Scott Morgan,, who focused less on Lambert’s interest in space and more on Behan’s introduction of the idea of sleep; he “sampled small portions of Jimmy’s piece and reconstructed them into very simple layered patterns that loop and oscillate,” describing them as “the sounds of the process of sleep itself. They are the sounds of a sort of sleep machine, an audio bridge between the conscious and unconscious,” all droning and attenuated (MP3).

Loscil’s went to Hulk (aka Thomas Haugh,, who focused less on sleep as a construct and more on the imagined experiences that occur within sleep, notably what he calls “dream memories,” or “memories of things which never happened or never could have happened, it’s strange how our minds can hold onto these things and how real they actually feel sometimes regardless of their surreality.” Hulk/Haugh took some of Loscil’s drones and worked with them — he also added some rough ukulele (MP3), which brings to mind some of the musicality of Lambert’s opening entry.

Then came Polly Fibre (aka Christine Ellison,, whose entry was the first of 2009 (the others appeared throughout 2008). Fibre/Ellison explains in her note that she’s especially interested in making the virtual into the physical (or “haptic”), so in one of the more overtly conceptual acts thus far in “Relay,” she took a printout of Hulk’s samples (rendered as sound waves on paper), and then cut them, interspersing cut and sample in a rhythmic sequence (MP3).

Most recently, just this month, the great sound-tinkerer Pierre Bastien ( latched onto Fibre’s use of scissors. This makes perfect since Bastien is well known for turning household objects into musical instruments, and a decade ago had himself created a “scissors player,” pictured here:

Bastien hadn’t used the “scissor player” since 1998 or so, but pulled it out of retirement for “Relay” and made it the rhythmic and textural basis for his track, “Play Scissors Play” (MP3), which also included prepared trumpet, vocal samples (from a “transformed” record player), and other elements.

The next artist in Lambert’s “Relay” is yet to be revealed, but follow at (There is no RSS feed for “Relay” specifically, but there is one [RSS] for the sponsoring institution, the Model Arts and Niland Gallery in Sligo, Ireland.)

Image of the Week: No Cycles

Sign outside the San Francisco offices of Cycling ’74, makers of the Max/MSP/Jitter audio-video-data software environment. Note the fine print:

More at

In recent news, a Max/MSP environment for Ableton Live has been announced (, and there will be a conference for users of Max/MSP/Jitter in San Francisco April 22 – 24 (