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

Simulating Environmental Byproducts

A live performance by Dave Seidel

When occurring in the everyday environment, drones have a natural quality to them — natural, that is, much of the time, as expressions of the built environment. They aren’t natural like tree sap. They are natural as occurrences of, consequences of, human-made spaces, of HVAC, of wind tunnels, of electrical appliances, and especially as combinations thereof. They are hums of unclear origin, sounds whose qualities are experienced differently by different people, and that can be influenced by just a slight shift in the position, even a mere tilt of the head, from which you witness them.

Drones are quasi-natural effluences — environmental byproducts, really. In contrast, the conscious production of drones is something else entirely. It takes effort to sound like more than a sine wave. It takes skill to sound like more than a single tone on repeat. It takes nuance to have the sort of qualities that suggest deep fractal complexity. Those talents belong to Dave Seidel, who in this graceful performance (“Marwa in Centaur”) ushers a subtle, sumptuous drone from the displayed equipment. It is epic and modest, glacial and economical, all at the same time.

This is the latest video I’ve added to my YouTube playlist of recommended live performances of ambient music. Video originally posted to Seidel’s YouTube channel. More from Seidel, aka New Hampshire-based Mysterybear, at mysterybear.net and mysterybear.bandcamp.com. I wrote the liner notes to Seidel’s album ~60 Hz, released in 2014: “Even Waveforms Have Terroir.”

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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