Listening Off-screen

To the semi-generative glitch of Johannes Hertrich, aka Unifono

At exactly two minutes and two seconds into this short video, there is some motion at the bottom of the screen. Look for it. Don’t dwell on it, but keep an eye out for it. There is other motion throughout, primarily the blinking of lights. Those lights coordinate with the sounds, because the lights emanate from the devices that produce and influence the sounds.

The lights are signals to the musician using the devices, but they can serve a purpose for the listener, as well. For example, look to the upper left, where the word “play,” all caps, appears to the right of a larger-than-average circle. Note how the appearance of that circle being illuminated corresponds with one of the central presences of sound surfacing momentarily. Likewise, look at the tiny horizontal array at the very bottom left, how it serves as a kind of visualization of a certain band of quick and brittle noises.

What’s seen here is a modular synthesizer, more specifically a virtual one. It is a modular synthesizer simulated on a computer. It’s being used by the German musician Johannes Hertrich, who goes by the moniker Unifono, to render what he terms a mix of IDM and glitch. There are, indeed, touches of Autechre’s bracing sonic torques here, but the music is very much Unifono’s. More importantly, the music is generative, or as Unifono puts it, semi-generative (more on the “semi” in a moment). This means that for all the development within the music, all the changes that take place, it is all happening based on a system that Hertrich set up and then sat back and listened to, just as you and I might.

Then there’s that “semi.” This brings us back to the motion two and a half seconds in. There may be other reasons Hertrich considers the music semi-generative, but a sure one is the motion at 2:02. See how the knobs turn a bit, and how the module itself seems to jerk up a little? That’s because even though we can’t see Hertrich’s hands manipulating the software, we can see evidence of it. The knobs turning are one example. The slight motion of the module itself is another. It seems that in touching the module, Hertrich has briefly nudged it out of place. It returns immediately (if you’ve used this software, which is called VCV Rack, you’ll recognize the magnet-like quality the module evidences as it rests quickly back into place).

I realize as I reread this before posting that it could be misconstrued as a critique of the performance. I want to be clear, therefore, that it as meant as nothing of the kind. The audio is great. I played it on repeat for much of the day, and took notes on some of the techniques, the play between modules, by which Hertrich achieved his sonic goals. What I wanted to do in focusing on the motion at 2:02 was to observe the presence of the human touch in a video that is, in essence, a screenshot-in-motion of a machine working automatically, one left, as it were, to its own devices. It’s like an incredibly subtle variant on the Twitch genre of videos, in which viewers watch someone else play a video game live. Except here the software is considerably more obscure, and motion is brief, exceptionally so.

More from Hertich at Try VCV Rack out at

Disquiet Junto Project 0422: Chapter Cascade

The Assignment: Make a piece of music made up of tiny alternating parts.

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.

Deadline: This project’s deadline is Monday, February 3, 2020, at 11:59pm (that is, just before midnight) wherever you are. It was posted on Thursday, January 30, 2020.

Tracks will be added to the playlist for the duration of the project.

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

Disquiet Junto Project 0422: Chapter Cascade
The Assignment: Make a piece of music made up of tiny alternating parts.

Step 1: This week’s project is inspired by the rapid, short chapters of William Gibson’s new novel, Agency, and the micro-compositions of John Zorn’s Naked City. Consider hyper-brevity as a creative pursuit.

Step 2: Compose a piece of music made of up lots of very short bursts. You will have an A line and a B line, which will be tonally and aesthetically distinct from each other. These will alternate back and forth for however long you desire. Consider a length of about a second, or less, for each sliver of sound. And then finally at the very end, have the A and B lines combine.

Seven More Important Steps When Your Track Is Done:

Step 1: Include “disquiet0422” (no spaces or quotation marks) in the name of your track.

Step 2: If your audio-hosting platform allows for tags, be sure to also include the project tag “disquiet0422” (no spaces or quotation marks). If you’re posting on SoundCloud in particular, this is essential to subsequent location of tracks for the creation of a project playlist.

Step 3: Upload your track. It is helpful but not essential that you use SoundCloud to host your track.

Step 4: Post your track in the following discussion thread at

Step 5: Annotate your track with a brief explanation of your approach and process.

Step 6: If posting on social media, please consider using the hashtag #disquietjunto so fellow participants are more likely to locate your communication.

Step 7: Then listen to and comment on tracks uploaded by your fellow Disquiet Junto participants.

Additional Details: Deadline: This project’s deadline is Monday, February 3, 2020, at 11:59pm (that is, just before midnight) wherever you are. It was posted on Thursday, January 30, 2020.

Length: The length is up to you. Shorter is often better.

Title/Tag: When posting your track, please include “disquiet0422” 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: Consider setting your track as downloadable and allowing for attributed remixing (i.e., a Creative Commons license permitting non-commercial sharing with attribution, allowing for derivatives).

For context, when posting the track online, please be sure to include this following information:

More on this 422nd weekly Disquiet Junto project — Chapter Cascade / The Assignment: Make a piece of music made up of tiny alternating parts — at:

More on the Disquiet Junto at:

Subscribe to project announcements here:

Project discussion takes place on

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

The Musical Equivalent of Eavesdropping

Ryan Kunkleman, aka esc, live

This 20-minute live performance video is by Ryan Kunkleman, who goes by the name esc, which is to say the key way over in the upper-left-hand corner of your computer’s keyboard. Like his moniker, the music played here is deliberately lowercase. There is conflict and tension within the sounds, certainly, but they are pitched to a near hush. It’s the musical equivalent of eavesdropping. You know there’s trouble next door, but you need to stoop, push your ear against the wall, and concentrate to get some sense of what’s going on. What’s going on here is, apparently, a single source sound being looped and mangled in real time by a variety of different devices that constitute esc’s synthesizer. You don’t need to know that or, for that matter, think about it to enjoy the subtle shifts, but if you do choose to pay attention, you can appreciate, as well, the divergent variations and their root interconnectedness.

Video originally posted to esc’s YouTube channel. This is the latest video added to my ongoing YouTube playlist of live performances of ambient music.

Stanched Pads & Crystalline Haze

From the Saint Petersburg (Russia) musician Sa/Samwell

What seems to be a wind chime made of shells spends more than a minute taking pauses amid a curt little melody that sounds like a fine Angelo Badalementi sketch. Then come stanched pads, brief chords out of a Jon Hassell venture, somehow sharp and muted at once, little stabs of crystalline haze. The track, “Sa – YY” by Saint Petersburg (Russia) musician Sa/Samwell, has the vibe of a horror-movie theme, tension mounting up until the final jab.

Track originally posted at More from Sa/Samwell at

Voids Your Ear Can Feel

Courtesy of Jimmy Kpple's Patzr Radio podcast

The shifts in sound seem too sudden to be happenstance. The way the audio cuts from left to right to silence to stereo, and alternate wayward transitions within, doesn’t merely shape and direct the sound. It create voids your ear can feel. Don’t put this on headphones. Play it at room temperature on a pair of speakers, your head comfortably in between. Let the found sounds — all white noise and public-address mumble, not to mention echoing high heels and distant whistles — of the field recordings dance around your skull as well as within. This is the 176th entry in Jimmy Kpple’s ongoing Patzr Radio podcast, “noise and a relative or friend can hold,” a great ongoing musique concrète wonder.

Track originally posted at Get the feed directly at More from Kpple at