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

tag: score

Current Listens: Fullman + Tenet + Funki Porcini

Heavy rotation, lightly annotated

This is my weekly(ish) answer to the question “What have you been listening to lately?” It’s lightly annotated because I don’t like re-posting material without providing some context. In the interest of conversation, let me know what you’re listening to in the comments below. Just please don’t promote your own work (or that of your label/client). This isn’t the right venue. (Just use email.)

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NEW: Recent(ish) arrivals and pre-releases

Best known for her Long String Instrument, Ellen Fullman is heard in late-1980s musique-concrète mode on Music for the Man Who Grew Common in Wisdom, due out October 16 from the Besom Presse label, based in Los Angeles. One track is already available for streaming. Listen as a stereo recording of lapping water lapses into a rhythmic pulse.

The director of the new thriller Tenet, Christopher Nolan, may prefer we see it in theaters, but at least its score is online, courtesy of the record label WaterTower Music, for those of us maintaining significant social distance. Music by composer Ludwig Göransson.

Funki Porcini is a favorite from way back at the dawn of electronica, and his latest does not disappoint. Motorway opens with cinematic beats before proceeding through a mix of lush ambience imbued with a sense of intimacy, surveillance, and drama.

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IM-OS: The Journal of Improvised Music – Open Scores

Edited by Carl Bergstrøm-Nielsen and Jukka-Pekka Kervinen

Now in its second year, the online journal IM-OS is a wellspring of experimental composition. The initials stand for Improvised Music – Open Scores, and there’s a slightly longer description on its homepage, im-os.net: “new music journal focused on improvised music, open scores in various forms like prose, graphic and action notations.” There have been four issues thus far, two in 2019 and two this year, all edited by Carl Bergstrøm-Nielsen and Jukka-Pekka Kervinen. All are available as free PDFs.

The most recent, dated Spring 2020, includes a graphic score that approaches the rhetoric of current sitting U.S. president as a composition (see the graphic above) and a deck of cards from Dennis Báthory-Kitsz (see sample set below).

The second issue included an essay by Adam Wasażnik connecting such games as cribbage and Monopoly to music-making, and the third had an 80-card “mathematical music” game composed by Samuel Vriezen on the occasion of composer Tom Johnson’s 80th birthday. (Frequent Disquiet Junto participant Glenn Sogge has a card-based composition in the second issue titled “Gestures for one or more percussionists.”)

Check it out at im-os.net. More from Jukka-Pekka Kervinen, who is based in Finland, at soundcloud.com/jpkervinen and from Carl Bergstrøm-Nielsen, who is based in Denmark, at intuitivemusic.dk. (Thanks to Colin Drake for having introduced me to the journal.)

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Cortini Plays with a PlayStation Score

Remixing Ghost of Tsushima

The forthcoming PlayStation game Ghost of Tsushima has an original score by Ilan Eshkeri (veteran of such movies as Still Alice and Dr. Thorne) and Shigeru Umebayashi (whose lengthy career includes House of Flying Daggers and 2046, the latter by Wong Kar-wai). The releasing game studio, Sucker Punch, has enlisted some big names in popular electronic music to rework cues. These include Alessandro Cortini (best known as a member of Nine Inch Nails), the Glitch Mob, Tokimonsta, and Tycho. The resulting EP is due out Friday on the record label Milan. Cortini posted his remix to his YouTube channel. It’s a thrilling, cinematic piece, at once densely atmospheric and yet also pulse-rising. Absolutely gorgeous. It’s as much an alternate cue as it is a remix.

Video originally posted at youtube.com. More on the game, due out July 17, at playstation.com.

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Broken Media and Entering the Past

Two reminders of technology's mediation

Two blasts from the media past in one day: a CD and a dongle.

(1) I purchased a CD of the score to Breaking and Entering, the Anthony Minghella film, on eBay because the music isn’t on Google Play Music (which I subscribe to), or on Spotify, or on any equivalent I’ve found. I’m a big admirer of Underworld and of Gabriel Yared (all the way back to Betty Blue), and after listening to rips of the Breaking and Entering tracks on YouTube I wanted to be able to listen to it in full. This is from 2006, the year before Underworld scored Sunshine for Danny Boyle, who a decade earlier had helped inculcate them into the vocabulary of film with Trainspotting (true, “Cowgirl” was in Hackers the year prior).

The Breaking and Entering CD arrived still wrapped in its original prophylactic cellophane, affixed with a price tag of nearly $14, or more than twice what I had paid, including shipping, to some semi-anonymous eBay “store” (aka someone with a packed closet or garage across the country from me).

The CD came with a 12-page booklet containing a lengthy essay by Minghella about the role of music in his creative process (it opens: “I find it very difficult to write the screenplay for a film I’m directing until I can hear what the film might sound like”), and about how he brought Underworld together with Yared, much as earlier Minghella films had led to other pairings for Yared (with trumpeter Guy Barker for The Talented Mister Ripley and T-Bone Burnett for Cold Mountain, not to mention the role Marta Sebestyen’s voice played in The English Patient).

Were Breaking and Entering on a streaming service, none of this material would likely have been present (the essay’s length would push the norms even of Bandcamp), nor the detailed credits, including an attribution to Martin Cantwell for “Atmospheres,” which I’m a bit desperate to know more about. Currently Google has all of seven returns in a search for “‘Martin Cantwell’ atmospheres ‘breaking and entering'” and it will have eight as soon as I hit publish on this post. (There are more returns for a random subtitle from a TV show I mentioned in my previous post.)

If the universal-jukebox promise of streaming services and Google searches had already failed me, trying to rip the CD to my computer’s hard drive was another reminder of the gaps that technology inserts into our knowledge. A service did manage to populate the tracks’ titles, but in the process listed Underworld as “artists” and Yared as “composer,” which has no basis in reality, as Minghella himself recounted. He joked they became a fully collaborative trio: “Undergab” or “YaredWorld.”

(2) The other item is a little converter dongle that will let my jack-less mobile phone (currently an Android Pixel 2 XL, though users of iPhones and other devices know the same pain) use cabled headphones. “Cabled headphones” is a retronym, in light of the rise of the Bluetooth variety. Bluetooth has its uses, but the fact is that at some point during a long day, my earbuds’ batteries are likely to run out. Also, I have a really nice pair of cabled headphones at home.

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[investigatory synth music]

The joy of non-diegetic subtitles

This is a screenshot from the third episode of the fourth and current season of The Expanse. That’s Amos, one of the series’ main characters, with his back to the screen, surveying the wreckage of a spacecraft that came hurtling down to this questionably habitable planet at the opening of episode one. We already know something is amiss, and if you’ve read Cibola Burn, the book on which this season is largely based, you know the anger and heartbreak yet to come.

As is often the case, mere note symbols aren’t used in the subtitles to signal what the score, by Clinton Shorter (District 9, Colony), is offering up in terms of emotion and narrative. Here, even the standard “[moody music]” apparently wouldn’t do. At some point along the production Gantt chart, someone wrote and presumably someone else approved a description, “[investigatory synth music],” that is so literal (the characters are, indeed, investigating, and the music is, indeed, quite evidently performed on synthesizers) that it transcends its own literalness and suggests a whole new genre. (One that would retroactively include, for example, the entire run of The X-Files.)

The moment also reminded me of a comment by one of the two writers who, under the shared pseudonym James S.A. Corey, write the Expanse books and collaborate on their translation from page to screen. This is Ty Franck speaking, and the Daniel is Daniel Abraham, Franck’s co-author: “I know Daniel had a real epiphany when he realized that all the prose tricks to convey the emotional state of a scene could be replaced with a good musical score. And I love finding ways to lay a scene out for the camera instead of a reader. Cameras are very literal. It’s a completely different way to think of story.”

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