The long-running Radius broadcast/podcast series has reached episode 93. This current entry, which was released today, features a piece by Cecilia Tyrrell.
It overlays field recordings of the coastline with jittery spoken word, the latter like a public address system sent through the shredder. A brief description lends context:
“Sonic topography inspired and partly arranged from recordings made at a sound mirror on the South East coast of England (UK). The mirror itself stands dormant as it waits, facing out away from land. Sound markers and siren warnings, still it listens, quietly detecting.”
The sound mirror is pictured up top, a presence obscured by fog. Bells that bop around like buoys on a wave mix with appropriate burbling as the piece comes to a close, but up until then it’s a much more complex undertaking. The water sloshes like it’s underfoot, the sound taking on the semblance of a journey, either in search of or in avoidance of what remains unclear. The garbled voiceover sounds like a warning, but for whom? It’s an abstract audio drama, a thriller that replaces plot with pure sensation, as ambiguous as it is deliberate.
The excellent patzr radio art-sound podcast persists with reworked field recordings, episodes 202a and 202b each consisting of 140 seconds of birdsong and rain, squelched conversation and sirens, wind and unidentifiable noises, the source audio all reduced to snippets that are then moved constantly between speakers, flipped this way and that. It’s musique concrète in its truest form: small chamber works hewn from nothing but the everyday noise, easily ignored sounds turned into something inherently memorable. The series is the long-running work of Jimmy Kipple.
A weekly(ish) answer to the question “What have you been listening to lately?” It’s lightly annotated because I don’t like re-posting material without providing some context. In the interest of conversation, let me know what you’re listening to in the comments below. Just please don’t promote your own work (or that of your label/client). This isn’t the right venue. (Just use email.)
▰ Paul Hillier in this three-minute video talks about the work he and his fellow musicians in Theatre of Voices did with the late composer Jóhann Jóhannsson, notably on the film Arrival:
▰ When Lloyd Cole refers to his “day job” in the liner notes to his latest album, what he means by it is writing songs. Better known for the well-crafted British rock and pop filed in record stores under Lloyd Cole and the Commotions, he’s also a deeply engaged employer of synthesizers. For this album, recorded in June, he focused his efforts on a single module, the Dunst from Ieaskul F. Mobenthey, which emits chaotic yet nuanced noise (other modules were utilized as well, of course).
▰ The company ModBap has released a new synthesizer module, Per4mer, intended to appeal to hip-hop musicians. Among the demos is this psychedelic beat from Ali the Architect. (Found via Synthtopia.)
▰ Three field recordings from Dublin, Ireland-based composer Linda Buckley, including birdsong after the rain, and a prayer echoing in public (presumably in Astoria, Queens, based on the track’s title).
▰ Also, covered with a bit more depth: harp player Mary Lattimore’s classical/ambient Silver Ladders, produced by Neal Halstead of Slowdive, and the dense drones of Havdis, aka O.A. Jensen
You’ll need to check your speakers. Edgar Medina, who goes by Alejandro Morse, so damages the sounds that constitute the base level of the track “(Splendid View to) an Artificial Lake,” off the forthcoming album Aftermath, that you’ll wonder if something has gone haywire with your audio system. Even after being told, still you’ll find need to check your speakers, to make sure wires haven’t frayed, to make sure a cat hasn’t gotten in the house and scratched at your cones, to make sure water hasn’t taken its toll. None of those things have happened — well, not to your speakers. As for the audio on “(Splendid View to) an Artificial Lake,” it has been scraped like barnacles off the hull of a boat, like paint from an old bench, like unwanted truths from a Wikipedia page. In posting the track to SoundCloud, the releasing record label, Dragon’s Eye, attributed the tag #ambient to it, but that seems more like provocation than categorization. The mix of happenstance field recordings and genteel tonal elements is bonded under shared scrubbing, the disparate elements united as the objects of Morse’s destructive, exploratory intent.
Often, the most beautiful sounds are all around us. We just have to learn to pay attention to them. Sometimes, however, to access these sounds, we must listen in ways our ears alone can’t accomplish. Case in point, this recording of a transformer station from Robert Cole Rizzi. Rizzi’s three-minute track is an atmospheric tour de force. It combines the inherent buzzing of the transformer with the sound of the structure itself vibrating, plus sonic evidence of the presence of electromagnetic radiation. Writes Rizzi, “You can hear a low rumble I believe is the current running through the wires and fog condensing into drops hitting the thinner zigzag beams of the mast as they fall.”
To access this depth of sonic experience, Rizzi employs the Geofon, or what I described as “the landlubber’s hydrophone in a post earlier this year. The electromagnetic information comes courtesy of another device, called the Priezor. Both are from the company LOM.
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
• February 5, 2020: The first session of the 15-week course I teach at the Academy of Art about the role of sound in the media landscape.
• April 15, 2020: A chapter on the Disquiet Junto ("The Disquiet Junto as an Online Community of Practice," by Ethan Hein) appears in the forthcoming book The Oxford Handbook of Social Media and Music Learning (Oxford University Press), edited by Stephanie Horsley, Janice Waldron, and Kari Veblen. (Details at oup.com.)
• December 13, 2020: This day marks the 24th anniversary of Disquiet.com.
• January 7, 2021: This day marks the 9th anniversary of the start of the Disquiet Junto music community.
• There are entries on the Disquiet Junto in the forthcoming book The Music Production Cookbook: Ready-made Recipes for the Classroom (Oxford University Press), edited by Adam Patrick Bell. Ethan Hein wrote one, and I did, too.
• At least two live group concerts by Disquiet Junto members in the San Francisco Bay Area are in the works for 2020.
• I have liner notes for a musician's solo album and an essay in a book about an art event due out. I'll announce as the release dates come into focus.
• The Disquiet Junto series of weekly communal music projects explore constraints as a springboard for creativity and productivity. There is a new project each Thursday afternoon (California time), and it is due the following Monday at 11:59pm: disquiet.com/junto.
Since January 2012, the Disquiet Junto has been an ongoing weekly collaborative music-making community that employs creative constraints as a springboard for creativity. Subscribe to the announcement list (each Thursday), listen to tracks by participants from around the world, read the FAQ, and join in.
• 0465 / You Thank / The Assignment: Make a piece of music for someone or something for which you feel thankful.
• 0464 / Blanket Song / The Assignment: Play over a song, and then remove the original.
• 0463 / Making the Gradient / The Assignment: Make a piece of music inspired by the concept of a gradient.
• 0462 / Vade in Pace / The Assignment: Write a short piece of music that gets slower and slower as it proceeds.
• 0461 / Goldilocks Zone / The Assignment: Navigate a sonic space between the hospitable and the inhospitable.