Cinchel Plays His Audience

A live ambient participatory performance

When the musician who goes by Cinchel steps away from his instruments three minutes into this live video of a recent Chicago concert, it isn’t much of a surprise. Electronic instruments often perform, in essence, by themselves. Often they are more nudged that played. They are tools set in motion, coaxed and cajoled rather than strummed or plucked or bowed. But when Cinchel makes his move elsewhere in the room, it isn’t simply because his equipment can manage without him. It’s because there are more instruments to be attended to. Already a rich tonal drone has filled the room, and now he’s using a mallet to eke out notes on what might very well be a child’s metal xylophone. Soon after he’s elsewhere in the space, ringing a bell. Each time he returns to the central equipment, adjusting the encompassing ringing sound that is the main component of the piece. Then he’s back off, with a spring instrument, more bells, and that xylophone again. And, naturally, the audience eventually joins in, taking the cue that these various tools can be employed by others when Cinchel is too busy. In just 15 minutes, he goes from playing to the audience to playing with the audience. By the time they join in, they’re under his spell. They have been, themselves, coaxed and cajoled.

This is the latest video I’ve added to my YouTube playlist of recommended live performances of ambient music. Video originally posted at The video is a section of a longer performance titled “Walking into an Unfamiliar Place You Already Know.” More from Cinchel at and

Disquiet Junto Project 0269: Duet Portion

Record half of a live duet.

Each Thursday in the Disquiet Junto group, 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. A SoundCloud account is helpful but not required. There’s no pressure to do every project. It’s weekly so that you know it’s there, every Thursday through Monday, when you have the time.

Tracks will be added to this playlist:

This project’s deadline is 11:59pm wherever you are on Monday, February 27, 2017. This project was posted in the late morning, California time, on Thursday, February 23, 2017.

These are the instructions that went out to the group’s email list (at

Disquiet Junto Project 0269: Duet Portion
Record half of a live duet.

Step 1: This week’s Junto will be the first in an occasional series allowing for asynchronous collaboration. You will be recording something with the understanding that it will be unfinished.

Step 2: The plan is for you to record a short and original piece of music, on any instrumentation of your choice, live, with no post-production edits or overdubbing. You can do as many takes as you’d like, but the final recording should be a document of a wholly live performance. Conceive it as something that leaves room for something else — another instrument, performed by another person — to join in.

Step 3: Record a short piece of music, roughly two to three minutes in length, as described in Step 2. If possible, it would be great if you could make a video of your live performance as well.

Step 4: Also be sure, when complete, to make the track downloadable, because it will be used by someone else in a future Junto project.

Five More Important Steps When Your Track Is Done:

Step 1: If you hosting platform allows for tags, be sure to include the project tag “disquiet0269” (no spaces) in the name of your track. If you’re posting on SoundCloud in particular, this is essential to my locating the tracks and creating a playlist of them.

Step 2: Upload your track. It is helpful but not essential that you use SoundCloud to host your track.

Step 3: In the following discussion thread at please consider posting your track:

Step 4: Annotate your track with a brief explanation of your approach and process.

Step 5: Then listen to and comment on tracks uploaded by your fellow Disquiet Junto participants.

Deadline: This project’s deadline is 11:59pm wherever you are on Monday, February 27, 2017. This project was posted in the late morning, California time, on Thursday, February 23, 2017.

Length: The length is up to you, though about two to three minutes feel about right.

Title/Tag: When posting your track, please include “disquiet0269” in the title of the track, and where applicable (on SoundCloud, for example) as a tag.

Upload: When participating in this project, post one finished track with the project tag, and be sure to 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.

Download: Please set your track for download and with a license that allows for attributed reworking (i.e., a Creative Commons license permitting non-commercial sharing with attribution).

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

More on this 269th weekly Disquiet Junto project, “Duet Portion: Record half of a live duet”at:

More on the Disquiet Junto at:

Subscribe to project announcements here:

Project discussion takes place on

There’s also on a Junto Slack. Send your email address to for Slack inclusion.

Image associated with this project is by Tony Tsang. It’s used thanks to a Creative Commons license:

No Insects Were Harmed

In the recording of Clara Iannotta's "Dead Wasps in the Jam-Jar (ii)"

Clara Iannotta’s “Dead Wasps in the Jam-Jar (ii)” (2016) intrigues with its title’s promise of quotidian decay and, perhaps, with a bit of telegraphed moralizing about the price paid for sweetness. The suspense builds even before you hit play, thanks to its list of components: “for string orchestra, objects, and sine waves.” Now technically, virtually all music contains sine waves, since those are a major component of sound, but clearly the sine waves heard here are of the electronically generated variety. As for the objects, the brush held by the composer in the accompanying photo provides a hint at the untraditional instruments. What unfolds as “Dead Wasps in the Jam-Jar (ii)” proceeds is a study in controlled energies. In programmatic terms, the wasps seem to meet their fate as the four-minute mark arrives, a sharp swirling hitting hard, and more loudly than anything that proceeded it. Then warping torques and sudden jitters evidence struggle before the piece settles into an extended if anxious stillness. That final period, from about six minutes until the end, at eleven and a half minutes, is where concentrated listening is especially rewarded, thanks to Iannotta’s expert mix of textures, of held strings and fluttering percussion.

Track originally posted at More from Iannotta, who is from Italy and is based in both Berlin, Germany, and Boston, Massachusetts, at She is currently working on compositions for Duo 2KW and Arditti Quartet, among other ensembles.

The Elbow at the Machine

The human intervention in generative music

Björn Bommersheim posted this seven-minute synthesizer performance, which he describes as a “self generative eurorack modular patch,” which is to say it’s an instrument that plays itself. This isn’t to say the synth is entirely self-sufficient. Putting aside the necessity of someone (Bommersheim, that is) to conceive of and implement the patch — “patch” meaning the various connections between various modules, and the various settings of those modules — there are numerous instances throughout “Chtou | Eurorack Ambient Soundscape” when the author is physically present. Bommersheim is seen adjusting knobs early on to set the piece in motion, and moving up and down between the levels of modules to nudge the piece in a desired direction at various instances. For the duration of the sedate, welcomingly distracting performance, rich swells of cloudy waveforms come and go, and whispy, playful, slurpy smaller tones make themselves heard.

This is the latest video I’ve added to my YouTube playlist of recommended live performances of ambient music. Video originally posted at Bommersheim’s YouTube channel. More from Bommershein, who is based in Bochum, Germany, at

Whiz-Bang Chamber Music

Live for modular synthesizer, by Brian Noll, aka Lightbath

I’ve been keeping a playlist of live ambient performances for awhile. Several things interest me about live ambient music. The main matter is the tension between action and stasis. Ambient music often aspires to a sense of time standing still, a time apart from time. Live performance to some degree or another, whether on stage or in a home-filmed video, aspires to some extent to express activity: something happened, and it is documented here. Two short segments comprise this elegant video by Bryan Noll. The switchover happens around the 1:40 mark of the 3:09-long clip. In both segments the same small number of synthesizer modules imparts a mix of artificially conceived plucked strings and shooting-star tones that fly through, making for whiz-bang chamber music. As Noll (who also goes by Lightbath) explains in the comments, there is some additional technology offscreen, in particular a keyboard on which he is playing the chords. At times throughout you see one or both hands enter the close-up shot to move a knob or a lever, a common activity in synthesizer performance that introduces adjustment as something between conducting and performing.

Video originally posted at Noll’s YouTube channel. More from Noll at, and