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: software

Snakes & Oscillators

A glimpse at a video-game music interface by Jon Davies

A post shared by Jon Davies (@jonpauldavies) on

Just to follow up yesterday’s post of an Instagram video depicting a tiny robot band playing artfully arranged instrumental music, here’s another solid example of the miniature musical-technological (a slightly more humane appellation than “music-technology”) wonders found on the social network.

As you listen to the clip, a brief synthesized melody is being modulated in real time, the sound warping at the whim of a controller. The familiar shape of the x/y control pad is viewable in the lower right hand corner of the illuminated grid device. What it controls is this snake, familiar from video games like Centipede, the early-1980s classic. The snake can be aimed at a little stationary reward, whose consumption by the snake ushers in a new phase of the melody, which appears to move up the register a step at a time, or something along those lines.

The rules of this game-composition aren’t entirely clear, but it does appear that while you can aim the snake to hit that reward light right on the schedule that the rhythm suggests, you can also delay doing so, letting the standing melody extend for awhile. It’s nice to imagine how an audience in a live setting would get engaged in such a performance, becoming aware of the process and enjoying the occasions of delayed gratification as the snake takes its time to consume its prey. It’s also interesting to think how the scenario can train a player to keep time, or adeptly veer from it, along the lines of Guitar Hero and other so-called rhythm games.

Video found via a post by Scanner Darkly on the llllllll.co boards. Software by Jon Davies, on whose Instagram account the clip was published. The device is the open-source Monome Grid controller (more at monome.org). Davies says the code will soon be shared publicly, for those who want to play along at home.

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A Free Album Made with a Free Virtual Modular Synthesizer

It's the Klirrfaktor's Lost Identity, made on VCV Rack

Rudimentary sources are a thing this week. Over at pitchfork.com, Philip Sherburne surveyed albums recorded on a single synthesizer, among them three Korgs, a Clavia, and a Casio. Meanwhile on Twitter, there were endless variations on the theme of “This is where I recorded and mixed the album and all the gear I used.” The resulting memes ranged from Tron to Teletubbies. Some, like Four Tet’s tiny studio with a view, were even believable. (My own contribution was a nested loop, beginning here.)

And then, over on Bandcamp, the Klirrfaktor uploaded a nine-track album, Lost Identity, completely recorded on a single piece of software, one that is still deep in beta. Named VCV Rack, the software is a virtual modular synthesizer developed by Andrew Belt and contributed to by a growing number of module creators. You could argue that with numerous modules, VCV Rack isn’t exactly a single instrument, but Klirrfaktor gets points for putting it to substantial use so quickly — and for eschewing rote 4/4 rhythm tracks in favor of dank industrial spaces and ominous sound design.

Currently in version 0.4, VCV Rack (shown above) offers a variety of true basics, like oscillators and mixers, as well as adaptations of more specialized gear, like granular synthesizers and matrix sequencers. Both VCV Rack and the Klirrfaktor album are also entirely free. You can download VCV Rack at vcvrack.com. And if you make something you’re happy with, there’s a compilation due out that you can contribute to, details at switchedonrack.com.

Album originally posted at theklirrfaktor.bandcamp.com. More from the Klirrfaktor at twitter.com/TheKlirrfaktor and youtube.com/TheKlirrfaktor.

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Dead Radio

Lost signals, social media, and finding wave lengths

I started reading Nadine Gordimer’s novel July’s People this week simply because I’d never read her, and many friends had recommended her. In terms of the stack of books sitting here waiting to be read, reading about end of apartheid seemed like a useful filter on the world. To read meant to look away from work (which was easy, as I was on vacation), but also to look away from media, especially social media. Gordimer’s writing demands attention. She’s like if John le Carré wrote about interpersonal relations — and if he did so at a tenth the speed and several times the level of detail. Both are writers of, simultaneously, micro and macro politics, of the personal and the global. Both explore nuance and codes within communication. But she does so across impenetrable emotional voids and with zero interest in titillation.

In turning away from Twitter, I entered the deep emotional grasses of her book, and found amid the narrative strains two parents. They’re lost in many ways, foremost without a working radio. They fight over the device, searching for stations, checking “wave lengths.” More to the point, the radio works, but the stations don’t. There are no signals to be received. This is both fact and metaphor. All along, during my reading, my social media is out of control. I take breaks from it to read about the dead radio. Then I take breaks from the dead radio of Gordimer’s book to take in the fire hose of our current moment. I alternate. I think about taking a social media break, which I’ve done on occasion, but this seems like a time to be aware, to be aware of being aware. I’m intrigued by mediated awareness, I suppose.

The most quoted tweet I had was years ago, in the Arab Spring. At the time, Twitter was more about consumer goods and personal expression. I’d mentioned how “I used to look at Twitter to see what tech gadget has been released, and now it’s to see what country is on fire.” Or something along those lines. Anyhow, it’s pretty clear which country is on fire now. I might turn off Twitter, but of course when I choose to turn it, or the radio, on both would function. If the dead radio in July’s People suggests one form of broken interpersonal communication, what is the hyperactive Twitter a metaphor for? More to the point, the radio in July’s People seems dead because there are no signals. Social media seems to work because there are signals. The main thing I’ve come to appreciate is that something can function and still be broken.

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Disquiet Junto Project 0293: Emerge/Immerse

Make music for Paige Dansinger's Palmyra 3D/VR images, paying tribute to the late Bassel Khartabil.

Each Thursday in the Disquiet Junto group, a new compositional challenge is set before the group’s members, who then have just over four days to upload a track in response to the assignment. Membership in the Junto is open: just join and participate. (A SoundCloud account is helpful but not required.) There’s no pressure to do every project. It’s weekly so that you know it’s there, every Thursday through Monday, when you have the time.

Tracks will be added to this playlist for the duration of the project:

This project’s deadline is 11:59pm wherever you are on Monday, August 14, 2017. This project was posted in early afternoon, California time, on Thursday, August 10, 2017.

These are the instructions that went out to the group’s email list (at tinyletter.com/disquiet-junto):

Disquiet Junto Project 0293: Emerge/Immerse
Make music for Paige Dansinger’s Palmyra 3D/VR images, paying tribute to the late Bassel Khartabil.

Step 1: This is the first of two consecutive projects we’re undertaking, following the news of Bassel Khartabil’s death. (If you’re new to the Junto, Bassel was an open-source coder who did a lot of work in CGI before being imprisoned in Syria. Word of his execution just recently became public.) Paige Dansinger is making VR drawings in Tilt Brush inspired by Bassel’s Palmyra CGI work, drawing from her own interest in making a better world. For this project we’re going to make sound, in Bassel’s honor, to accompany her 3D work. View Paige’s pieces at:

http://www.newpalmyra.org/projects/junto-emerge-immerse/

Step 2: Think about the sort of sound that might accompany, contribute to, or otherwise be a component part of a VR experience. Now, record a short piece of music, up to two minutes, that is about something emerging — something being brought to life, or coming out of a cave, or otherwise coming into being.

Five More Important Steps When Your Track Is Done:

Step 1: If your hosting platform allows for tags, be sure to include the project tag “disquiet0293” (no spaces) in the name of your track. If you’re posting on SoundCloud in particular, this is essential to my locating the tracks and creating a playlist of them.

Step 2: Upload your track. It is helpful but not essential that you use SoundCloud to host your track.

Step 3: In the following discussion thread at llllllll.co please consider posting your track:

https://llllllll.co/t/disquiet-junto-project-0293-emerge-immerse/

Step 4: Annotate your track with a brief explanation of your approach and process.

Step 5: Then listen to and comment on tracks uploaded by your fellow Disquiet Junto participants.

Deadline: This project’s deadline is 11:59pm wherever you are on Monday, August 14, 2017. This project was posted in early afternoon, California time, on Thursday, August 10, 2017.

Length: Keep your piece to under two minutes.

Title/Tag: When posting your track, please include “disquiet0293” in the title of the track, and where applicable (on SoundCloud, for example) as a tag.

Upload: When participating in this project, post one finished track with the project tag, and be sure to include a description of your process in planning, composing, and recording it. This description is an essential element of the communicative process inherent in the Disquiet Junto. Photos, video, and lists of equipment are always appreciated.

Download: For this project, please make sure your track is set as downloadable, and that it allows for attributed remixing (i.e., a Creative Commons license permitting non-commercial sharing with attribution). This is aligned with Paige Dansinger and Bassel Khartabil’s work.

Linking: When posting the track online, please be sure to include this information, along with details of your source audio, including links to it:

More on this 293rd weekly Disquiet Junto project — Make music for Paige Dansinger’s Palmyra 3D/VR images, paying tribute to the late Bassel Khartabil — at:

https://disquiet.com/0293/

Thanks to Niki Korth, Jon Phillips, and Barry Threw for encouraging this project, and to Paige Dansinger for the collaboration. View Dansinger’s 3D drawings of Palmyra here:

http://www.newpalmyra.org/projects/junto-emerge-immerse/

More on the Disquiet Junto at:

https://disquiet.com/junto/

Subscribe to project announcements here:

http://tinyletter.com/disquiet-junto/

Project discussion takes place on llllllll.co:

https://llllllll.co/t/disquiet-junto-project-0293-emerge-immerse/

There’s also on a Junto Slack. Send your email address to twitter.com/disquiet for Slack inclusion.

Image associated with this project is by Paige Dansinger, more on whom here:

http://paigedansinger.com

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Two Programs in Collaboration

A SuperCollider experiment

Multiple lines thread through this piece, one slow and muffled, like a water-logged bandoneon, the other chipper and vibrant, like a tiny robotic vibraphone with a glitchy chip. What it is is an experiment, apparently, in letting two pieces of software share data with each other in real time. The musician at the helm(s) of these softwares, programmed in SuperCollider, goes by Data Mads, who likens the composition to an experiment in code that is “selfaware.”

Video originally posted at YouTube. More on the processes at sccode.org.

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