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

Palimpsests All the Way Down

My liner notes for Nathan Moody's forthcoming album de​/​Still

It’s always a pleasure to write liner notes, to have a chance, before an album is released and given shape by the impressions of its listeners, to converse with the artist and put forth an initial, fledgling view.

Nathan Moody invited me to write a short essay to accompany de​/​Still, a “musical score” that he created as an aural interpretation of TJ Norris’ photography. Which is to say, my liner notes, which appear below, are an interpretation of music that is an interpretation of images, those images themselves an interpretation of the world as Norris perceives it.

The album, due out August 1, 2020, is currently available for pre-order at flagdayrecordings.bandcamp.com. More from Moody at music.noisejockey.net. More from Norris at tjnorrisart.com.

“Palimpsests All the Way Down”

Distant yapping, all rancor and bluster. Line interference, twitching in the ether. Burbling percussion, undulating to its own metronome. Wild-west guitar, casting shadows of sagebrush and end times. Piano chords, melting like tape in the noon sun. Orchestration buried amid static and hum. Drones mixed with fleeting bits of conversation.

The individual sounds that comprise Nathan Moody’s elegiac accompaniment to TJ Norris’ images can often be identified by the ear and characterized by the imagination. Not one of these sounds, however, stands alone. Each component sonic element is heard amid other sonic elements, mixed in close proximity even as they may sway across the stereo spectrum. Likewise, the place where one such sound object ends and the next sound object begins is entirely unclear, deliberately so. Cause and effect intermingle, as foreground and background blur into layers upon layers of detritus. It’s palimpsests all the way down.

If the trusty telephone poll that has born the weight of countless concert flyers could, itself, sing, this is how it would sound.

If the alleyway coated in dirt, graffiti, and memories could have its own voice, this is how it would sound.

If the works of TJ Norris were performed as intentional graphic scores, this is how it would sound. Because it does.

Like Norris’ elegantly layered pictures, Moody’s music is an act of collage, a tribute to chance delights amid the flotsam of human existence. And like Norris’ work, Moody’s never loses sight — despite the emphasis on wear and tear, on time and decay, on fragments and atmosphere — of the urge to appeal, to attract, to please. Even in its dingiest moments, the score finds its foundation in melodic through lines and soulfully resonant structures.

Marc Weidenbaum
San Francisco, CA
August 2019

By Marc Weidenbaum

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  • 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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