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: recommended stream

Not Frozen, but Froze-ish

Stray Wool's granular synthesis

Granular synthesis lends itself to music that is at once majestic and circumspect. By capturing the tiniest slivers of sound and holding them for extended moments, it puts the listener in a place akin to near stasis: not frozen, but froze-ish. It gives your ears the chance to luxuriate, and contemplate, sound as a surrounding expanse. The mingling of experiences, when implemented well, can balance the breadth of a landscape painting with the focus of a haiku. The new album You Were Away by Stray Wool is well implemented in this regard. Its four tracks — some a leisurely five minutes, others nearly twice that length — take their time, and ours, to explore crevices within piano samples and, presumably, other sources. The results range widely between emotional states. The collection opens (“A1”) with what sounds, at times, like fog horns pushed to the breaking point, and ends with platonic ideal of pastoral ambience (“B2”). For all the slow motion, though, it is not without a sense of humor. The penultimate track, “B1,” begins with a sample of what appears to be an ethnographic researcher interviewing a musician who performs Celtic mouth music: “There are no instruments at all?” we hear her ask in amazement. The piece then moves forward like metal being bent by a powerful force, moaning under the pressure. Depends, apparently, on your definition of “instrument.”

Stray Wool is Pedro Figueiredo, a Portuguese musician and software developer. More on the album at his blog, coruscate.xyz. You Were Away was posted at straywool.bandcamp.com.

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Synth Satie

A performance by Robin Rimbaud (aka Scanner)

I half-joked when Robin Rimbaud (aka Scanner) posted this synthesizer cover of Erik Satie’s classic “Gnossienne No 1” to YouTube yesterday that it will, someday, be the theme song to a TV show. Half, because the drama he elicits from the melody is palpable. This is a more full-bodied rendition than a Satie performance usually engages in. It’s not remotely difficult to imagine a showrunner might appreciate the combination of antique composition and only slightly less antique technology (Scanner employed the Buchla Music Easel to record this), and how one works in service of the other. There is so much more going on at any given instant of this piece than would occur in, say, a solo piano rendition. The reverberations of the synthesized tones and the sheer breadth of coloration are remarkable. It’s been over half a century since Wendy Carlos’ classic Switched-On Bach. We’re long overdue for Switched-On Satie.

Video originally posted to Scanner’s YouTube channel. More from Scanner at scannerdot.com.

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Closer to the Code

Closer to the source

Each year, my listening seems to get a little closer to the source. This habit, this tendency, goes back to my earliest music explorations. Enamored of a given album in my teens and early 20s, I’d track down music by the individual players on it. In part this pursuit was to expand my horizons, but in part, especially I recognize in retrospect, this was to narrow them; I had the sense that if I gained a comprehension of the individual player’s sound, I’d better understand their contribution to the initial album that seeded my interest.

Fast forward to 2020, and much of my listening is to sketches, to rough drafts, to works-in-progress that people post to SoundCloud and, increasingly, to YouTube of the most inchoate of musical inventions. In the case of this video, it is Nathan Wheeler documenting his participation in a coding circle. (That’s a social, mutual-improvement scenario adopted online from the classic sewing circle, in which people gather to do solitary creative work in a communal situation. The sewing circle was an influence on the Disquiet Junto, as well.) The circle in which Wheeler is participating originated on the excellent llllllll.co music community. Members were given about a month and a half to write a script for a shared hardware device — the details don’t matter, but if it’s of interest, click through above to llllllll.co and learn more — based on a few guidelines. These amount to a provided set of audio samples, and some broadly defined parameters: volume, brightness, density, “evolve,” and a switching between “worlds” (switching that the accompanying visuals are then intended to represent distinctly). The project is titled “drone in three worlds.”

Understanding those briefest of guidelines is more that sufficient to interpret the video, in which the worlds are depicted as eclipse-like, a receding perspective, and a rapid starfield. If you have more interest, you can read the llllllll.co discussion, and click through to the the GitHub repositories where the source code of the various project responses will be stored. GitHub being where, according to my lifelong trajectory as described above, much of my listening will likely being taking place within a few more years.

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Corrption in Space

A Radiophonic episode from Japan

When the audio that Japan-based composer Corruption/Corrption uploads regularly to SoundCloud isn’t snippets of alienated urban field recordings, it ventures into music, more properly understood. Which isn’t to say the results are any less esoteric, or less enticing. “VUHDRL” is a series of Radiophonic motifs, sound design for a science fiction film that is not only set in deep space, but shot there on location. Which is to say, it isn’t merely alienated; it’s actually alien. Speaker-threatening garbled noise lets through sharp bits of haunting organ, then dissolving amid phaser bursts and an overall sense of otherworldly drama.

Track originally posted at soundcloud.com/corrption.

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The Most Rudimentary Conception of a Marionette

A new museum installation from Zimoun

It’s been almost exactly a year since I posted one of the brief videos of the artist Zimoun’s tactile, economical, kinetic sculptures, sculptures whose impact — humorous, touching, majestic — is so out of proportion with the modest material from which they are constructed. Here’s a new one, posted today. A short video such as this is how Zimoun announces a newly installed work. Its title, as is generally the case for Zimoun, is little more than a list of the components, here “51 prepared dc-motors, 189 m rope, cardboard sticks 30 cm,” followed by the year of production: “2019.” The footage is a view from the Museum of Contemporary Art MAC, Santiago de Chile. And it’s not even 40 seconds long.

Vimeo, unlike YouTube, doesn’t have an easy way to allow for looped, repeated viewing, but you’ll be drawn in and hitting repeat almost for certain. Watch as the tiny cardboard sticks dance around in circles, suspended like the most rudimentary conception of a marionette. Their balletic footsteps suggest Amazonian rainfall: cardboard drops on a cold concrete floor.

Part of the beauty of Zimoun’s videos is how the sound is and isn’t in sync with what we see. The video cuts from one view to another: a closeup, giving us a sense of the mechanisms, a fuller one to give a sense of scale, a room view for sense of scope. Throughout the cardboard raindrops fall.

Video originally posted at vimeo.com. More from Zimoun, who is based in Bern, Switzerland, at zimoun.net.

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