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Sounding out technology.
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tag: live-performance

Putting TikTok to Unintended Use

An ambient piano quartet by Lullatone's Shawn James Seymour

In this sweet little video demonstration, Shawn James Seymour (half of the husband-wife duo Lullatone, along with Yoshimi Yomida) shows how he used the TikTok video social-media app — in particular it’s feature-not-a-bug looping mode — to make a simple ambient track out of piano loops. He set all the loops, four total, to different lengths, and then let them play out on repeat, so that the notes overlap in different combinations. This “criss-cross” is, as he notes in one of a sequence of cards he displays by hand during the video (those hands colliding elegantly with the ones visible in all four of the devices laid out across the table), along the lines of how Brian Eno composed Music for Airports.

Last year, the influential and crafty artist Christian Marclay teamed with Snapchat, another social-media network, for an exhibit that mined user data to create all manner of sound art projects (see: latimes.com). The scale and scope of what Seymour is up to is, of course, quite more modest in comparison, but it also uses the app itself to achieve its goals. As Seymour says (well, displays on a card), inspirationally, in the video: “twisting technology to make something new is usually more fun than just browsing on it.”

This is the latest video I’ve added to my YouTube playlist of recommended fine live performances of ambient music. Video originally posted at the Lullatone YouTube channel. More from Lullatone at lullatone.com.

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Compact Device, Spacious Sound

A live performance by State Azure

You needn’t know anything about the intricacies of synthesizer design to appreciate the performance that Star Azure ekes out of this compact setup. The small assortment of devices yields a spacious and constantly shifting range of sounds, and the constant presence of the musician’s hands adjusting settings makes the scale clear. The track’s title, “Fermi’s Paradox,” relates to the search for extraterrestrial life, which here can be said to map to the subtle contrast between the deep droning backing music, and the patterns of more singular bleeps and beeps that are charted across it.

This is the latest video I’ve added to my YouTube playlist of recommended fine live performances of ambient music. Video originally posted at YouTube. More from State Azure at stateazure.bandcamp.com.

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SineRider, Off-Screen and On

A live ambient performance

There are several key factors in the ongoing playlist I maintain on YouTube of fine live performances of ambient music. There are three, in fact, and the very first is: “I’m only including recordings I’d listen to without video.” As something like test evidence, I came upon this piece, “Peat Moss” by Sine Rider, today on SoundCloud, and it turns out it’s the audio from one of his performance videos. It’s a warbly drone, like someone left the melody out to dry over night and hadn’t considered the damage that the morning dew might do. Except it didn’t do damage. It rendered the melody ever more fragile, and ever more beautiful for that fragility. And here’s the original video:

Track originally posted at soundcloud.com/sinerider. More from SineRider, aka Devin Powers of Norwood, Massachusetts, at sinerider.bandcamp.com and youtube.com/sinerider.

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Make the Best of What’s Still Around

A live tape-loop performance by Amulets

Tread lightly. Today’s self-aware hi-jinks are tomorrow’s tragedies. Still, as musicians, like most everyone else in the world, do their best to settle into far more residential life than they may be accustomed to, they make the best of what’s still around. In the case of Amulets, that involves using a toilet paper roll as a means to extend the length of a tape loop, as heard in this video posted today.

Amulets is the Portland, Oregon, musician Randall Taylor, who does marvelous things with, among other second-hand tools, old audio tape cassettes — same tape he’s had for years. Here the rotting texture of the loop, exaggerated by a delay pedal, takes sequences from his portable synth and renders from them subsistence ambient, just loud enough to make an impression, but not so much as to squander available resources.

This is the latest video I’ve added to my YouTube playlist of recommended live performances of ambient music. Video originally posted at youtube.com. More from Amulets at amuletsmusic.com.

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After Live: Grzegorz Bojanek from Poland

A free hour-long video performance

Early on in this hour-long performance video, the Poland-based musician Grzegorz Bojanek holds up a piece of paper to the camera. On the paper is written a terse note in Polish and English imploring people to stay at home. There is no self-interest. He’d most certainly rather not be at home himself. But while he is, like many of us, stuck at home, he wants to help out.

His live video — along with those from numerous musicians around the world seeking to connect during a time virtually devoid of live in-person concert performances — seeks to entertain and, perhaps, even to console. And certainly to commiserate. For an hour he sits on the couch and plays. The work moves from dense ambient to a gently pulsing figment and back again. The music is welcome, but even more so is the presence that Bojanek projects. He is modelling behavior, not just by staying home, not just by keeping busy, not just by sharing, but by remaining visibly focused, even calm. We couldn’t ask more of ourselves.

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.

Track originally posted to Bojanek’s YouTube channel. More from Bojanek at bojanek.bandcamp.com.

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