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

tag: video

Applied Loop Theory from Indonesia

A live ambient performance video by Fahmi Mursyid

It will not be surprising that sometimes the most enticing ambient music is made with the most minimal elements. No phalanx of gear and patch cables, no state-of-the-art computer running multiple programs in unison, no battery of controllers offering gestural interfaces to the musician. Just a combination of tape loop and a small number of effects — that is all it takes for Fahmi Mursyid, of Bandung, Indonesia, to usher the listener into a lush, artfully circumspect zone of sonic density.

“I discovered that the most interesting music of all was made by simply lining the loops in unison, and letting them slowly shift out of phase with other” — that quote from the minimalist composer Steve Reich introduces the video on YouTube, where Mursyid has posted a live recording of the track’s performance, simply titled “Ambient / Drone : Tape Loops Experiment.” In it, a looper allows Mursyid to layer segments of the tape, though never so much that the desolate quietude of its opening instance is ever fully lost.

This is the latest video I’ve added to my YouTube playlist of recommended live performances of ambient music. Video originally posted at Mursyid’s YouTube channel back in October 2017. More from Fahmi Mursyid at ideologikal.bandcamp.com.

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Distressed Tape

A live, rough-textured ambient performance video from Hainbach

Just yesterday, the musician Hainbach released a short video, barely five minutes long, of a noise-informed, texture-rich ambient performance. The instrumentation on this is simple: cassette playback, which Hainbach controls four channels on, and an effects unit. The piece develops in two primary ways: as the relative levels of those channels are adjusted, and as the various effects are put into effect.

A loop of murky, sodden, melting melody, seemingly on piano, is warped beneath the distressed qualities of the tape on which it was first recorded. Wafts of white noise, much like the flapping of a flag in the wind, surround that piano, while other lines slowly make themselves present, notably an echoing rhythm.

This is the latest video I’ve added to my YouTube playlist of recommended live performances of ambient music. Track originally posted at Hainbach’s YouTube channel. More from Hainbach, aka Stefan Paul Goetsch, who is based in Berlin, at hainbachmusik.com and hainbach.bandcamp.com.

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“Reuma” with a View

A gorgeous track from Alan Dear, as he completes his debut album

Don’t take Alan Dear’s working title for this live performance as a requirement for expert ears, or for music-technology expertise, for that matter. The piece may be titled (“reuma – ambient eurorack w/mutable instruments rings, morphagene and Bastl microgranny”) primarily after the technology employed to make it, but the deluge of that information has no parallel to the sheer, evocative simplicity of what transpires in the track’s duration. It measures just under six minutes, but the time is also meaningless, because you’re almost certainly going to want to set it on loop.

What transpires is sonic dust, frayed bits of noise, all petal crunches and mote sways. It’s expressly gentle, a choreography for shadows and silhouettes. The video itself is a document of automation. What happens is the result of communication between devices. Toward the end, the camera cuts in close to focus the eye, but there is no human present, except behind the lens, and in advance of the performance. Someone set these sounds in motion. Someone — Alan Dear, of course — set the clocks for the filters and effects. Someone foresaw the interaction between elements. But at some point, that someone let go, and let the machines do their thing.

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 Alan Dear at instagram.com/dearalanmusic and, soon, one hopes, at dearalan.bandcamp.com, where Dear’s debut album is due to appear. The YouTube video’s accompanying note says “late 2018” for the album’s release.

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Side-Scrolling Composition

A visual score performed by Ensemble d’oscillateurs

A small collection of dots, connected by fragile lines, triggers a bleep-bloop akin to the handshake signals of satellite communication. Near-parallel white lines, some distance apart across a vast black field, create a centerless drone, the mechanical nature of which is subdued by slight wavering, its sound altering along with the moving image.

One of those lines grows thick, exposing an internal lattice, clusters of supporting frames — a honeycomb by way of an early arcade game, the fractals of Flatland. These images, and many more, make up SYN-Phon, a visual score by composer Candas Sisman, performed by Ensemble d’oscillateurs on their album 4 compositions (Line Imprint). It’s a protagonist-free side-scrolling adventure into the sonic avant-garde.

Ensemble d’oscillateurs, led by Nicolas Bernier, performs entirely on a set of beautiful old oscillators:

As a viewer-listener, you have the benefit in Sisman’s SYN-Phon of seeing in advance what you will soon hear. A thick vertical white line on the horizon, with dense activity coming online after a long expanse of near silence, announces itself as it scrolls in from the right. (The vertical red line, in contrast, signals where you are in the score at any given moment. It’s positioned partially into the frame, so you can also see what has recently occurred.)

Later, as a silence approaches, signaled by a vast black blankness, your ear knows to prepare for the shift, and awaits the ability to focus on the smaller sonic images about to unfold. You also have the option of downloading (as a PDF) the entire score as an extravagantly narrow band of abstract images, a TripTik of where the Ensemble will be traveling.

This image, from the composer’s Flickr page, give a sense of the scale of the score:

All four of the compositions on the 4 compositions album are based on graphic scores. The other composers, in addition to Candas Sisman, are Xavier Ménard, Francisco Meirino, and Kevin Gironnay. In the liner notes to the album, Gironnay describes what is happening in SYN-Phon:

A collective work has been accomplished around the interpretation (literally) of the graphic notation: assigning a line to an oscillator, while some others are shaping the sound of a circle or quickly stepping in to give a sonic life to an array of connected dots.

This video initially appeared at the Vimeo channel of Lines Imprint: vimeo.com. Get the full album at lineimprint.bandcamp.com. More from Ensemble d’oscillateurs at son-matiere.org. For comparison, there is on Sisman’s Vimeo channel another interpretation of the same scrolling graphic score, performed instead on trumpet, cello, and “electronics and objects” rather than a collection of oscillators. The “electronics and objects” are performed by Sisman himself. More details at Sisman’s own website, csismn.com.

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Dappled by Gadgetry

A live suitcase gig by Nicklas Lundberg

This 30-minute segment of Nicklas Lundberg shows the musician milking noise from a sizable, jam-packed metal suitcase, opened like the maw of a giant mechanical fish and filled to both its mirror-twin brims with all manner of CD players, keyboards, cellphones, controllers, and countless other gadgets, many of which aren’t immediately associated – and this is sort of the point — with the production of sound. The music those things are summoned to produce is a rolling churn of glittering murk, of vibrating flotsam, random tools recycled into a semi-portable one-person orchestra. It’s a bit like a sonic equivalent to the dappled video projection that washes over Lundberg for the majority of the performance, except at several times the speed. Where the visual dappling is placid, serene, the sonic dappling is madcap, a chaotic flux that has no core pattern and yet provides a sense of continuity in its constant motion.

Video originally posted to the YouTube channel of Powcademy, more from which at instagram.com/powcademy.tv.

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