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

tag: live performance

Granular (Granular Guitar)

A live performance from Daniel McGinn (aka All These Wires)

All These Wires employs just a few in this video, a purposeful few. Daniel McGinn, the musician behind the All These Wires channel on YouTube, is seen, and heard, enhancing his guitar via a modular synthesizer. Half the sound is the guitar itself, and half is the guitar processed, not once but twice, in succession, by a pair of granular synthesizer modules. The modules echo and smudge the input. Watch McGinn’s hands, and you can trace the cause and effect, the pacing and impact. As has become a performance custom, his synthesizer is tipped forward, so the audience can see what he’s up to. Watch carefully enough, and you might find lights whose on and off align with the music’s internal metronome.

Video originally posted at the All These Wires YouTube channel. This is the latest video added to my ongoing YouTube playlist of live performances of ambient music. More from McGinn on

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Chorus of One

Listen as r beny granulates himself

Even the most talented musicians can be self-conscious about something. In the case of r beny, the focus of his doubt is, apparently, his voice. Here, for the track “A Path Opens in the Bloom,” he takes a sample of himself vocalizing (“trying to hold a C, I cannot sing”), and then processing it through granular synthesis. What this means is he is taking tiny slivers of the voice and holding them for an extended period, essentially turning a little thing into a whole. Further, he is layering the same sample played at different note values, creating a chorus of one. Without getting too technical, if you’re wondering where that raspy texture comes from, beny is running the audio through the cassette deck seen in the upper left. The deck isn’t merely recording the audio; it is also immediately outputting what it records, so we’re hearing the result of the degradation that the tape impresses upon the source material. Beny writes in more detail about the track’s impetus and his process at his YouTube page. He’s great about not only notating what he does in the text accompanying his videos, but also replying to the comments.

This is the latest video added to my ongoing YouTube playlist of live performances of ambient music. More from r beny, aka Californian musician Austin Cairns, at

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Patricia Wolf, Live

At Holocene in Portland

Between glistening notes and processed field recordings, Patricia Wolf’s voice appears as a series of echoing phrases. The live recording was made at the Holocene in Portland, Oregon, on June 19 of last year. Wolf just added it to her SoundCloud page late last month. While she could easily spend more than the piece’s nearly quarter hour exploring these lush, ethereal spaces, Wolf has more in mind for her listeners. In time, surprisingly abrasive tones appear, rubbery and textured and chaotic, and a thorough contrast to what came before. Amid them, Wolf’s voice persists, no longer an element of comforting ease, and instead a durable, yet no less elegant, opposition to the rising forces.

Track originally posted to More from her at The audio was recorded by Glenn Sogge, and the performance photo is by Marcus Fischer.

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Real-Time Ambient

A performance by Alex Roldan

Edging between background ambience and melodic progression, this short, live performance by Alex Roldan is exactly the sort of video that led me to start my ongoing YouTube playlist of live performances of ambient music. In it, in full view, we watch as Roldan plays a collection of instruments: a controller in the form of that grid, and a trio of sound sources and manipulators. The correlations between audio and physical actions are self-evident, taking a bit of the mystery out of the music, and the processes and tools that enabled its real-time production.

Video originally posted at Roldan’s YouTube channel. More from Roldan, who is based in Washington, D.C., at and

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A Night in the Dark

At the 2020 San Francisco Tape Music Festival

I spent two hours in the dark on Friday night listening to records with a hundred or so strangers. It was the first night of the 2020 installment of the San Francisco Tape Music Festival, held in the Victoria Theater in the Mission District. These weren’t records in the traditional sense of the word. They were multi-channel works (“fixed media,” in the curatorial parlance) taking advantage of the 24-speaker sound system installed for the series’ three evenings. And while the recordings were fixed, they weren’t entirely predetermined. For each, either its composer or a festival staff member handled the mixing board, and some of the installments involved more manipulation than others.

Highlights included Maggi Payne’s “Heat Shield” (white noise pushed to the breaking point in the pursuit of interstellar sounds), which she had performed live at the San Francisco Electronic Music Festival at the end of last year, as well as Matthew Barnard’s “Wache,” built from field recordings made around London.

Not all the works were contemporary. Reaching back to the origins of the consideration of the recording studio as an instrument unto itself, we heard Pierre Schaeffer’s “Étude aux casseroles [Pathétique],” composed on turntables back in 1948, and “Poem of Change” (1992) by Pauline Oliveros. Oliveros, active in the city’s experimental music scene starting in the late 1950s, co-founded the original San Francisco Tape Music Center in 1962. She died a little over three years ago, and it was quite moving to hear her voice, always larger than life, and all the more so after death, fill the hall.

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