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

Monthly Archives: September 2018

Alvin & Garfunkel

Alvin Lucier's "I Am Sitting in a Room" x Simon and Garfunkel's "Homeward Bound"

I’m sitting in a railway station different from the one you are in now.

I’ve got a ticket to the resonant frequencies of the room.

On a tour of the room articulated by speech.

And every stop is neatly planned as a way to smooth out any irregularities my speech might have.

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Side-Scrolling Composition

A visual score performed by Ensemble d’oscillateurs

A small collection of dots, connected by fragile lines, triggers a bleep-bloop akin to the handshake signals of satellite communication. Near-parallel white lines, some distance apart across a vast black field, create a centerless drone, the mechanical nature of which is subdued by slight wavering, its sound altering along with the moving image.

One of those lines grows thick, exposing an internal lattice, clusters of supporting frames — a honeycomb by way of an early arcade game, the fractals of Flatland. These images, and many more, make up SYN-Phon, a visual score by composer Candas Sisman, performed by Ensemble d’oscillateurs on their album 4 compositions (Line Imprint). It’s a protagonist-free side-scrolling adventure into the sonic avant-garde.

Ensemble d’oscillateurs, led by Nicolas Bernier, performs entirely on a set of beautiful old oscillators:

As a viewer-listener, you have the benefit in Sisman’s SYN-Phon of seeing in advance what you will soon hear. A thick vertical white line on the horizon, with dense activity coming online after a long expanse of near silence, announces itself as it scrolls in from the right. (The vertical red line, in contrast, signals where you are in the score at any given moment. It’s positioned partially into the frame, so you can also see what has recently occurred.)

Later, as a silence approaches, signaled by a vast black blankness, your ear knows to prepare for the shift, and awaits the ability to focus on the smaller sonic images about to unfold. You also have the option of downloading (as a PDF) the entire score as an extravagantly narrow band of abstract images, a TripTik of where the Ensemble will be traveling.

This image, from the composer’s Flickr page, give a sense of the scale of the score:

All four of the compositions on the 4 compositions album are based on graphic scores. The other composers, in addition to Candas Sisman, are Xavier Ménard, Francisco Meirino, and Kevin Gironnay. In the liner notes to the album, Gironnay describes what is happening in SYN-Phon:

A collective work has been accomplished around the interpretation (literally) of the graphic notation: assigning a line to an oscillator, while some others are shaping the sound of a circle or quickly stepping in to give a sonic life to an array of connected dots.

This video initially appeared at the Vimeo channel of Lines Imprint: vimeo.com. Get the full album at lineimprint.bandcamp.com. More from Ensemble d’oscillateurs at son-matiere.org. For comparison, there is on Sisman’s Vimeo channel another interpretation of the same scrolling graphic score, performed instead on trumpet, cello, and “electronics and objects” rather than a collection of oscillators. The “electronics and objects” are performed by Sisman himself. More details at Sisman’s own website, csismn.com.

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Module Learning: Spectral (Rhythmic Bands)

An experiment with filterbank beats

An experiment with another recent module acquisition: a spectral filter. It’s like my previous filterbank, the one that this rainbow-colored module (from the 4MS Company) replaced, in that it divides the incoming audio signal across the spectrum and helps you focus in on one narrow band or sliver of that sound, but it has many additional superpowers I’m only just beginning to learn.

Heard here is a little melody produced by the sequencer, the Monome Grid in the foreground, which is directing the notes played by a triangle wave via a module called Ansible. A trigger module (the Trigger Man) is setting the pace of the Grid, and also correlating some short sharp square waves from an LFO (the Batumi module) that are, in turn, creating little blips in the triangle wave (emanating from a Dixie II oscillator).

This is sort of the third stage of this experiment. Earlier in this process I was using other devices to add more variables to the sound, but I whittled back some of that spaghetti to settle on what I posted a short video of to Instagram last night. And then this morning I built it back up again:

The three main things this has that the Instagram didn’t have are: (1) the rhythm from the Trigger Man is a little more complex now, giving the melody a bit more of a herky-jerky beat; (2) the melody itself has some randomization going on (more like probability: will a note play or will it not); and (3) there’s a heavily subdued version of the audio that plays at the open and close (it’s running through a low-pass filter). There’s a bit of noise in this recording, and I’m not sure why.

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Stasis Report: Loscil ✚ Grouper ✚ More

Five tracks newly added to the ambient playlist on Spotify and Google Play Music on September 23, 2018

The latest update to my Stasis Report ambient-music playlist. It started out just on Spotify. It’s now also on Google Play Music. The following five tracks were added on Sunday, September 23. Four of the tracks are fairly new, with the exception of one from 2012:

✚ “Quiet Midnight” off Spring by ioflow (aka Joshua Saddler of San Diego, California): ioflow.bandcamp.com. Released on the Gohan Tapes label.

✚ “Laramie” off Ghost Box (Expanded) by SUSS, whose members are Bob Holmes, Gary Leib, Pat Irwin, Jonathan Gregg, and William Garrett: suss.bandcamp.com. Interview at brooklynvegan.com. Album on the Northern Spy label.

✚ “Imprints,” a single by Loscil, working with Field Works, aka Stuart Hyatt, based on Hyatt’s own field recordings. It’s from a new collection, Born in the Ear, also featuring Paul de Jong, Eluvium, Forrest Lewinger, the Album Leaf, Greg Davis, Juana Molina, and Hyatt: fieldworks.bandcamp.com. Released on the Temporary Residence label.

✚ “Blouse” from Grid of Points by Grouper, aka Liz Harris: grouper.bandcamp.com. Released on the Yellow Electric label.

✚ “Brûlez ce coeur,” the title track off a 2012 album by Les Momies de Palerme (on Constellation Records), aka Xarah Dion and Marie Davidson: cstrecords.com, soundcloud.com/constellation-records. It’s also on Bandcamp, though minus a few tracks: lesmomiesdepalerme.bandcamp.com. Davidson has a new album, Working Class Woman, due out October 5 on Ninja Tune.

Some previous Stasis Report tracks were removed to make room for these, keeping the playlist length to roughly two hours. Those retired tracks (Leila Abdul-Rauf, Lucrecia Dalt, M. Geddes Gengres, and Jake Muir, as well as Kara-Lis Coverdale remixing Úlfur) are now in the Stasis Archives playlist (currently only on Spotify).

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Module Learning: Swoop (Bounds Parameters)

An experiment with triangle parameters and in-rack recording

I recently reworked about half my modular synthesizer, with some key priorities in mind, among them (1) introducing some modules with their own strong personalities, notably the 4MS Spectral Multiband Resonator and the Ieaskul F. Mobenthey Swoop, and (2) having a means to be always recording. I added an Expert Sleepers Disting MK4 between the mixer and the output to use as an always-on recorder. This track is a first attempt I made at using the IFM Swoop. Here the Swoop is producing a triangle wave, bounds of which are changing as the track proceeds (among other variables I’m just beginning to wrap my head around). It’s secondarily being sent through a low-pass filter, to take the upper edge off.

The attached photo shows the patch, though some of the knobs were fiddled with as it ran. (Perhaps the main thing I learned today was that it’s sort of a hassle to get the SD card in and out of the Disting. The always-on recording was nice, though. This is the end of a longer segment, the opening part of which was even lower on the learning curve. When I was done, I just edited off the opening half and introduced a fade-in. The fade-out was done manually with my in-rack mixer.)

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