Two by Robert Crouch

A live improvisation and a microsonic excursion

Two pieces from one musician. “June 19” is a rich drone-informed excursion with a slowly morphing core. Robert Crouch, who committed “June 19” to tape, explains in a brief liner note that it is “completely improvised,” and that such an approach is unusual for him. He lists an array of modular synthesis components employed (“Mutable Instruments Braids, Intellijel Korgasmatron II, Makenoise Rene, Makenoise Echophone, Pittsburgh VILFO, Grendel Formant Filter, and Harvestman Tyme Sefari II”), but the music is the thing, in this case an often sultry piece of near stillness that sounds like what Herbie Hancock might have recorded in the early 1970s after spending a long afternoon in at a museum exhibit of a John Cage retrospective.

While “June 19” dates from a little over a month ago, an untitled piece from about a year back makes a good point of contrast. In breathy tempo and general hazy aspect, it is a parallel work, but slight adjustments in tone make is considerably less sultry and more ethereal — less Earth, more Heaven. Crouch has tagged it as “microsound” and it has a lower-case aesthetic certainly that’s fitting to that tag, though an underlying texture, like that of a ragged speaker cone, serves ultimately to ground the recording.

“June 19” and the untitled piece were originally posted at Crouch’s account. More from Crouch, who is based in Los Angeles, at

SOUND RESEARCH LOG: Is Voice the Uncanny Valley?

There may have been no better place than to keep track of Comic-Con, and this popped up in a summary of the Person of Interest panel. That’s the CBS series with an admirably long-game approach to narrative. It’s about an AI coming into sentience. That AI has become more of a character, and as the series enters season four it now is up against a competitive AI:

“Pressed for an answer about whether or not the AIs would get voices, Jonathan Nolan responded, ‘We’re working on the voice thing. But you may not like where it goes.’”

Full coverage at It’s rarely advisable to read comments, but there are some strongly worded concerns in the resulting thread about lending voices to the AI, worth checking out if only as an expression of a point of view.

This entry cross-posted from the Disquiet linkblog project

Cori Marquis and Molly Sheridan on Dance, Music, and Video

An insightful conversation about the Disquiet Junto at


This week’s Disquiet Junto project, in which compositions are created to complement a video of new choreography, owes a debt to Aphex Twin. It was while researching the aftermarket uses — the cultural afterlife — of his album Selected Ambient Works Volume II for my book in the 33 1/3 series that I came upon Cori Marquis. Now a choreographer and dancer based in New York, she had, while an undergraduate at Stanford University, created a work based on music from the record — more to the point, her project was twice removed, since she had used music from the Alarm Will Sound album of Aphex Twin covers.

I learned a lot about contemporary dance while preparing to interview Marquis for my book, and learned even more when interviewing her, especially about how music is often secondary to the choreography. As an outsider to dance, I mistakenly assumed that dance is an expression of the music, when in fact the relation between dance and the music that is danced to is often quite complicated, even remote.

As this week’s project came into focus, I suspected that the insightful folks at would be interested and indeed Molly Sheridan, the site’s Executive Editor, has published an excellent interview with Marquis about the relation between film and choreography, the relation between music and choreography, and her inspiration for this piece. The full article, “A Feedback Loop of Movement and Sound: Five Questions with Choreographer Cori Marquis,” is online at

This, for example, is Marquis on the attraction of film for choreographers:

“You can get the intimacy of film with the physicality of motion; you can alter the viewer’s visual perspective as well as the timing and pacing of the work. The editing becomes part of”“or maybe most of”“the choreography. You can bring site-specific work beyond the location. You can create physically unfeasible images. And logistically, it can be presented an infinite number of times, with the possibility of a huge geographical reach and scope in audience without the financial obstacles of touring a cast around the world.”

And this is her response for a request by Sheridan for a little more context for what’s happening in this piece of choreography:

“The idea for this dance film is rooted in the ephemeral nature of live performance, and specifically the transient way dancers trace and use space. I wanted to investigate what it is to record these floor patterns and points of contact so that they do not disappear the moment they occur. A clear vehicle for this became paint on bodies, with dance on film. The work uses multiple colors of paint to track two dancers: their points of contact with the floor, themselves, and each other; in athletic phrase work; partnering; and nuanced improvisation. The film primarily utilizes semi-aerial and intimate close-up shots.”

Read the full interview at

Ambient at the Grey Lady

Charting the word "ambient" over time in the New York Times' Chronicle app

The paper of record has a feature called Chronicle that allows you to experiment with “Visualizing language usage in New York Times news coverage throughout its history,” as the service describes itself. You can compare frequency of multiple words, or just chart one. Apparently “ambient” is on a roll:


I’m not sure that there’s actually been a downturn in the past year. A lot of words I checked tapered off at the end, making me wonder if they aren’t adjusting for 2014 being barely half through.

The service is similar to if more elegant than Google’s Ngram Viewer, where “ambient” charts about the same, aside from the downturn:


Try it out at Here’s the announcement article from yesterday. If you come upon any interesting data, let me know. (Thanks to Ian Lewis Gordon for the tip.)