My 33 1/3 book, on Aphex Twin's Selected Ambient Works Volume II, was the 5th bestselling book in the series in 2014. It's available at Amazon (including Kindle) and via your local bookstore. • F.A.Q.Key Tags: #saw2for33third, #sound-art, #classical, #juntoElsewhere: Twitter, SoundCloud, Instagram

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

tag: live-performance

The Coit Tower of Graffiti

An ongoing communal mural

There are many great murals across the city of San Francisco. The one dearest to me, by far, is what I think of as the Coit Tower of graffiti. Shown here is but one view of the ongoing communally decorated staircase to the Luggage Store Gallery on Market Street, just up from Sixth Street. Regulars in the local electronic and experimental music communities know the Luggage Store Gallery as the location of the great weekly Luggage Store Creative Music Series (listings: outsound.org), which convenes each Thursday around 8pm. This shot, looking down toward the front entrance, doesn’t do justice to the full surround experience of the festooned and vertiginous staircase. It’s best experienced between the two sets any given Thursday when you’re coming back from one of the nearby markets with a beverage.

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Algorithmic Art Assembly 2020

March 27-28, 2020, in San Francisco

I mentioned yesterday the 2019 conference I spoke at, Algorithmic Art Assembly, on the topic “The Woodshed Is a Black Box,” about music communities as algorithms. The lineup of the second AAAssembly conference, to be held in San Francisco on March 27 and 28, has just been announced. I’m almost certain to attend both days. Here’s the flyer:

I’m particularly looking forward to Curtis Roads (author of Microsound, among other valuable contributions to computer music), Chris Carlson (creator of the Borderlands Granular iOS app), Cassie Tarakajian (running a Max/MSP workshop), Hannah Davis (generative musician), Amy Alexander (longtime computer-based artist), and Ruardih Law (of the Broken20 record label). Details will surface at aaassembly.org and grayarea.org.

And while I’m at it, I should mention for San Francisco Bay Area people that my friend Thorsten Sideb0ard, who puts together AAAssembly, is hosting an event with RM Francis and Shatter Pattern on February 9, 2020, at 180 Capp Street. Details at the event’s Facebook page.

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A Furious Stasis

The tension between action and inaction

If yesterday’s video in this series was an exercise is extreme stasis, today’s marks a contrast. In yesterday’s, a hand occasionally appeared from the bottom of the screen to ever so slightly adjust the relative volume of four inbound cassette tapes, all in the pursuit of an ambient drone whose ethereal qualities occasionally betrayed a more complex, a rougher, texture than at first made itself apparent.

In today’s, the musician Dustmotes works furiously to nudge and transition a hovering tone, occasionally inserting new swells and the rare percussive element. Overall the music is no less subtle than yesterday’s, but this toolkit requires numerous controls to be tweaked and attended to in order to achieve Dustmotes’ goal. (Interestingly, for comparison’s sake, the musical instrument used here, the Elektron Digitone, is the same as was used to produce the audio on the cassette tapes in yesterday’s piece.) This tension between that activity and simplicity, between action and inaction, is exactly the sort of thing that my YouTube playlist of recommended live performances of ambient music was created to document and explore.

Video originally published at YouTube.

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Tapes in Concert

A live performance that is largely hands-off

It begins, as do all worthwhile cassette tape experiences, with a click, and a hard one at that. This video captures the recording of an ambient performance that consists of multiple tapes being layered in real time, their relative volumes adjusted each occasion that a hand briefly enters the screen from below. The sounds are frayed and angelic, weary and ethereal, testing the ear’s alertness to fissures in the mist. There are four different audio sources, lending different elements to the overall ensemble.

When I first started compiling such examples of recommended live performances of ambient music found on YouTube, the intention was (and remains) to share examples of the tools and skills required, and to investigate the tension between action (the musician’s effort) and inaction (the sonic stasis to which so much ambient music aspires). Needless to say, the light touch in this piece by the Glasgow-based musician who goes by Blicero represents an extreme in terms of inactivity on the part of the performer. Then again, missing is the effort that went into recording the original loops, testing the balances in advance, and doing post-production.

This is the latest video I’ve added to my YouTube playlist of recommended live performances of ambient music. Video originally published at YouTube.

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Guitar Learning: First Shift

An attempt at phase shifts with ambient guitar loops

This short video is of two simple loopers that are ever so slightly out of sync. By the point at which the video begins, both of the loopers had accrued several layers of audio, all of it culled from an electric guitar. Some of the audio is shared between the two loopers, and some is unique to each separately. The starting point of each of the two loops is signaled when the given looper’s light briefly blinks. Shortly after the midpoint of this recording, the two loops can be seen to come into sync, and to then proceed to drift apart — to shift, to phase — again.

The looper used here is the original Ditto from TC Electronic (due to its popularity, several variations on the Ditto followed). I bought my first one used a few years ago, and have always enjoyed how simple yet effective its controls are. Despite having just one button and one knob, the Ditto comes with a manual that is nearly a dozen pages long, because different combinations of button clicks cause different processes. When I found another inexpensive secondhand Ditto, I picked it up just this afternoon with the express purpose of exploring asynchronous loops such as this one.

Video originally posted at my youtube.com channel.

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