music made of reactions


Instant Accordion Ambient Dronestrike

Well, the internet is neat. I posted my weekly Disquiet Junto composition challenge on Twitter, mentioning the accordion, and a guy with an accordion-centric radio show out of Vancouver found my tweet and broadcast my piece!

You can listen to this episode of Accordion Noir here:

Or you can listen to just my thing on Soundcloud:


The Space in Between Sleeps

Music for 3 AM Insomnia

This week’s Disquiet Junto assignment was to write music for 3 AM during a bout of insomnia.

I wake up at 3 AM several nights a week – before electric lights, it was actually common to go to sleep shortly after sundown, wake up in the wee small hours of the morning, and then fall asleep again until the sun rose.

This piece’s ABA form happens to mimic that structure, but only through happy accident.

The A section hears a C5 drone in the accordion, and the electric piano plays a series of stack intervals. First, stacked 5ths, then stacked minor 6ths, then stacked major 6ths.

During the B section, the accordion drone moves up to an Eb, and the electric piano works through the intervals again, this time sounding three- and four-note chords. The sequence happened to work out to include a G augmented that resolves to an F# major 7th, which adds a hint of functional harmony to this piece.

The A section returns again, with the accordion drone up another minor third, on Gb.

WInding around throughout the track are a recording of crickets from my window, the hum from inside my refrigerator, and a tuba severely pitch-shifted up.

* * * * * *
More on this 350th weekly Disquiet Junto project (Selected Insomniac Works / The Assignment: Make very quiet music for very late at night for very fragile psyches) at:

More on the Disquiet Junto at:

Subscribe to project announcements here:

Project discussion takes place on…ed-insomniac-works/

A Sketch for Tuba and Tuba-Percussion

I made a drumset out of clangs and bangs on a tuba – you can download it here. (there’s a wav file with all the samples, an Ableton pack, and an Ableton project).

And you can listen to it here!

This week’s Disquiet Junto assignment was to make your own drum machine sounds, do something with them, and share them.

I wanted sounds that were not drumset-ish, but came from one thing. Eventually I made use of a tuba! I spent some time clanging, tapping, and squeaking, more or less with an idea what sound would be the kick, what sound would be the snare, but also experimenting, and also losing track of where I was in the process).

I wanted an Autechre-ish “stream of percussion,” so I experimented with using Ableton’s arpeggiate command on the percussion sounds. It created some good results, but it took a lot of finagling to figure out how to make the MIDI notes random but also constrained to the note values that trigger the drum samples (as opposed to flying up and down the 1-128 note range…)

You can see the FX chain here:
(I think I may have created some redundancy with the scale plug-in).

I copied the melody to the drum tracks, and set up an FX web so that every note of the melody triggered the “kick” sample (which was my palm banging on the mouthpiece of the tuba).

Every note also triggered a cavalcade of percussion – but this track was gated to be silent when the “kick” track played.

The results were generally good, but a little beyond my control – in other words, satisfying!

The melody is played on a sample of the lowest note of the tuba, and doubled by an Ableton synth. It’s an atonal melody (I’m getting ready to teach a unit on atonality in the fall), everything is a variation on the initial cell of {3 1 8}.

Here’s my scrawled score, for those who are into that sort of thing:
sampletime scrawled score

This project *really* made me learn a lot more about Ableton drumsets and MIDI fx!

Invisible Hands of Music

Marc Weidenbaum, of and the Disquiet Junto, recently posted this lovely piece of self-perpetuating ambient music that he came across on the Weekly Beats website. Weidenbaum posted this under the title “The Invisible Hand of Music.”

This reminded me of other ways invisible hands can make music, including the hands that write music after John Cage succeeded in “suppressing the composer’s will,” and the hand that writes what Steve Reich’s called “process music” (this piece strikes me as a spiritual sibling to process music, even though it sounds nothing like Reich’s music).

Reich said of his “process music:”

I am interested in perceptible processes. I want to be able to hear the process
happening throughout the sounding music.
To facilitate closely detailed listening a musical process should happen extremely
Performing and listening to a gradual musical process resembles:
pulling back a swing, releasing it, and observing it gradually come to rest;
turning over an hour glass and watching the sand slowly run through the bottom;
placing your feet in the sand by the ocean’s edge and watching, feeling, and listening
to the waves gradually bury them.

Little-Scale’s synthesizer music reminds me a bit of Reich’s Pendulum Music…

…except that within Little-Scale’s modular synthesizer rig, there are a LOT of invisible, conceptual microphones swinging back and forth, capturing different sounds and interacting with each other.

It also reminds me a bit of what I know of Javanese Gamelan music…that you can think of it as a moment of hearing and paying to attention to part of a cycle that is always going on around us.

Simultaneous Aural Detriments v.5

I (and some other sonicnauts) contributed 3 minutes of noise and 12 minutes of silence to vol. 5 of the Simultaneous Aural Detriments compilation – the kicker is that each contributor arranged their 3 minutes of noise differently among own 15 minute track. The organizer layered them all together and let the sounds and structure of the piece emerge as they may.

This is always a really fun project – and, I had totally forgotten what I had sent, so it was even more of a pleasant surprise to listen to it and figure out what the heck I did.


(If this seems like a familiar concept, it’s because I also contributed to volume 1 in 2015)

Palindrome music: Looking Glass Looking

“Looking Glass Looking” is a chilled-out musical palindrome. I call it a “crab hocket” – meaning the keyboard plays the melody forwards and the piano plays the same melody backwards, and each part leaves room for the other.

This was developed during a class on canons at the Walden Creative Musicians Retreat.

Piano and recording by Istvan B’Racz

The Selfsame Song


Hooray!  I just got back from The Walden School’s Creative Musicians Retreat, where my new art song, a setting of Thomas Hardy’s piece “The Selfsame Song,” was debuted (expertly!) by Renée Favand-See and Steven Beck.

Recording coming soon.  It was a whirlwind of classes, rehearsals, lessons, and performances.  I was really knocked out by how great my peers’ music was and what great people they were.

(That said, of course it’s great to be back home with my most favorite people (and cats) of all.)

It was also a real kick-start creatively – I am jazzed to write at least 8 new pieces this summer, and revise and resubmit my chamber opera.

As always, more to come….