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: video

Perpetual Energy

No-input mixing from Indonesia-based Fahmi Mursyid

No-input mixing is the perpetual-energy machine of electronic music. Maybe more than perpetual energy. Perpetual energy often suggests something simple, like a spinning wheel or a car battery, that has been tricked into running forever. In contrast, no-input mixing suggests one is tapping into a dangerous force. The trick is not to make it run forever, but quite the contrary: to keep it in check. To make something raw and vital be useful and malleable. The sounds are often employed in noise music, or, as in the case of this Fahmi Mursyid video, ambient. In it, Mursyid probes at the noise that the mixer produces, lending a sense of space with a reverb pedal and letting it loop and grow. For all the subtlety of the piece, there is a strong undercurrent, the feeling that it could get out of control very easily. (Fun fact: right click on a YouTube video and a little menu pops up. Then select where it says “loop,” and let it do so.) According to a comment by Mursyid, we’ll hear more of this work soon: “The long version will be out on ‘feedback’ compilation or I will upload it on my Patreon page.”

This is the latest video added to my ongoing YouTube playlist of live performances of ambient music. Video originally posted at YouTube.

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Layers by the River

Video and audio by Jason Richardson

Every week in the Disquiet Junto, there’s a playlist of the contributing musicians’ tracks. That playlist consists of all the tracks submitted on SoundCloud, and thus it doesn’t relate all the tracks completed, because some folks post tracks elsewhere, including Bandcamp and, in the case of the prolific Jason Richardson, YouTube. Each week, not only does Richardson dependably respond to the current prompt, he does so in the form of a video. This week, he did two videos, one of which was his interpretation of the current project — using nature as your metronome — and the other of which took things a very creative and, for his audience, rewarding step further.

He reached back to a much earlier project. In the April 2016 Junto, the compositional prompt, proposed by Brian Crabtree, developer of the Monome suite of hardware and software music tools, recommended a unique artistic technique: you record the same piece of music several times, and then layer them. The deviations between the versions yields a subtle, cloudy flow. So, in Richardson’s video, not only do we hear him playing the part simultaneously in several takes, we also see the various Richardsons overlapping, as well. And since this includes outtakes culled in favor of the prefered single take, we experience, at the end, when Richardson has to move his gear out of the way to let a guy on his motorcycle get across the bridge.

Up above is the layered version. Here, below, is the single take. What Richardson is up to is, inspired by the current Junto project’s instructions, letting the “feeling of the breeze” on his face inform the pace at which he plays:

Videos originally posted to Jason Richardson’s YouTube channel. More from him at bassling.blogspot.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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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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