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

Monthly Archives: May 2013

Cues: le Carré’s Ear, Friedkin’s Foley, Modular Doc, …

Plus: fast drones, wind chimes, full-spectrum TV, dance music, and more

20130527-lecarreâ—¼ The (Eaves)drop: The following is extracted from the new John le Carré novel, A Delicate Truth. The book is, like almost any le Carré novel, a story of surveillance, and when le Carré pays attention to what it means to pay attention to sound, it is worth reading closely:

“Above the clatter of the wind came a clicking sound like dominoes collapsing: two sets of clicks, then nothing. He thought he heard a yell but he was listening too hard to know for sure. It was the wind. It was the nightingale. No, it was the owl. … A stray engine barked, but it could as well have been a fox as a car or the outboard of an inflatable.”

That things are not what they seem, even when one is paying attention, is at the heart of the novel. And it doesn’t give anything away to say that the closing moment in A Delicate Truth is a direct reflection of the bit reproduced above.

â—¼ Foley Connection: “Why was the crash sequence in ”˜French Connection’ so dramatic? The smack of a hammer hitting an anvil was added to the ambient sound.” That is from Janet Maslin’s nytimes.com review of director William Friedkin’s recent memoir, The Friedkin Connection.

â—¼ Modular Doc: Trailer for I Dream of Wires, a documentary about modular synthesizers. Preorders end May 31, and it’s due out in June. Among the interviewees (in order of appearance in the video): Maggi Payne, Bernie Krause, Jack Dangers, Vince Clarke, Daniel Miller, Carl Craig, James Holden, Richard Devine, Flood, Trent Reznor, Chris Carter, Charlie Clouser, and Gary Numan. More at idreamofwires.org.

â—¼ Wind’s Voice: “I attempted to make and record my own Aeolian Harp. I began to notice parallels between the harp and the planes. Both gave the weather a voice.” That’s artist Dawn Scarfe, interviewed at earroom.wordpress.com.

â—¼ Jurassic Bark: “[T]o resuscitate the sound of prehistoric creatures by reconstructing their vocal tracts.” That’s designer Marguerite Humeau on her work, via bldgblog.blogspot.com.

â—¼ Sixth Digital Sense: “[A]n agent at U.S. Cyber Command who has a microchip implanted in his brain that allows him to access the entire electromagnetic spectrum.”Alphas may have been cancelled, but someone got Gary’s powers, via washingtonpost.com. This new series is titled Intelligence.

â—¼ Post Release: “All this focus on controllerism and interfaces and gestures is I think because it’s so important to connect thought and body ”“ a challenge in ways that transcend even the question of technology.” That’s from some additional thoughts by Peter Kirn about the album, Music for Dance, that he previewed here on Disquiet.com earlier in the month: createdigitalmusic.

â—¼ Fast Drone: Despite the association with stasis, the sonic drone moves. It generally moves slowly, the deliberate pace more an emblem of stillness than an actual realization of it. Occasionally we get to hear fast ones, such as the first minute and a half of this preview from Pillowdiver’s new album, Bloody Oath:

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Rhythm by Accrual (MP3)

A five-minute beat suite by San Francisco's Jungle Jim

Jungle Jim’s track “Descripted” is listed by the San Francisco musician as work toward upcoming projects, both for release and for live performance. What it is is rhythm by accrual, slowly iterating patterns that develop as elements shift in and out. At any moment there is a rhythm, even for an extended moment, but in fact the overall piece, despite a relatively concise five-minute playing time, is closer to a suite in its construction, more a collection of sub-rhythms. The track’s sole associated tag, “un done concrete,” suggests that the beats are the extreme reductions of real-world sound, but whatever their provenance, each sample has been reduced to a hard strike, with little opportunity for a lingering fade.

Track originally posted for free download at soundcloud.com/micahaudiovideo. More from Jungle Jim at soundandvisionart.tumblr.com.

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The Sonic Haiku (MP3s)

The classic 5-7-5 structure courtesy of Darius Greene

Darius Greene of Austin, Texas, has participated in the ongoing “sound haiku”project, in which the structure of a work follows that of the traditional Japanese poem, the syllables transformed into minutes, five then seven then five again, and the whole thing accompanied by a proper haiku. Thomas Park’s entry was mentioned here several months back. In Greene’s case, the associated haiku reads:

glass terrariums

bird men in feathered robes

collecting dreamers

Greene’s music is quite beautiful. In the bookending segments, tones and percussive elements are set to contrast in a constant state of play, light pluckings and twittery beats against textures both rough and soft. As might be expected, the more significant contrasts occur during the transitions, as the gentle opening piece gives way to a mix of layered, haunting vocal elements, and then again as that midsection is supplanted by something at times fluttery and anxious, but also soulful, with snatches of guitar and fragments of soft chords.

The overall idea of the sound haiku idea is an interesting one. I’m not entirely sure that minutes are the most promising means by which to transform the structure. True, a mere 17-second piece, in which the syllables are considered as seconds rather than minutes, passes too quickly. But then again, isn’t a haiku something one might read several times in succession? Perhaps a phrase-based approach is to be considered?

Tracks originally posted for free download at soundcloud.com/dariusgreene. More from Green at dariusgreene.com. More of the haiku projects at the excellent subterraneantide.com.

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Disquiet Junto Project 0073: Faulty Notation

The Assignment: Read a map of the San Andreas Fault as if it were a graphic notation score.

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Each Thursday at the Disquiet Junto group on Soundcloud.com a new compositional challenge is set before the group’s members, who then have just over four days to upload a track in response to the assignment. Membership in the Junto is open: just join and participate.

This week’s project was developed with Geoff Manaugh of BLDG BLOG as part of a course he taught in spring 2013 at Columbia University’s graduate school of architecture about the San Andreas Fault. Participants in this Junto project will interpret an individually assigned segment of a map of the fault as if it were a graphic notation score. The image up top is an example of such a map segment. Note: Do not base your piece on the above image; it is simply provided as an example. The project instructions appear below.

If this all goes according to plan, we may develop a free iOS app of the resulting music, in which users can touch the map to trigger the associated recording, and learn more about the San Andreas Fault, graphic notation, BLDG BLOG, the Disquiet Junto, and related topics.

The browser-based map-dispersal code was developed by Ken Mistove (kenzak.com). Additional design assistance from Boon Design (boondesign.com).

This assignment was made in the evening, California time, on Thursday, May 23, 2013, with 11:59pm on the following Monday, May 27, as the deadline.

Below are the instructions that went out to the group’s email list (at tinyletter.com/disquiet-junto). This is the map legend referenced in the instructions:

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Disquiet Junto Project 0073: Faulty Notation

This week’s project is about earthquakes. Each participant will receive a distinct section of a map of the San Andreas Fault. The section will be interpreted as a graphic notation score. The resulting music will, in the words of Geoff Manaugh of BLDG BLOG, “explore the sonic properties of the San Andreas Fault.”

There are 4 steps to this project:

Step 1: To be assigned a segment of the map, go to the following URL. You will be asked to enter your SoundCloud user name, and then to enter your email address. You will receive via that email address a file, approximately 1MB in size, containing your map segment:

http://kenzak.com/disquiet/disquiet0073.html

Step 2: Study the map segment closely. Develop an approach by which you interpret the map segment as a graphic notation score. The goal is for you to “read”the image as if it were presented as a piece of notated music. Read the image from left to right. Pay particular attention to solid black lines, which represent fault lines. For additional guidance and inspiration, you may refer to the map legend at the following URL. The extent to which you take the legend into consideration is entirely up to you:

Disquiet Junto Project 0073: Faulty Notation

Step 3: Record an original piece of music based on Step 2. It should be between two and six minutes in length. You can use any instrumentation you choose, except the human voice. (Note: Do not use any source material to which you do not yourself outright possess the copyright. This is highly important, because we may look into developing a free iOS app of the resulting recordings.)

Step 4: When posting your track, 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.

Deadline: Monday, May 27, 2013, at 11:59pm wherever you are.

Length: Your track should have a duration of between two and six minutes.

Title/Tag: Include the term “disquiet0073-faultynotation”in the title of your track, and as a tag for your track.

Download: Please consider employing a license that allows for attributed, commerce-free remixing (i.e., a Creative Commons license permitting non-commercial sharing with attribution).

Linking: When posting the track, be sure to include this information:

More on this 73rd Disquiet Junto project, which involves reading a map of the San Andreas Fault as if it were a graphic notation score, at:

Disquiet Junto Project 0073: Faulty Notation

This project was conducted as part of a course of study led by Geoff Manaugh (BLDG BLOG). More on his research at:

http://bldgblog.blogspot.com/2013/01/san-andreas-architecture-for-fault.html

More details on the Disquiet Junto at:

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Duet for Harmonica and Computer (MP3)

A slow spatial work by Joo Won Park

“Harmonica30” is a duet by Joo Won Park for harmonica and computer. Notes are slowly intoned on the harmonica, and those sounds in turn trigger a series of halo effects.

The halos range from what could be compared to old-school Wurlitzer organ to something more along the lines of pixelated wind. In Park’s telling the shifts are as much about spacial experimentation as about harmonic development. Or, perhaps more to the point, they are about harmonic development as spatial development. This is from a brief note that accompanies the track on its SoundCloud page:

“The computer part is algorithmically generated so that the timing and the dynamics of the accompanying part varies from one performance to another. The harmonica sound gradually moves to a larger room as the piece progresses.”

There’s also a video on YouTube of the harmonica performance, which allows the processing gap, the space between what is physically played and what is heard, to be more apparent:

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In an interview at thekey.xpn.org, Park talked about what “computer music” means to him:

“I think of it as trying to do something that’s unique with the computer, rather than imitating human performance. I try to make music that a computer can do better than a human, or that is too bothersome for a human to make. And I’m interested in creating a duo between the computer and me. A lot of times, I don’t know what the computer will spit out. When I make music on the stage, there is no pre-recorded sound. What I play goes straight to the computer, and the computer processes and changes what I play. The process the computer goes through is intentionally made so that the outcome is different every time.”

Track originally posted for free download at soundcloud.com/joowon. Thanks to Jane Shin for recommending that I check out Park’s work. More from Joo Won Park at joowonpark.net.

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