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Listening to art. Playing with audio. Sounding out technology. Composing in code. Rewinding the soundscape.

A Spy’s Fractured Recollections

Piano and electronics by Berlin-based musician Hainbach

This is the latest video I’ve added to my YouTube playlist of recommended live performances of ambient music.

It’s quite likely that the slow piano line at the heart of this track, “Growing Backwards” by Hainbach, would suggest the music of Erik Satie even if it weren’t being processed by myriad small electronic devices that extracted all the nostalgic intensity possible. The reduced pace, the elegiac intonation, the gentle minimalism — all those things in combination would have likely brought to mind the composer whose life straddled the 19th and 20th centuries, and whose music sounds more current in the 21st than perhaps ever before.

Here, though, that familiar, celebrated mode is reinforced with techniques that emphasize a reflexively backwards-minded affect. The warping of the melody and the shimmer of adjacent chords lend an ethereal quality, and the snippets of voices suggest half-remembered conversations. (According the musician, the theme comes from the score he composed to a play about “spies, family, memories and dementia.” He confirms that the voices are intended to suggest past occurrences bleeding into the present: “words that sound sound like flickering memories.”)

As with many of Hainbach’s recordings, the video is a full live performance, allowing the listener to watch as his hands move from gadget to gadget, from knob to knob, coaxing sounds and effects as he proceeds.

Video originally posted at Hainbach’s YouTube page. Hainbach is Berlin-based composer Stefan Paul Goetsch. More from Hainbach at hainbach.bandcamp.com and instagram.com/hainbach101.

By Marc Weidenbaum

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  • about

  • 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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