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Monthly Archives: October 2011

Fourth World Music from a Border State (MP3)

Puppet State Shaman by Chairs, on the TVK netlabel, is border-state music. It’s Fourth World music, as sonic futurist Jon Hassell envisioned it. It is the sound of cultures rubbing up against each other and producing, as a result, these fractal associative patterns of chance aesthetic convergence and contrast. At times the music of Chairs, who are based in Houston, Texas, has the feel of a neighbor’s plaintive rituals heard through an inadvertently open window, of an old-world festivity restrained by the needs of privacy (by the challenges of assimilation), yet still seeping, relentlessly if patiently, into the world.

At its best, as on “Weightlessness in the U.F.O. Corridor,” the music is downright otherworldly (MP3). The track is a midtempo mix of bowed string instruments, glottal vocalizing, dark-of-night animal calls, and chiming percussion. It is a ceremony performed not on its originally intended instrumentation, but on a hodgepodge of stand-ins collected at local pawn shops and tracked down in the aisles of Home Depot and Walmart.

[audio:http://www.archive.org/download/Chairs-PuppetStateShaman/Chairs-PuppetStateShaman-02WeightlessnessInTheU.f.o.Corridor.mp3|titles=”Weightlessness in the U.F.O. Corridor”|artists=Chairs]

Track originally posted at archive.org and chairsmusic.bandcamp.com, where the album’s eight tracks are available for free download and streaming. More on Chairs at facebook.com/chairsmusic. Visit the TVK netlabel at listentovegetables.org.

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Sketches of Sound 19: Scott Gilbert

Since April 2010, Disquiet.com has hosted a monthly project called “Sketches of Sound,” in which illustrators, most of them comics artists, are invited to draw a sound-related object. I post the drawing as the background of my Twitter account, twitter.com/disquiet, and then share a bit of information about the illustrator back on Disquiet.com. Call it “curating Twitter.”

The 19th entry features this drawing by Scott Gilbert. Scott Gilbert is a cartoonist, illustrator, and primarily a librarian living in Houston, Texas, since 1984. From 1989 through 2002 he produced the weekly comic strip True Artist Tales, and collaborated with Harvey Pekar on American Splendor.

The previous “Sketches of Sound” contributors were, in alphabetical order, Jesse Baggs, Brian Biggs, Leela Corman, Warren Craghead III, Scott Faulkner, Owen Freeman, S.L. Gallant, Brian Hagen, Dylan Horrocks, Megan Kelso, Minty Lewis, Natalia Ludmila, Darko Macan, Caesar Meadows, Justin Orr, Hannes Pasqualini, Thorsten Sideb0ard, and Gustavo Alberto Garcia Vaca. ”Ž

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The Sound of Airports, Planes, Trains & Train Stations (MP3)

What is better than a clear audio field recording that documents the insanely fast-paced Doppler whir of the German Autobahn en route to Dresden? A clear audio field recording of the sort that appears as merely one among many by transportation-sound enthusiasts. This is the group: The Sound of Airports, Planes, Trains & Train Stations. It is housed at soundcloud.com, and as of this writing has 141 members, of whom 18 have contributed such finds as “London Underground Oxford Circus to Green Park Station,” “The Sound of the Stockholm Tram,” and the aforementioned Autobahn ambience. Many, though not all, are set for free download. The most recent is 29 seconds of bleating train noise, captured by a Ukraine-based individual who goes by the name Deep Sweet:

The beauty of highlighting activity such as Deep Sweet’s is that it is not just a recommendation to check out something, but an invitation to participate.

Visit the group The Sound of Airports, Planes, Trains & Train Stations at soundcloud.com. Track originally posted at soundcloud.com/deepsweet. (Thanks to Brian Biggs of dancerobotdance.com for the tip.)

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The Clock Ticks According to Reichian Time (MP3)

The excellent Wavelength show on Resonance FM is first broadcast in London (at 104.4 FM) and later distributed as a podcast. The show focuses on a variety of sound, from field recordings to experimental music, and a recent entry was one of its most bare-bones episodes yet: about half an hour of a grandfather clock ticking away. It is titled “Tick Tock … Bong.” The “bong” is the intense striking sound that signals the arrival of an hour. It’s a gong-like explosion that disrupts the steady field of the tick tock. Putting aside that “bong” for a moment, the “tick tock” is a splendid thing unto itself, a quotidian Steve Reich installation, no counterpoint, just the steady progression of time (MP3).

[audio:http://podcasts.resonancefm.com/podpress_trac/web/3928/0/wavelength05Feb10.mp3|titles=”Tick Tock Bong”|artists=Wavelength (Resonance FM)]

As the Oblique Strategies card reads, “Repetition is a form of change.” In this case, the change that becomes apparent is the way the details of the to-and-fro procession of mechanized time come into focus. As it goes on, the whole concept of time comes into question, because the imprecision of the timepiece becomes apparent: the swagger of its off-balanced tone, the extended pause that makes every other beat slightly longer than the previous (or vice versa, depending on when you start counting).

And then, fair warning, there are those hour markers, the intense gong sounds — the “bong!” from which the entry takes its title — that provide the impression that the creaky grandfather clock has, for a moment, regained the ramrod posture of its youth. Heard here, the gong is preceded, as at 7:17, by a kind of winding-up, a quiet warning that the hour is about to be noted loudly. The first hour heard here is 11, and we are then treated to three more such markers (1, 12, and 6) after extended periods of tick-tock homogeneity. The bong is hard to ignore, but worth even closer consideration is the lingering resonance that seems to taper off to infinity, a slow decay that never seems to fully go away. The overall impression is that time doesn’t pass; it accrues. (Peculiarly, at the very end of the recording, there is suddenly traffic noise and then birdsong and then a plane crossing overhead.)

In the post associated with the track, there is a brief explanatory note:

It was midnight in Syston, Leicestershire and the microphone was inside the clock which was awarded to Sandra’s grandfather; William Cross who won a stack of individual and team titles with the army and Castleford Harriers and was presented to King George V and Queen Mary in January 1920 after finishing sixth out of a field of 700 in the army cross-country championship. Sandra’s mother came into the room, noticed the microphone and just said “tick tock”before going back upstairs.

Track originally posted at resonancefm.com. More on Wavelength’s host, William English, at williamenglish.com. (Image courtesy of flickr.com via the Creative Commons.)

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Sonic Stress Test of a Composer’s Historic Home (MP3)

When the MoCA, in Los Angeles, and the Hirshhorn, in Washington, D.C., combined forces in 2005 to produce the exhibit Visual Music, one of the key precedents it cited for audio-visual synaesthetic engagement was the work of Lithuanian composer and painter Mikalojus Konstantinas ÄŒiurlionis (1875-1911). The sound artist Gintas K created a tribute to the composer during a residency in the composer’s one-time home in the city of Druskininkai. It takes the form of a rough assemblage of noises, of moving throughout the house, and what may be recordings of his works echoing in its halls, slowly gaining volume and intensity. There is, of course, the suggestion of ghostly apparation, but what’s especially intriguing is that echoing, the room tones of a place where a composer spent much of his time (MP3). As a kind of sonic stress test of that space, the piece is a map of the environment that no doubt helped give shape to the composer’s music. The work was performed in late August of this year at the ÄŒiurlionis Memorial Museum.

[audio:http://download.cronicaelectronica.org/cronicast084.mp3|titles=”ÄŒiurlionis”|artists=Gintas K]

Piece originally posted at cronicaelectronica.org. More on ÄŒiurlionis ciurlionis.lt. More on Gintas K at gintask.dar.lt.

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