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tag: live performance

Drone Étude

From Peter Speer of Asheville, North Carolina

A little over a year ago, a simple live performance video made a strong impression. Using just two synthesizer modules, Peter Speer took brief moments from “Om Shanti” by Alice Coltrane and pulled them like one might Silly Putty, bending and stretching the audio until it was mere strands of its original state. In the process, he yielded something both utterly transformed and yet true, in tone and effect, to the source material. Speer’s latest video, posted two days ago, on March 30, has no familiar origin, but also delights with its simplicity. It’s a fairly compact and well-circumscribed synthesizer setup, the Serge Animal, played throughout, his hand guiding voltages and volume, and from them coaxing a drone étude, a gaseous cloud of arching textures.

Video originally posted at More from Speer, who is based in Asheville, North Carolina, at and

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Two Observations

A live ambient performance from Mark John Williamson (aka Junklight)

Two observations: First, YouTube definitely doesn’t count repeat plays by individual accounts in its “views” for a video, because this archived live stream from the musician Junklight (aka Mark John Williamson) was on repeat here all day, filling the home office from before work on to after, and it’s still registering under 20 plays, despite being not even 10 minutes in length. Second, if there’s a piece of seemingly quiet but actually quite layered and bountiful music that can run all day, at varying volumes, and serve both as not just background music but domestic sound design and, when turned up, as it is now that the day has begun to close, as something to dive into and study, then it is the very definition of ambient: loops of granular synthesis played like a futuristic pipe organ.

This is the latest video added to my ongoing YouTube playlist of live performances of ambient music. Video originally posted to YouTube. More from Junklight at and

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Minimalism and Its Echoes

Nathan McLaughlin is at the height of his powers.

Nathan McLaughlin’s performance this Sunday was a highlight of a weekend packed with free live online shows. There are many more such shows to come during our time of widely distributed isolation, and I recommend not only a listen to his gig, if reflective solo guitar sounds up your alley — but also one if you’re planning on playing live online yourself. He does so much, so simply, and (audio glitches in the archived transmission aside) with enviable concentration, that it’s a model for such a thing as destination viewing. The video is just him, in a wooden chair, with an acoustic guitar in hand, and enough (largely off-screen, though there is a reel-to-reel machine rolling along against the wall) equipment to lend his already raga-like playing a nimbus of graceful echoing. There’s a clear aesthetic connection between his minimalist finger-picking and the hall of sonic mirrors in which it occurs — so clear that the two factors in fact blend together. Close to the end, he ruptures the fabric of performance by stopping his picking. He turns the guitar up in his lap, as a recording of his playing plays on. And then he takes a bow to the strings, and creates a drone that consumes all that came before, and then he gets up from the chair and walks off-screen, leaving the drone to drone, until he slips back in to lower the volume to a finish. I’ve been listening to and writing about Nathan McLaughlin’s music at least since January 2006, back when he went by the name Doogie, and, at least to my ears, he’s never sounded more thoughtful and focused.

Video originally posted at the YouTube channel of the Decentralized Sonic Quarantine Network. More from Nathan McLaughlin, who is based in Hudson, New York, at

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After Live: Leaving Records Roster Party

Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith, Emily A. Sprague, and more Saturday at 1pm Pacific

Another day in global mutual self-isolation, another advance notice of a stellar virtual concert. Leaving Records announced that the following will be playing live tomorrow, Saturday, March 21, starting at 1pm Pacific Time. The time zone’s appellation also fits the tranquil electronic music of the performers: Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith, Emily A. Sprague, Brin, Cool Maritime, and Matthewdavid’s Mindflight. Set your calendar to pull up at the appointed time. You may want to set up an account early, if you don’t have one already. This show begins four hours after Scanner’s announced show that day.

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Set Your Scanner for Saturday

After Live: Robin Rimbaud will be playing from his London studio (9am Pacific Time).

The Downstream department entries on are, with the exception of Thursdays, always about streamable — and often freely downloadable — music available right now. On Thursdays the Downstream highlights the latest Disquiet Junto project, tracks from which usually begin appearing within 12 hours. Today’s post, however, is about something happening a little further off, in about — checks watch — three and a half days, as of this typing. That’s Saturday, March 21, when Robin Rimbaud, aka Scanner, will perform the inaugural live stream from his London home base. “First broadcast from the Scanner studio, especially given the rather challenging and frequently lonely situation for so many,” he wrote as an advance notice on YouTube. “I felt a little Saturday afternoon live performance might distract you from the dark news for a moment.” That’s Saturday afternoon in England, where Scanner, as well as his studio, is based. Here in California, it’ll be 9am. Adjust your clocks accordingly, or if you have a YouTube account, click on the “reminder” button on the concert’s YouTube URL.

As mentioned here in yesterday’s special edition After Live post, there are countless more performances like this being broadcast, recorded, and archived around the world, all accessible within your browser. Seek them out, support the musicians who produce them, and share the ones you recommend.

More from Rimbaud at and, where he recently launched a subscriber fan community, providing access to previously unreleased material, among other perks.

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