New Disquietude podcast episode: music by Lesley Flanigan, Dave Seidel, KMRU, Celia Hollander, and John Hooper; interview with Flanigan; commentary; short essay on reading waveforms. • Disquiet.com F.A.Q.Key Tags: #saw2for33third, #field-recording, #classical, #juntoElsewhere: Twitter, SoundCloud, Instagram

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

tag: voice

Kenneth Goldsmith by way of PDQ Bach, and More

An early (April 2020) pandemic livestream review I wrote for The Wire

Happy Valley Band + Erin Demastes + Repairer of Reputations
Various locations/Twitch

The valley in the name of Happy Valley Band is for Silicon Valley. The happy today, April 18, 2020, is nominal, due to widespread Covid induced seclusion. Happy Valley Band, an AI-arbitered experiment, is headlining a live stream that features noises from Erin Demastes and synth flashbacks from Ryan Page, the latter performing as Repairer of Reputations. The live stream phenomenon, like the coronavirus itself, is still novel.

The concert, held by the experimental promoter Indexical, occurs on Twitch, a platform for watching other people play video games. The Twitch website is correspondingly colorful and antic. For those less engaged in gamer culture, it can also be confusing. Like a waiter missing the hint that you have no interest beyond the club’s minimum drink requirement, Twitch often pesters you about ways to level up, mystifyingly so.

Demastes’ opening set is brightly illuminated, and otherwise a stark contrast to the manic framing of Twitch’s interface. On screen, color fields shift slightly and meaningfully. She is patiently engaged in microsound, in closely miking textiles and other materials. Her audio is at first quiet, so much so that latecomers keep entering the Twitch chat room to ask if the sound is even on. It is. (One good thing about Twitch concerts is that musicians and audience can silence crowd chatter with a click.)

As the volume rises, more sounds are heard as she probes and amplifies things seen through a microscope. These are as curiosity-invoking as they are abrasive. An after-show interview sheds additional light. Demastes lists her tools. These include beads, Styrofoam, and corkboard (that “gross brown stuff,” she reminds us), as well as a Slinky, a lobster fork, and a doorstop.

Happy Valley Band go second. Like the audience, the group’s members have assembled, far and wide, from the comfort of private spaces. They appear in the all too familiar virtual-conference grid of torsos. David Kant, the band’s leader, sets a self-mocking tone: “We’re going to be here for the next … too long, destroying your favorite songs.” What Happy Valley do is play music as heard through artificial intelligence. The musicians — including Kant on tenor sax, Mustafa Walker on bass, Alexander Dupuis on guitar, and Pauline Kim on violin, among too many members to list here — play notation produced by software that listens to pop classics and spits out what the algorithms observe. The Happy Valley Band are Kenneth Goldsmith by way of PDQ Bach: cultural plundering in the service of joking forensic dismemberment. They churn through hits like Phil Collins’ “In the Air Tonight” and James Brown’s “It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World.” Much as synthesizers have an easier time inferring pitch from woodwinds than from multi-timbral instruments, the barebones nature of Patsy Cline’s “Crazy” yields the least frantic results of the show: the chords are anything but standard, but do leave space for the ear to focus on individual elements. The bombast of Bruce Springsteen’s “Born to Run,” however, yields frenzied mush.

Like Demastes, Page performs work where visuals and sounds are inseparable. Throughout his set, the screen fills with ancient cathode-ray images, snatches of what seems like a VHS tape of a forgotten Roger Corman horror flick. The occasional narration reads like the script to a text adventure (“You open the door. … As you enter, you are sure this is your house”). The eeriest thing, nonetheless, is just how period-perfect are the synth-score cues that Page plays to accompany the footage.

There’s some additional context in a post I made when I first announced the article’s publication (“This is the first freelance concert review I have ever written on the same device on which I witnessed the concert”).

This article I wrote originally appeared in the July 2020 issue (number 437) of The Wire.

Also tagged , , / / Leave a comment ]

Disquiet Junto Project 0503: Sing Song

The Assignment: Record a song using only your voice transformed beyond recognition.

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.

Deadline: This project’s deadline is the end of the day Monday, August 23, 2021, at 11:59pm (that is, just before midnight) wherever you are. It was posted on Thursday, August 19, 2021.

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

Disquiet Junto Project 0503: Sing Song
The Assignment: Record a song using only your voice transformed beyond recognition.

Step 1: Prepare to record a piece of music using primarily your voice, albeit transformed beyond recognition. Disquiet Junto projects rarely involve singing. This one is an exception. All Junto projects are experiments, this one in particular.

Step 2: Your recording should consist of several layered tracks. Record one, perhaps a rhythmic one, to set the beat, first. Then layer two or three more. Keep each layer isolated, so you can process it later in the process. In the case of each layer, you might improvise your singing, or you might plan in advance with notation. Certainly you might need to do several takes of each track layer in order to get it right. Don’t think of your singing as the final audio. Instead, think of your voice as a sketchbook for a work-in-progress. You sing a bass drum, you sing a guitar line, you sing a synth bed, and so forth.

Step 3: For each of the the three or four layers you created in Step 2, process them drastically so the vocal elements no longer sound like the human voice.

Step 4: Mix the processed layers from Step 3 into a final track.

Seven More Important Steps When Your Track Is Done:

Step 1: Include “disquiet0503” (no spaces or quotation marks) in the name of your tracks.

Step 2: If your audio-hosting platform allows for tags, be sure to also include the project tag “disquiet0503” (no spaces or quotation marks). If you’re posting on SoundCloud in particular, this is essential to subsequent location of tracks for the creation of a project playlist.

Step 3: Upload your tracks. It is helpful but not essential that you use SoundCloud to host your tracks.

Step 4: Post your track in the following discussion thread at llllllll.co:

https://llllllll.co/t/disquiet-junto-project-0503-sing-song/

Step 5: Annotate your track with a brief explanation of your approach and process.

Step 6: If posting on social media, please consider using the hashtag #DisquietJunto so fellow participants are more likely to locate your communication.

Step 7: Then listen to and comment on tracks uploaded by your fellow Disquiet Junto participants.

Note: Please post one track per weekly Junto project. If you choose to post more than one, and do so on SoundCloud, please let me know which you’d like added to the playlist. Thanks.

Additional Details:

Deadline: This project’s deadline is the end of the day Monday, August 23, 2021, at 11:59pm (that is, just before midnight) wherever you are. It was posted on Thursday, August 19, 2021.

Length: The length of your finished track is up to you, with or without the Martian time-slip.

Title/Tag: When posting your tracks, please include “disquiet0503” in the title of the tracks, and where applicable (on SoundCloud, for example) as a tag.

Upload: When participating in this project, 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 always best to set your track as downloadable and allowing for attributed remixing (i.e., a Creative Commons license permitting non-commercial sharing with attribution, allowing for derivatives).

For context, when posting the track online, please be sure to include this following information:

More on this 503rd weekly Disquiet Junto project — Sing Song (The Assignment: Record a song using only your voice transformed beyond recognition) — at: https://disquiet.com/0503/

More on the Disquiet Junto at: https://disquiet.com/junto/

Subscribe to project announcements here: https://tinyletter.com/disquiet-junto/

Project discussion takes place on llllllll.co: https://llllllll.co/t/disquiet-junto-project-0503-sing-song/

There’s also a Disquiet Junto Slack. Send your email address to [email protected] for Slack inclusion.

The image associated with this project is by John, and used thanks to Flickr and a Creative Commons license allowing editing (cropped with text added) for non-commercial purposes:

https://flic.kr/p/2hMq7fw

https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/

Also tagged , , / / Leave a comment ]

Speech-to-Text as the New Cut-up

Jamming algorithmic econo

Judging by this recent interaction with my phone, speech-to-text (STT) still has a long ways to go. Consider that the message being transcribed here was, with the exception of my name (Marc Weidenbaum, apparently aka “Mark we D Bond”), a rote automated robocall script that thousands of people have no doubt received. (That is “Mark we D Bond,” aka “Mark, we didn’t bun,” aka “Mark, we did one.) You’d think that after that many attempts by a system to transcribe the same audio over and over and over, the system would have accomplished a closer approximation.

A friend who saw me post this on social media, when it was a slightly more inchoate thought, pointed out that this STT incident was like the machine had written lyrics for the band the Minutemen (an especially ironic observation, since the band’s singer was D Boon and the Minutemen recorded for a label called SST). That idea made me think about the cut-up work of William S. Burroughs, and how with STT you could write rough-draft lyrics for a song by saying words along with the melody, and then have the transcription service make mincemeat gibberish of the rough draft, and then you could sing the resulting mincemeat gibberish with full conviction.

Oh, and the “Prima Newman” sentence was in Spanish, as was part of the preceding sentence. “Newman on the way day” is “número nueve” (number nine, number nine, number nine …). It is fascinating, and revealing, that the automated STT service can’t switch gears particularly well when the speaker, even an automated one, changes language so quickly. For individuals in situations (protests, authoritarian regimes, etc.) where they are trying to avoid STT surveillance (scenario: audio > STT > algorithmic filter > legal/police action), this multilingual approach seems like a potential tactic (along the lines of playing copyrighted material to avoid footage being archived publicly on YouTube, TikTok, etc.).

Tag: / Leave a comment ]

Freeze-Dried Musique Concrète

Patzr Radio hits 229

As it nears its 250th episode, the Patzr Radio podcast continues to traffic in musique concrète with a distinctly contemporary flair. The latest track, its 229th, is by no means pop music, and yet somehow it can feel like pop, at least after the first dozen or so listens on repeat. Perhaps pop crumpled up and freeze-dried and then pulled apart with pliers, but pop nonetheless. There is something to the track’s shifty, beat-like rhythmic material, and to the pause two thirds of the way through, and to the redacted quality of the source audio, that feels as if it is responding to pop, creaking in pop’s shadow, sort of the inverse to how OG musique concrète was almost inseparable from the symphonic and chamber music it sought to occlude. The impression is fed by the opening snatch of voice, a woman in a slightly superior tone saying, “Exactly, and then they lose their function.” Lost its function, perhaps, but not its DNA. Excellent, as always.

Track originally posted at soundcloud.com/patzr-radio.

Also tagged / / Leave a comment ]

Grazing the Ointment

Glitchy choir work from Mark Hadley


Contrasts make for rich compositional territory. Here, in Mark Hadley’s “FELT9b,” the opposed elements are vocal choir on the one hand and a beading, percussive, occasionally glitchy effect on the other. The glitch originates in part from the treatment of the vocals, which sometimes backtrack briefly, quicker than briefly, a microsecond that is like a stray thought, like a fly not so much in as grazing the ointment. The refracted vocalizing finds its match in the percussion, which is put through a delay that replicates it, as if in a hall of sonic mirrors. In a less sensitive approach, this would quadruple the seeming speed of the piece, but quite the contrary occurs. The delay seems to slow it, to divide time into more segments, to draw attention to time, to the vocals, and to a connection with the artifice of the fractured singing.

Track originally posted atsoundcloud.com/soundbymark. More from Hadley, who is based in Sheffield, UK, at soundbymark.bandcamp.com.

Also tagged / / Leave a comment ]