Nathan Johnson is a composer best known for his work with director Rian Johnson, his cousin, on such films as Brick, The Brothers Bloom, and, most recently, Looper. The Looper soundtrack album is up for download in the regular spots (iTunes, Amazon), and there’s a special physical edition (limited to 3,000 units) at lalalandrecords.com. The physical version includes seven additional tracks, on top of the 19 that are part of the downloadable version. Two of those additional tracks, and two from the main set, are available for free download at the La-La Land website. (All four max out at 1:30, while the album versions go longer, one of them for over five minutes.) These include a solo piano version of the movie’s haunting theme (MP3), two different versions of the “Closing Your Loop” (MP3) cue (the alternate version referred to as a “film mix” [MP3]), and “A New Scar” (MP3).
[audio:http://media.xlr8r.com/files/downloads/mp3s/Demona.mp3|titles=”Theme From Looper (Solo Piano Version)”|artists=Nathan Johnson]
[audio:http://media.xlr8r.com/files/downloads/mp3s/Demona.mp3|titles=”Closing Your Loop”|artists=Nathan Johnson]
[audio:http://media.xlr8r.com/files/downloads/mp3s/Demona.mp3|titles=”Closing Your Loop (Film Mix)”|artists=Nathan Johnson]
[audio:http://media.xlr8r.com/files/downloads/mp3s/Demona.mp3|titles=”A New Scar”|artists=Nathan Johnson]
Forgive longtime listeners to the work of Kenneth Kirschner if they (we, really) mistakenly think the title of his new, three-piece album on the SHSK’H netlabel is September 21, 2012. That’s how it appears to be on the netlabel’s website (see detail of screenshot above), and as Kirschner listeners know, he titles almost all his work with the date of its production. In fact, that simply is the date of release, and the album’s actual title is merely Shsk’h Vol.07. No matter, the appearance of new work by him is multiply enjoyable: First, because it exists to begin with. Second, because, by definition, this being a netlabel release, it is free to download. Third, because it is a duet — a work for him and his colleague, viola player Tawnya Popoff.
The netlabel phenomenon is a tremendous force in contemporary music, with hundreds of these small organizations around the world actively distributing for free the music of willing musicians. In many ways, the concept of the netlabel is at the forefront of the Creative Commons — except for one lingering issue: Many netlabels set their tracks to a license that doesn’t allow for derivative works. On a label-by-label basis, that’s likely an informed decision. But from a broader perspective, it arguably stunts the promotion of shared culture.
In order to encourage the employment of licenses that allow for derivative works, such as remixes, the Disquiet Junto will focus its collective attention this week to a netlabel that allows for derivative works. We’ll take three tracks from three different releases from the Nowaki label, based in Paris, France, and combine them into remixed celebrations of the label’s vibrancy.
So, the assignment this week is simple. Please download the following three tracks from the netlabel Nowaki and combine them into a new track. You can process the sourced audio in any way you choose, but you can’t add anything to it:
“She Likes to Look at the Sky” from Kluge’s No Love, Please.
Note: You will likely have to download the full albums to access the source audio.
Deadline: Monday, October 1, at 11:59pm wherever you are.
Length: Your finished work should be between 2 and 5 minutes in length.
Information: Please when posting your track on SoundCloud, include a description of your process in planning, composing, and recording it. This description is an essential element of the communicative process inherent in the Disquiet Junto.
Title/Tag: When adding your track to the Disquiet Junto group on Soundcloud.com, please include the term “disquiet0039-remixingnowaki”in the title of your track, and as a tag for your track.
Download: For this project, your track should be set as downloadable, and allow for attributed remixing (i.e., a Creative Commons License permitting non-commercial sharing with attribution).
Linking: When posting the track, be sure to include this information:
To begin with, up top is a video from YouTube that is annotated as “Music for the Great Gallery” and as an “installazione sonora di Brian Eno per la Galleria Grande.” As of this writing, the video has only 738 views, even though it’s been online since July 24 of this year. The video appears to be an official posting from the arts institution that organized the exhibit that is depicted. The brief press release from Warp on the Lux record described Lux as “a 75-minute composition in twelve sections that evolved from a work currently housed in the Great Gallery of the Palace of Venaria in Turin, Italy.” This aligns with the description of the work in the video (more details toward the end of this post). The album has four tracks, each about 20 minutes long, and by all appearances they will be drawn from the systems that produced the music heard in the above video.
The same YouTube account from which that video originated also posted a brief talk about the exhibit by Eno. This second video also appeared on July 24, and yet has only 444 views so far (again, as of this typing):
In the lecture, Eno doesn’t talk about the specifics of the Great Gallery installation so much as provide background for how this sort of work came to be. Throughout he employs an overhead projector to use graphics to depict what he’s describing. He discusses the influence of Terry Riley’s “In C” on his awakening, 40 years ago, and on his emerging development of ambient music. He describes the “self-constructing” nature of Riley’s work, which he diagrams in a colorful manner, and mentions how it applies not just to music but things in general:
“It’s an idea that’s very appealing to lifelong anarchists, like myself,” he says. He also discusses “It’s Gonna Rain” by Steve Reich (“One of the simplest pieces of music that has ever changed anyone’s life,” he calls the great work). He diagrams this as well:
Part of the role of these diagrams is to explain how the works function, how those simple elements in the Riley work are intended to be repeated at the musician’s discretion, and how the Reich consists of loops that phase in and out. The diagrams also serve the purpose of distinguishing the music from that which would be traditionally depicted as a series of notes on staffs. And, finally, the diagrams allow him to move into a second set of images depicting how organizations are structured.
He reflects on the role of cybernetics (“people came to grips with the idea that systems operate differently from the parts of the system”); he calls it the first language he found that could “talk” about “this kind of music.” He discusses top-down organizations, making comparisons between the orchestra and the Vatican and the military, and he diagrams that structure as follows:
This he distinguishes from the generative relationships he aspires to in his ambient work (“the composer was a seed and the seed grew into something”), which he diagrams as follows:
At around the eight-minute mark Eno brings this all around to his own compositional style, which he presents as a series of individual, self-contained musical elements that overlap in unique manners (“From a very simple system you get rather beautiful and complex new relationships”), and he diagrams it as follows:
In closing he mentions the roles of genetics and cellular automata in his compositional awakening. He singles out “autopoiesis,” or “self-making,” as the mode in which he is engaged, something that produced music he had “never imagined.” He lists Music for Airports as an example of the music that has resulted from this practice.
As of this writing there is just one comment on each of the two YouTube videos: a peculiarly dismissive one on the lecture (“Uh… didn’t John Cage do this like 40 years ago?”) — peculiar since the whole point of the lecture is looking back 40 years to the origins of what Eno is up to — and one on the installation excerpt that connects it to the forthcoming album (“Just ordered Lux cant wait to hear full version”).
Â¶ The press release today describes the forthcoming Lux as follows:
It finds him expanding upon the types of themes and sonic textures that were present on such classic albums as Music for Films, Music for Airports and Apollo: Atmospheres and Soundtracks. Eno sees it as a continuation of his ‘Music for Thinking’ project that includes Discreet Music (1975) and Neroli (1993).
It’s intriguing that the list doesn’t include Thursday Afternoon (1985), which like Lux originated as music from an installation.
Update 2012.09.27:Wif Stenger reminded me of the Brian Eno Kite Stories album from 1999; it’s another project whose audio was sourced from an installation, this one the Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art in Helsinki, Finland. His note in turn reminded me of other installation projects not mentioned in the Warp press release. The 1997 Lightness was from an exhibit at the Marble Palace in the State Russian Museum of St. Petersburg, Russia. I Dormienti, like Kite Stories from 1999, was from an exhibit at the Undercroft of the Roundhouse in London. The 2000 Civic Recovery Centre was from the Hayward Gallery in London. The 2001 Compact Forest Proposal was from the San Francisco MoMA.
Â¶ This detailed description of the project, including Eno’s own explanation, appears on the lavenaria.it website:
The great Brian Eno, the undisputed contemporary master, music theorist, acclaimed producer, the inventor of ambient music and the brilliant innovator of the language of modern music has made a very special gift to the Great Gallery, the 18th century masterpiece by the architect Filippo Juvarra and the symbol of the splendor of Venaria Reale: an original soundtrack.
I started writing “12 Seasons. Music for the Great Gallery”in my studio in London. I had seen pictures and plans of the Reggia di Venaria and I was confident I had found the right approach: I worked for a few weeks on a track that I brought to the Reggia for testing in May 2012.
When I listened to it in the extraordinary context of the Great Gallery, however, I realized that it was not right. What I had composed – in my studio in London, wrapped up in England’s grey climate – was introspective and somewhat dark. There was not doubt in my mind that it was an “interior”track. What is most striking about the Great Gallery – and you realise as much only when you step into it – is that it is soaked in light and space: nothing further from an “interior”feeling. Juvarra had designed it to invite the world to get in, so it seemed appropriate that music should exist inside as well as outside of space, almost like a cloud or an atmosphere that would envelop the construction from the outside.
Conceptually, this music is similar to other works I did around forty years ago (e.g., Discreet Music, 1975). I am still deeply fascinated by the range of transformations that are possible starting with a limited “stock”of original notes, and this piece is a perfect example in this sense. Nevertheless, there is also a new starting point. Building on the Reggia’s “classical”imprint, I wanted to make sure that the track was made up of several “movements”rather than a single block. Thus only 4 or 5 or 6 of the original 7 sounds I had decided to work with will eventually be used in each section. This means that the emotional quality of each section is slightly different, and as it progresses, the piece evolves and takes on different overtones.
I love the Great Gallery of La Venaria, it is a sort of secular cathedral, and I hope that my music will encourage more people to spend time in the Gallery than it is normally the case. Brian Eno
12 Seasons. Music for the Great Gallery of the Palace of Venaria, in its final version, is made up of two 1-hour tracks consisting of 12 sections each.
Only four speakers are in place, two at the entrance and two at the end of the Gallery, all facing the center of the hall. Visitors walking down the Gallery are wrapped into two distincts sound flows: as they approach the center of the hall, echoes of the sounds behind turn into a memory that blend in the soft reverberations of the sounds that lay ahead.
The two movements that are complete when they meet at the heart of the Gallery. The sound tracks are made of melodic cores that are sketched and whispered, with the warmer sound of real violins in place of samplings. Pauses and silences play with the peculiar reverberation effect. The sounds are remarkably persistent before dissolving into the space, each engaged in a potentially endless chase, floating in the air, altering the perception of the Great Gallery, expanding its volumes and filling it with a different light.
Music thus becomes an “essential constituent”of the Gallery, like a color, a scent, almost a newly crafted decoration – after the ones designed by the architects Juvarra and Alfieri. Music as a complement to space”.
Â¶ And, finally, it’s unclear who created the Lux cover art, but it certainly has a certain kinship to the work of Tom Phillips, who has done numerous pieces of art associated with Eno —Â notably the cover to Another Green World, which this resembles.
• October 13, 2016: This day marks the start of the 250th weekly Disquiet Junto project.
• November 16, 2016: I'll be sharing the mic at Adobe Books in San Francisco with my fellow 33 1/3 author Evie Nagy for an evening hosted, from 7pm to 10pm, by Marc Kate (facebook.com).
• December 1, 2016: A likely speaking engagement. Details to come.
• December 13, 2016: This day marks the 20th anniversary of Disquiet.com.
• January 5, 2017: This day marks the 5th anniversary of the Disquiet Junto.
• Ongoing: The Disquiet Junto series of weekly communal music projects explore constraints as a springboard for creativity and productivity. There is a new project each Thursday afternoon (California time), and it is due the following Monday at 11:59pm: disquiet.com/junto.
• My book on Aphex Twin's landmark 1994 album, Selected Ambient Works Vol. II, published as part of the 33 1/3 series, an imprint of Bloomsbury, is now in its second printing. It can be purchased at amazon.com, among other places.