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

tag: video

Three Decks, Six Minutes, Twelve Layers

A live tape-loop performance by Austin, Texas–based Amulets

If you were to just hear — rather than also watch — this track by the artist known as Amulets, you might wonder about the little clickety clacks that occur six times, first at five seconds in, then at half a minute in, and then at just past the minute-and-a-half marker, and then again in quicker succession, within 30 seconds of each other, toward the track’s end. These clicks, sharp and fragile, appear amid and yet apart from the otherwise wooly-lush six minutes of music. What’s occurring is the start and stop of cassette tapes being placed into a trio of multi-track player-recorders. Those tapes are the source and the receiver of the echoing, excellently lo-fidelity, gently crackling music. The tapes are both producing and layering the audio, hence the slow yet discernible buildup as it progresses. Since these are four-track recorders, the result is a dozen component parts, twelve separate loops being manipulated in real time.

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 Amulets, aka Randall Taylor, at amuletsmusic.com and amulets.bandcamp.com.

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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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Sound, After Rauschenberg

Scanner live during his Captiva Island residency

If you’ve listened to the second episode of the Disquietude podcast, then you’ve heard a piece by Scanner recorded during his residency at the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation on Captiva Island in Florida. This video was also recorded during that residency, and it shows Scanner doing a performance that occurred at the close of the extended visit, when he and the rest of his cohort presented some of what they had been up to. In this case many of the source audio segments in Scanner’s piece were things he’d recorded in Florida during the residency. You can hear surf and birds in the mix, along with a singsong mix of waveforms. The use of found materials seems appropriate, given the Rauschenberg’s artistic legacy. Scanner describes it a bit at his website:

Something I found surprising and fascinating about my stay was how it altered my listening habits. Whilst working on my new book I found that much of the music I would ordinarily listen to seemed wrong for the location. With nature in its rawest form all around, with osprey, vultures, dolphins, manatees, racoons, woodpeckers surrounding me, it was a challenge to find other music that might work.

The first episode of the Disquietude podcast featured a piece recorded by another artist, Marcus Fischer, at the same residency, albeit a month or so earlier.

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 Scanner, aka Robin Rimbaud, at scannerdot.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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Brian Eno Gives the BBC a Studio Tour

And talks generative art, sculptures, beat making, note taking, and more

“I’m trying to make a version of me in this software,” Brian Eno tells the BBC’s Spencer Kelly in a half-hour video from the broadcaster’s Click show. The ambient godfather is giving Kelly a tour of his studio, displaying how he constructs his light installations, his sculptures made of small speakers, and his software-based music. We see the dark backroom where he’s transitioned from cathode ray tubes to LEDs, and his ceiling-high bookshelves, 65 percent of which he estimates have science as their subject. Kelly, whose BBC reporting focus is technology, pushes Eno to confirm himself as something of a scientist, which Eno agrees to do.

Broadcasting is an odd thing. Kelly needs to ask a generalist’s questions, even though it’s clear he must know quite a bit more than he’s actually acknowledging knowledge of. They get around to “those cards,” which leads to a bit of a history lesson about how Roxy Music’s limited budget inspired Eno to get some best practices in order, which in turn became the Oblique Strategies deck. He also spends an extended bit making generative drum beats, and gives us a flip through old notebooks. Somewhere people with high-definition monitors are making and trading screenshots, no doubt.

There’s also fodder for an incredibly subtle animated GIF around the 18:23 mark, when Eno, his head emerging from a thick, collared overshirt like that of a tortoise, juts back and forth along to a semi-randomized rhythm he’s just implemented.

Found via synthtopia.com.

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