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What the Creators of the Monome Sound Like as Live Performers

Kelli Cain and Brian Crabtree recorded live in San Francisco (February 2016)

Update (April 3, 2016): The SoundCloud account of half of the Monome duo mentioned below, Kelli Cain, today uploaded a higher-quality recording of the same concert:

The original post appears below.

The developers of the Monome have shepherded not just a series of refined devices, including their namesake grid and a growing number of synthesizer modules, but a community that makes music with them and software for them.

That Monome community largely gathers at llllllll.co, a discussion site, but occasionally there are opportunities to meet up in person. About a month back, on February 19, Monome’s Kelli Cain and Brian Crabtree, who are based in upstate New York, performed as a duo at a tiny shop in San Francisco’s Outer Richmond neighborhood. The audio for that set is now available as a free download from shop’s SoundCloud account (soundcloud.com/betterforliving).

I was at the show, and can confirm the audio captures the songs well. It’s a series of gentle, folktronic pieces, each with a trance-like quality. Certainly there in the mix are the soft looping synthesizer sounds often associated with the Monome, but there’s also a sweet vocal thread, the pair harmonizing like adjunct members of Low or of Iron and Wine. The acoustic shaker heard early on in this half-hour set is one of several that come out of Cain’s work in ceramics (see: kellicain.com).

At the show Crabtree had several of the shakers on the table. He’d shake one for awhile, and then pass it to someone in the audience to continue the pattern. Each person became an extension of what Crabtree had started, but then altered it a little, whether through the conscious decision to contribute a musical idea, or simply because their sense of rhythm differed from his. Either way, the passing around of the shakers was a masterful example of the real (that is, physical) world reflecting something intrinsic to electronic culture (looping), all occurring in the context of a makeshift community (in this case the few dozen attendees).

Here are two shots I took at the time and that I posted the day after the show at llllllll.co:

weidenbaum-monome2016feb

weidenbaum-monome2016feb2

Track originally posted at soundcloud.com/betterforliving. More on the Monome, Cain, and Crabtree at monome.org.

By Marc Weidenbaum

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  • Marc Weidenbaum founded the website Disquiet.com in 1996 at the intersection of sound, art, and technology, and since 2012 has moderated the Disquiet Junto, an active online community of weekly music/sonic projects. He has written for Nature, Boing Boing, The Wire, Pitchfork, and NewMusicBox, among other periodicals. He is the author of the 33 1⁄3 book on Aphex Twin’s classic album Selected Ambient Works Volume II. Read more about his sonic consultancy, teaching, sound art, and work in film, comics, and other media

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