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tag: voice

Disquietude Podcast Episode 0004

Ambient music by Belly Full of Stars, Christian Carrière, Femi Shonug​a-Flem​ing, Jeff Rona, Jostijn Ligtvoet, and Patricia Wolf, plus interviews and commentary

This is the fourth episode of the Disquietude podcast of ambient electronic music.

The goal of the Disquietude podcast is to collect adventurous work in the field of ambient electronic music. What follows is all music that captured my imagination, and I hope that it appeals to your imagination as well.

All six tracks of music are featured with the permission of the individual artists. Below is the structure of the episode with time codes for the tracks, the spoken annotation of the tracks, interviews with two of the musicians (Jeff Rona and Patricia Wolf), and a brief essay about voice assistants.

02:07 Belly Full of Stars’ “Pattern 5”

06:20 Christian Carrière’s “Sacred Acoustics T004”

08:02 Femi Shonuga-Fleming’s “Ambient Live Looping Drone with Eurorack and Elektron Octatrack”

15:50 Jeff Rona’s “Vapor 6”

23:37 Jostijn Ligtvoet’s “Twilight and Fire”

32:02 Patricia Wolf’s “Snow Falling on Rough Horsetail and Dead Oak Leaves”

33:28 Annotation Begins

35:25 Patricia Wolf Interview

43:23 Jeff Rona Interview

46:11 “OK, Giggle”

48:11 Credits

49:10 Closing Music

49:36 End

All the music here happens to be by solo musicians. These consist of Belly Full of Stars (aka Kim Rueger), of Nashville, Tennessee; Christian Carrière, based in Montréal, Québec; Femi Shonuga-Fleming, a RISD student based in New York; Jeff Rona, a favorite film composer of mine, who is based in Los Angeles; Jostijn Ligtvoet, a cellist based in the Netherlands; and Patricia Wolf, who provided a wintry field recording from near where she lives in Portland, Oregon.

All the music heard here is instrumental, which is to say there is no prominent vocal part – or at least there’s no intelligible vocal part – and thus it’s suitable for background listening. It’s all ambient, which is to say it’s also suitable for close, concentrated listening. That dual sense of potential uses, both inattentive and attentive, both background and foreground, is the hallmark of fine ambient music.

Belly Full of Stars’ “Pattern 5” is off the album Aura: triplicaterecords.bandcamp.com.

Christian Carrière’s “Sacred Acoustics T004” first appeared on his SoundCloud account, soundcloud.com/christiancarriere/.

Femi Shonuga-Fleming’s “Ambient Live Looping Drone with Eurorack and Elektron Octatrack” first appeared on YouTube.

Jeff Rona’s “Vapor 6” is from his forthcoming album, Vapor, due out March 5, 2021.

Jostijn Ligtvoet’s “Twilight and Fire” first appeared, at roughly twice the length heard here, on YouTube.

Patricia Wolf’s “Snow Falling on Rough Horsetail and Dead Oak Leaves” first appeared on her SoundCloud account, soundcloud.com/patriciawolf_music

Thanks for listening.

Produced and hosted by Marc Weidenbaum. Disquietude theme music by Jimmy Kipple, with vocal by Paula Daunt. Logo by Boon Design.

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Livestream Reviewstream

On Twitter of Lesley Flanigan at Roulette

I live-tweeted this livestream this evening. Here it is, lightly edited:

Lesley Flanigan is performing live (at 8pm East Coast, 5pm here in “we make the future but we live in the past” San Francisco).

I highly recommend tuning in. She’s looping her vocals, creating beading layers of choral intensity.

There are also sine wave generators in the mix.

I noticed she’d donned headphones at the start, despite the space, Roulette, being devoid of a live audience.

Explanation from the video note: “Though Flanigan will be performing live at Roulette for this event, there will be no sound amplified within the performance space. Why should there be? There is no audience to hear it.”

Also: “Playing with the closeness, directness and stereo image of the headphone space, Flanigan brings the intimacy of performing alone with her headphones to the solo listener at home.” (A livestream that is cognizant of its livestreamness.)

I love drones. All the more, I love music that takes drone as the foundation, and grows from there. That’s what Flanigan is up to here, singing atop and amid the hovering clouds she has patiently summoned.

The beading has hardened, has been focused into something pulse-like now, the minimalist of minimal techno, underlying some ancient folk hymn.

This may not be the exact model of audio generator she is employing, but it’s close. She’s using two of them, and adjusting during the performance.

I always say Twitter is my public notepad. This may be the most true that statement has been. Aside from Google image search, these are the sorta notes I’d be taking in a notepad if we were all sitting in the audience. And you might complain about the scratch of my pen on paper.

And now the glitch is on.

And now the glitch is off, supplanted by a hybrid of classic minimalism and early polyphony.

Presumably, roughly 40 minutes in, it’s coming to a close now, though perhaps not. The density has softened considerably, reduced virtually to a hum, maybe just one vocal line and one oscillator now.

This is so beautiful, both rapturous and restrained, deliriously so in both cases.

These aren’t exactly the notes I’d be writing down in a live auditorium, because they’re in full sentences and have fewer spelling errors, and are entirely legible. But this is an interesting experience, using my public notepad as a public notepad during the performance.

I’ve reviewed several livestreams during the pandemic. I just submitted a review for publication in The Wire this week. This, though, is the first reviewstream I’ve written.

Speaking of spelling errors, here’s a circuit diagram of a progenitor of the brand of audio generator, a solid state oscillator, that Lesley Flanigan employed a pair of during the concert.

And here’s one more shot from the ancient manual, this one of the “waveshapes” produced by the audio generator, of the sort Flanigan used in the show.

And that’s it. The concert has ended. And thanks to the magic of livestreams, I can immediately go do some dishes without having to bother with public transportation.

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Scanner Modulates the Source

Using a brand new synthesizer module

Robin Rimbaud goes by the name Scanner due to his early work, which involved snatching people’s conversations from the ether and lending those often fraught words new emotional meaning by composing accompanying soundtracks. His atmospheric scores deepened the words’ presence, turning domestic squabbles into radio dramas, monologues into manifestos, idle chatter into comedy of the absurd. This work was intimate and abstract, trenchant and seeking. When I think about early Scanner recordings, which I do often, in my imagination they sit alongside the output of other artists whose unique vision connected human speech and composed music, notably the way Dennis Potter’s screenplays gave voice to the inner turmoil and fantasies of his characters by having them lip-sync popular songs, and how the composer Scott Johnson transcribed the ticks and nuances of human utterances and wrote settings that were, in effect, arrangements fleshing those words out to the scale of a chamber ensemble. Potter found the big dreams within small lives. Johnson found the density in the linear. Scanner found the spectacle in the everyday.

And so it was a huge pleasure today when one of Scanner’s old voices appeared in a new piece, albeit a brief one. Today is Fat Tuesday, and perhaps by chance or perhaps by perfect design, the music synthesizer company Mutable Instruments, based in Paris, France, released a new module called Beads (having lived in New Orleans for four years, I found the connection natural, but it was likely coincidence). The module had clearly already been in the hands of many forward-thinking synthesizer musicians for some time, because right on cue YouTube and Instagram (as of this evening, I couldn’t find any on Vimeo) were filled with video demonstrations of this new module’s features. (Full disclosure: the four-panel comics I created last year were done so with illustrator Hannes Pasqualini, who, with his wife, Elizabeth, designs the interfaces at Mutable.)

For one of his Beads pieces, Scanner took a spoken voice that will be recognizable to fans of his 1997 album, Delivery. In the original, titled “Heidi,” the backing music is a moody, melodramatic bed, like some slurry hybrid of Angelo Badalamenti and Bernard Herrmann, while an unnamed man both pleads his case to and verbally assaults the titular woman.

In Scanner’s brand new track, “Heidi Concrète,” the man is back, nearly a quarter century later, as if caught all along in some mythic limbo, ever ruining his own chances at reconciliation. Now, however, in place of the original music is simply the voice as it is transformed in the Mutable Beads module (hence the “concrète” in the title, borrowed from “musique concrète,” or music made from preexisting sounds). The voice in the new “Heidi Concrète” is fractured and looped, battered and frayed, and ultimately utterly dismantled into a pool of splattery assonance. And because it’s a video, the viewer can associate the varied treatments to specific actions: buttons pressed, knobs turned. While many other musicians are exploring the tonal possibilities of the new module, a common mode for such first-patch videos, Scanner dug deep in his personal crate.

Whenever I hear Scanner’s early work, I wonder if the speakers ever recognized themselves in it. Musicians coming to “Heidi Concrète” to witness an accomplished musician’s initial take on the new module will, I hope, recognize new creative possibilities in what Scanner has done.

Video originally posted to Scanner’s YouTube channel. More from Robin Rimbaud, who is based in London, England, at scannerdot.com.

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Solace via Beirut

A live set from Charbel Haber and Fadi Tabbal

We live at a moment during which live performance in person is nearly absent. Solace for those who prize such pleasures comes during Zoom concerts and recordings, and sometimes the solace even manages to sound like solace. That is the sense the pervades Enfin la Nuit, a beautiful live set performed by Charbel Haber and Fadi Tabbal last September at Ahm, a nightclub in Beirut, Lebanon, the city where both musicians live.

The album’s three tracks, each roughly 11 minutes or so long, are suffused with longing. The opening piece, from which the album takes its title, goes from whisper to loud sigh, layers of what appears to be guitar pushing a collective drone to higher and higher places. “Couvre-Feu” nods at pandemic life, the title being French for curfew, and the music like a sonorous mix of sirens and barbed wire (the latter featuring as the release’s cover image). Like “Enfin la Nuit,” this second track escalates over time, achieving something piercing and fierce. The closing entry, “Chaque Rose Porte en Elle Une Petite Mort,” introduces a woman’s voice, perched on the boarder between full-blooded and ethereal, and benefits from delectable glitchy treatments throughout.

More from Haber at charbelhaber.bandcamp.com and from Tabbal at faditabbal.com. Last October, I hosted the premiere of Tabbal’s fifth solo album Subject to Potential Errors and Distortions.

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Current Favorites: Autoharp, Patterns, Ginsberg

Heavy rotation, lightly annotated

A weekly(ish) answer to the question “What have you been listening to lately?” It’s lightly annotated because I don’t like re-posting material without providing some context. I hope to write more about some of these in the future, but didn’t want to delay sharing them. (This weekly feature was previously titled Current Listens. The name’s been updated for clarity’s sake.)

▰ Kin Sventa playing saxophone and autoharp with live processing (beats, synthesis). When the beat kicks in around 2:00, it gets even better. On loop now. Way bolder than the track of his in my latest podcast, and that is way alright.

▰ Repetitions and echoes define the collection of muted elegies that is Aura by Nashville-based Belly Full of Stars (aka Kim Rueger). Each track is titled “Pattern,” a term true not just to the genteel simplicity on hand, but to the deep sense of permanence the quiet tracks embody.

▰ The shimmering, swelling drone that is “Blue Moon” feels welcomingly rougher, considerably more strident, than a lot of recent music by Jeannine Schulz, and all the more compelling for it.

▰ A host of acts, including Gavin Friday (working with Howie B), Yo La Tengo, and Bill Frisell, set the late Allen Ginsberg’s poetry to new music (“All proceeds from the sale of this album will be donated to HeadCount.org promoting voter registration and participation in democracy”). A major highlight is the opening “Elegy for Neal Cassady” by Scanner.

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