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

tag: sound-art

An Installation for Oliveros

This document of a sound installation created in memory of the late Pauline Oliveros delivers the opposite of closure. As it proceeds, the lulling ambience is overtaken by the harsh slashes of what might be a violin, or a knife against rough leather for that matter. In retrospect — that is, upon subsequent listens — those string-like noises toward the end help reveal the source of the held tones at the track’s opening, the higher-pitch notes amid the general fog-horn drones. The violin is a constant presence, as it turns out, even though some time must pass before its presence becomes clear. The installation was created by the Vienna-born Mia Zabelka at the behest of the Austrian Cultural Forum New York (acfny.org). Pauline Oliveros, a maverick composer and sound theorist, was a practitioner of Deep Listening. So listen deep, put yourself inside Zabelka’s installation, and observe as her violin gains substance.

Track originally posted at soundcloud.com/miazabelkamusic. More from Zabelka at miazabelka.com and twitter.com/miazabelka.

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Pursuing the Omniscient Ear

How does a VR album compare with a live concert recording?

Live concert albums are formal documents of a given night. At their best they represent a platonic ideal of the evening in question, not presenting the experience of any single individual, but providing an optimal representation. Sometimes they don’t even reproduce a specific evening, but instead draw from multiple nights along a tour, and in any case may be tweaked and clarified in post-production.

But what of virtual reality, the long-fledgling medium in which the matter of the individual’s perspective is even more central than at a concert? VR is closer to a video game, theoretically with an even greater implicit emphasis on the user’s co-authorship of the experience. Forget for a moment how the full run of a VR environment might be documented in fixed media — how about just its score? The question surfaces during a listen to Machinefabriek’s music for FIGHT a VR artwork by Memo Akten. As Machinefabriek explains in a brief accompanying liner note:

Wearing an Oculus Rift headset, the viewer experiences an exceedingly psychedelic, 3D trip. The video shows different patterns and colours to each eye, causing ‘binocular rivalry’, an effect in which the brain makes its own fluctuating mix of the images. 

In the virtual reality version, the music was spatialized, reactive to the movements of the viewer. This soundtrack EP presents the music as a mixed stereo version. 

The soundtrack to FIGHT is track one (“FIGHT score”) of this two-track EP. Track two (“FIGHT ambient”) is “the soundscape that played in the room in which the installation was exhibited.” One listen to the VR’s music, with its rich, spacious display of stereoscopic noises and episodic environmental scenes, and the original context is clear. Even if we can’t nudge the score this way and that through our own digitally induced wayfinding, the sense of a non-linear narrative is self-evident. There are textured drones and dank industrial flourishes, suffocating synthesized white noise and lovely aquatic set pieces. It’s sound to get lost in.

FIGHT is, in fact, an experience not only to get lost in, but to lose your sense of self in. It’s an intense work of op-art, in which different images are fed to your two individual eyes, leaving your brain to make sense of it all. FIGHT had its premiere at STRP Biënnale, which commissioned it, in the Netherlands, where Machinefabriek lives, and was also presented at Sónar in Barcelona. The second track on the EP, the installation score, is a womb embrace of long ambient tones. Chances are, after you take off that VR headset it’s exactly what the body needs.

Album originally posted at machinefabriek.bandcamp.com. More from Machinefabriek, aka Rutger Zuydervelt, at machinefabriek.nu. More on Memo Akten’s FIGHT at memo.tv/fight.

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Disquiet Junto Project 0278: MacConnel’s Jingle

Interpret a work of contemporary art as a graphically notated score.

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, May 1, 2017. This project was posted in the mid-afternoon, California time, on Thursday, April 27, 2017.

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

Disquiet Junto Project 0278: MacConnel’s Jingle
The Assignment: Interpret a work of contemporary art as a graphically notated score.

Step 1: The image at the following URL is a photograph of Jingle, a 1980 work by the artist Kim MacConnel (b. 1946). The piece, which is approximately 8 feet wide and is made of acrylic on cotton, hangs at the Parrish Art Museum in the town of Watermill, New York, on the east end of Long Island.

https://disquiet.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/kimmacconneljingle.jpg

Step 2: Compose a short piece of music that interprets MacConnel’s Jingle as a graphically notated score.

Five More Important Steps When Your Track Is Done:

Step 1: If you hosting platform allows for tags, be sure to include the project tag “disquiet0278” (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:

http://llllllll.co/t/disquiet-junto-project-0278-macconnels-jingle/

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, May 1, 2017. This project was posted in the mid-afternoon, California time, on Thursday, April 27, 2017.

Length: The length is entirely up to the participant.

Title/Tag: When posting your track, please include “disquiet0278” 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: It is preferable that 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).

Linking: When posting the track online, please be sure to include this information:

More on this 278th weekly Disquiet Junto project — “MacConnel’s Jingle: Interpret a work of contemporary art as a graphically notated score”— at:

https://disquiet.com/0278/

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:

http://llllllll.co/t/disquiet-junto-project-0278-macconnels-jingle/

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

Image associated with this project is a photo of Kim MacConnel’s Jingle, a 1980 work for acrylic on cotton, shot at the Parrish Art Museum in Water Mill, New York, on the east end of Long Island.

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This Week in Sound: CES + Technics +

+ Brian Eno's pricey return to ambient music

A lightly annotated clipping service:

Consumer Products: CES is happening in Las Vegas, where battle lines are being drawn and allegiances formed amid various platforms, with Amazon’s Alexa in a prominent position (zdnet.com).

Godfather Returns: Brian Eno has released a great new ambient album, Reflection, and a quizzically expensive iOS app (brian-eno.net).

DJ Revisionism: And as Jonathan Soble writes in the New York Times, a relaunched Technics turntable is peculiarly detached from its hip-hop legacy (nytimes.com).

This first appeared, in slightly different form, in the January 3, 2017, edition of the free Disquiet “This Week in Sound”email newsletter: tinyletter.com/disquiet.

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Philip Glass + Buddha Machine 2017 (Updated)

An apparent collaboration is in the works

“Philip Glass + Buddha Machine. Jan 2017.” That single line of news popped up on Philip Glass’ Facebook feed two evenings ago, and simultaneously on the news page of Glass’ website, philipglass.com, and then an hour or so later on Buddha Machine’s own Facebook page.

What it means isn’t exactly clear. The base impression is there’s a forthcoming Buddha Machine featuring sounds from Philip Glass. Then again, it could be something richer still. Monolake, aka Berlin-based musician Robert Henke has, among others, done a full album of Buddha Machine remixes. Perhaps Glass has composed a piece with the Buddha Machine as an automaton collaborator.

Buddha Machine is the work of the duo FM3, which consists of Christiaan Virant and Zhang Jian 张荐. The first one was released in 2005. The device is a small looping machine. It contains brief bits of music that play on repeat. Here’s a run through the sounds:

On the first device the only controls were on/off and switching between tracks. Later editions in the Buddha Machine line added the ability to change the pace, and thus the pitch, of the track. This would be one among the many celebrations of Philip Glass’ imminent 80th birthday. He was born on January 31, 1937.

This wouldn’t be the first Buddha Machine collaboration. They worked with Throbbing Gristle to produce the noise box named Gristleism back in 2009:

The third Buddha Machine, released in 2010, featured performances on the guqin string instrument by Wu Na 吳娜. And there was the Buddha Machine Secret Edition, produced for a French spa back in 2007 and 2008. In addition to the spa, there have been five official Buddha Machines. Glass is himself a gregarious composer whose numerous collaborations include work with Aphex Twin, R. Carlos Nakai, Richard Serra, Allen Ginsberg, Paul Simon, and Suzanne Vega.

You can hear the influence of Glass’ minimalism on the Buddha Machine, from the overall core function of looping, to the timbre and tonality of some of the tracks. The very first Buddha Machine’s second track, “Zheng – 箏,” in particular bears resemblance to the mediative arpeggios-as-reverb quality of many Glass compositions:

There’s little if any other information currently circulating, aside from a reply that the folks behind Buddha Machine made to one of the Facebook comments. In regard to certain desired characteristics of the forthcoming Buddha Machine item, they replied: “We have changed factories so I hope the new unit meets your desires.”

While on the topic, at the top of my wishlist for future Buddha Machines is that they are CV-controlled, so that the volume, speed/pitch, and track can be triggered by my modular synthesizer. This video of a hacked Buddha Machine by Leicester, U.K.”“based Stu Smith provides a proof of concept:

Here, in turn, is a room full of Buddha Machines, six in all:

This layering of multiple Buddha Machines has made the device a favorite of musicians who engage in generative music, in compositions that change over time as the result of artfully calibrated systems. Among the earliest major proponents of the Buddha Machine was Brian Eno, who reportedly bought numerous of the first edition. Eno today announced this his forthcoming album, Reflection, due out on January 1, 2017, on the Warp label, will also be available as a generative iOS app (more at brian-eno.net) that he developed with Peter Chilvers. Eno’s previous generative music apps, also made with Chilvers, include Bloom and Scape.

More on the Buddha Machine at fm3buddhamachine.com and buddhamachine.bandcamp.com. And, yes, there’s an iOS version.

(Thanks for the alert, Eric Vincent Guilmette and Michelle Milligan.)

Update (2016.12.20): The device is now available for pre-order at bleep.com and boomkat.com. Bleep says, “Set for release on his 80th Birthday, the new machine features variations on piano, organ and voice, and is sure to be possibly the most minimal, yet hypnotic entry on the Buddha machine yet.” Boomkat says, ” brand new Buddha Machine made in collaboration with Philip Glass, released to commemorate his’ 80th Birthday on 31st January 2017. Seven loops of distinctive and hypnotic works by Philip Glass featuring piano, organ & voice. Significantly improved sound quality and built in speaker as well as headphone output.” There appears to be no pitch/speed control on this one.

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