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The Sixteen-Millimeter Fractal

A work of percussive wordplay by Erika Nesse

16millimeter-nesse

I wrote about Erika Nesse’s fractal music about a month ago (“A Nautilus of Percussive Expressivity”), and she just posted this week another example that’s well worth a listen. Titled “You Can Wish It All Away,” the short piece, not even two full minutes in length, takes tiny snippets of source audio, in this case a woman speaking, and renders from them a slowly evolving rhythmic flurry. Slivers of syllables — not whole verbal sounds but mere bits of them, so even the softest vowel can serve as a plosive thanks to a hard truncation — become an ever-changing fantasy of computer-generated beatcraft.

Two moments seem to suggest that the piece isn’t directly the result of a computer using fractals to break and reformat the source, but that Nesse herself plays a role in the work’s composition — that she is using the fractal algorithm as a source for musical development, much as the algorithm itself is using the original source audio. The first of these moments appears at about the one-minute mark, when the previously furious mix of layered sounds gives way to a harshly minimalist, staccato metric. The second is at the end, when the original sample audio is heard in full, revealing itself as a line from an early episode of The Twilight Zone: “If I wish hard enough, I can wish it all away.” That’s the main character, a former film star, speaking in the episode titled “The Sixteen-Millimeter Shrine.”

Track originally posted at soundcloud.com/conversationswithrocks. More from Nesse, who’s based in Boston, at conversationswithrocks.tumblr.com and erikanesse.bandcamp.com. Film clip screenshot via youtu.be.

By Marc Weidenbaum

Tags: , , / Comments: 2 ]

2 Comments

  1. Erika Nesse
    [ Posted April 28, 2016, at 4:26 pm ]

    Wow, thanks for the in depth commentary. I can give some insight as to the process: you’re right to intuit that I did some cut and paste, but the staccato bit is part of the original fractal. The problem was that it remained staccato through the rest of the track, which wasn’t satisfying, so I did a partial repeat at the end. Overall structure is something that the fractals struggle with– it’s a work in progress. I tacked on the full clip, because it is always fun to hear what you have been hearing all mashed up.

    Good detective work on the sample. I didn’t actually know that myself, I got the sample from a friend who collects such things.

    Thanks for listening!

    • Marc Weidenbaum
      [ Posted April 28, 2016, at 4:46 pm ]

      Very cool. Thanks for the additional details. That all makes sense. Thanks for all the music.

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