A Compendium of Complications

From a forthcoming album by Guy Birkin and Sun Hammer


What makes a piece of music in question complex? The misdirection here, in this track from Guy Birkin and Sun Hammer, begins early, just 10 seconds into the recording, when, after a semblance of a theme emerges, it cuts out and begins again.

And the explicit complexity isn’t all about the audio zigging when your ears expect a zag. There are bright sprays of noise and jittery manifestations of latter day glitch. It’s a compendium of complications, all in service of thinking that Birkin and Sun Hammer have put into, in recent years, the whole concept of complexity. That is, what makes a piece of music complex? What earns it that adjective? The track is off their forthcoming album Complexification, on the estimable Entr’acte label. It’s actually two samples of the record, combined into one file. The recipe for their exploration of complexity is as follows:

The Complexification project explores musical complexity through a collaborative process based on a set of rules:

  1. Make a short, simple piece of music.
  2. Swap copies of the pieces with the other person.
  3. Modify the given piece to make it more complex (the given piece must be used, but it can be trans- formed in any way, and new sounds may be added).
  4. IF the result is more complex (as agreed by both participants), GOTO 2, otherwise HALT.

In this project, complexity is understood in terms of the quantity and variety of musical elements or patterns. The result is two parallel threads of music, each representing a progression of increasing complexity.

The above visual accompanies Birkin’s announcement post on his blog, in which he writes, “The aim of this project is to explore musical complexity through a creative approach rather than an analytical one.” The image appears to show an increasingly complex sequence of related visuals, suggesting a means of comparison. There’s also a more lengthy PDF summarizing their approach to the subject. More on the record at entracte.co.uk.

Track originally posted at soundcloud.com/entracte. More from Birkin at aestheticcomplexity.wordpress.com, twitter.com/guybirkin, and soundcloud.com/notl. More from Sun Hammer, aka Jay Bodley of Portland, Oregon, at sunhammer.com, twitter.com/sunhammer and soundcloud.com/sunhammer.

What Sound Looks Like

An ongoing series cross-posted from instagram.com/dsqt

Now, “dot dash dash” is Morse code for the letter W. Here, however, it is three doorbells of two different makes, set on a residential front gate with no helpful address numbers. If you look closely on the leftmost of these, you’ll see the faded remnant of a series of numerals. One more rainy season and they’ll be entirely gone. The Morse code is probably the most hopeful interpretation: You arrive at the gate and communicate with the inhabitant by tapping out a message with the arcane alphabet.

An ongoing series cross-posted from instagram.com/dsqt.

Live Coding a Gentle Bounce

A recent improvisation by Shelly Knotts

Shelly Knotts provides little context for her track titled “Live Code May 15.” There’s just a handful of hashtags confirming it is a #livecoding performance, and an #improvisation, and though the bouncy tones make it clear, confirms it’s #electronic — more specifically a work on #supercollider, the realtime audio programming language. It’s a gentle piece, its slight shifts and variations on a simple melodic component lending it to repeat play. At 15 minutes, it can fill an hour easily. For a live coding piece of this length, it is fairly free of mishap. From about 6:08 to 6:12 there is a glitchy stutter that seems out of place with the rest of the performance, and may in fact be an error, and later on for one or two moments a note in the main riff seems to falter. But otherwise it’s a seamless, daydreamy recording.

Track originally posted at soundcloud.com/shelly-knotts. Knotts is based in Newcastle, England. Per her bio, she is pursuing a PhD in “Live Computer Music” at Durham University “with a focus on collaboration in Network Music.” More from her at shellyknotts.wordpress.com.

Sound as Byproduct of Art

New audio/visual work from Zimoun, in part in collaboration with Richard Garet

There is no embeddable code for the new collaboration between Zimoun, best known for his minimalist cardboard and metal sound installations, and Richard Garet, an artist whose work also often involves sonic environments. It’s a single track, posted on the website of the label Leerraum, leerraum.ch. To listen, click through; it’s currently the topmost entry. It’s a low level texture of physical machines running some routine procedure, slow motion noise like things rubbing slowly against each other. Old gears. Ruined grooves. Broken devices. It is, I imagine, the byproduct of one of Zimoun’s phenomenal installations, in which a post office’s worth of cardboard boxes, or a startup’s worth of ping pong balls, or an orthodontist’s worth of wires, combine to create a low-fi generative patterning. The installations are always compellingly stark. Here we can only hear them, and ponder what engineering has produced this most minimal of technos.

Zimoun has been posting new videos of late at his vimeo.com/zimoun feed. Here are some of the most recent ones. Watch them once. Then close your eyes and turn up the volume:

More from Garet at richardgaret.com and Zimoun at zimoun.net.

Disquiet Junto Project 0178: Berlin Bells

Deadline June 1, 11:59pm: Emphasize the bells in an urban field recording.


Each Thursday in the Disquiet Junto group on SoundCloud.com and at Disquiet.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.

New tracks will be added to this playlist for the duration of the project:

This assignment was made in the early evening, California time, on Thursday, May 28, 2015, with a deadline of 11:59pm wherever you are on Monday, June 1, 2015.

These are the instructions that went out to the group’s email list (at tinyletter.com/disquiet-junto):

Disquiet Junto Project 0178: Berlin Bells
Emphasize the bells in an urban field recording.

Step 1: Download the audio file at this URL. It is a field recording of urban Berlin by Michael Raphael (aka Sepulchra):


Step 2: Rework the source audio in a manner that reinforces the melodic component of the bells. Beyond that sole instruction, the choices are up to you.

Step 3: Upload your track to the Disquiet Junto group on SoundCloud.

Step 4: Then listen to and comment on tracks uploaded by your fellow Disquiet Junto participants.

Deadline: This assignment was made in the early evening, California time, on Thursday, May 28, 2015, with a deadline of 11:59pm wherever you are on Monday, June 1, 2015.

Length: The length of your finished work should be roughly between one minute and four minutes.

Upload: Please when posting your track on SoundCloud, only upload one track for this assignment, and 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. Photos, video, and lists of equipment are always appreciated.

Title/Tag: When adding your track to the Disquiet Junto group on Soundcloud.com, please include the term “disquiet0178-sepulchrabells”in the title of your track, and as a tag for your track.

Download: It is preferable that your track is set as downloadable, and that it allows for attributed remixing (i.e., a Creative Commons license permitting non-commercial sharing with attribution).

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

More on this 178th Disquiet Junto project — “Emphasize the bells in an urban field recording”— at:

Disquiet Junto Project 0178: Berlin Bells

Source audio by Michael Raphael, aka Sepulchra, who runs the sound-library firm at rabbitearsaudio.com. Audio used with Raphael’s permission. Track originally posted at:

More on the Disquiet Junto at:


Join the Disquiet Junto at:


Disquiet Junto general discussion takes place at:


Photo associated with this track taken by Michael Raphael from his Berlin hotel room, where he recorded the source audio.