music made of reactions

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Music made from micro-loops: “Arrite”

The Disquiet Junto has been providing me with a much-needed creative outlet this school year (I have taken on extra duties in addition to my regular job and am swamped!) I was very happy with this week’s project, which was to take very short snippets of a non-rhythmic sound and turn them into rhythms for a piece.

In working with these short samples, the shifts in timbre and overtones began to grab my attention more than the rhythmic loops. When taking long recordings and turning them into short loops, the background “noise” of the recording becomes very much an important characteristic of the loop. When working with very short audio samples, background noise becomes more like a pitch.

My VCFA mentor Diane Moser once presented on R. Murray Schafer’s concept of “Soundscapes” and and how background noise is only background noise if we define it contrast to what we are paying attention to and expect to hear. (Obviously Cage’s piece 4′ 33″ draws on this principal also.)

Anyway, enough philosophizing – let’s play weird music!

And if you like this sort of thing, you may also enjoy my playlist of all my Disquiet tracks.

 

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New Piano and Electronics Piece – 12

I just posted a piano + electronics that I wrote and performed with Aaron Butler at the Vermont College of Fine Arts Electronics Showcase, August 2015.

We wanted to write a piece that used lots of electronics (to make it suitable for the “Electronics Showcase” night, of course), and drew on several strains of contemporary music: contemporary classical, contemporary jazz, and contemporary beats.

We started with some piano chords Aaron had been working with, and made everything else in the piece evolve from that initial material. The fuzzy synth tones re-imagine the piano’s motive, sometimes via new voicings, sometimes by playing the original chord tones aleatorically to make unpredictable combinations.

The piano was recorded live at the performance. However, the electronics were almost inaudible on the live recording. To get a good mix, I brought the live piano recording into the Ableton set I performed from and “re-performed” the piece to get all the computer-generated material right from the source. That left me with a muddy piano recording and flawless synth-and-beat accompaniment. So I tried to make the roomy piano sound an asset, running it through a vinyl-record emulator and a phaser. To quote Brian Eno’s Oblique Strategies, “Look closely at the most embarrassing details and amplify.”

 

Murakami and the Solitude of Writing

[Murakami] likened the solitary act of writing to cooking one of his favourite foods, deep-fried oysters.

His wife can’t stand the dish, so he has no choice but to cook and eat them alone, he told the audience, according to the Asahi Shimbun.

“I am lonely, but they are delicious,” he added. “Like the relationship between solitude and freedom, it moves in an endless cycle. Picking out single words that are contained within me is also a solitary act so [writing novels] is similar to eating fried oysters by myself.”

– http://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/dec/02/librarians-in-uproar-after-borrowing-record-of-haruki-murakami-is-leaked

Cool video art – CIVIC-TV x N.O.I.S.E.

Part of a very cool collaboration with CIVIC-TV. CIVIC requested tracks from 22 musicians, asking for a mixture of noise, ambient, and beats. He then made a visual mixtape linking all the tracks together using highly saturated footage that is simultaneously very abstract and very 80’s.

You can watch the whole video here:

My thing starts at about 28 minutes.

If you want the audio!
If you want a VHS tape!
If you want the YouTube!

Hear me on the new Simultaneous Aural Detriments compilation!

At long last, I am a member of the 1%!  I contributed 3 minutes of music (and 12 minutes of silence) among 13 other artists to this awesome experimental project, Simultaneous Aural Detriments.

The organizer of this piece asked 14 artists to contribute “a track of exactly 15 minutes with no more than 3 minutes of actual sound, distributed in any way throughout the total length of the track. This left each track with a total of 12 minutes of silence.”

The organizer of the compilation then layered all the tracks together, letting the structure emerge as it may. There’s a lot of hisses and bleeps and boops; I contributed some piano lines under my ROBOT MONSTOR moniker.

I think it’s a good listen – the structure emerges through the happenstance of repeated sound and repeated links between sounds.

The Analyst, Movement III – now up! Gnostic spoken word improv vocal 4tet!

“If you love something, set it free”?  Easier said than done!

With that maxim in mind, here is the third and final movement of my piece The Analyst, performed at Vermont College of Fine Arts in February 2015.

Movements I and II tell the story of the rise and fall of a hubristic Wall Street company man.  In this third movement, the analyst has died and finds himself at the pearly gates to Heaven, where four angels assess his worth.  Spoiler alert: it doesn’t end well for him.

This piece was influenced by my experience working in finance during the subprime mortgage boom and bust of 2008 and my attempts to reconcile that culture with my own desire to do good in the world (in whatever small way I can). I suppose I speak through the angels and assess the Analyst’s moral character from a number of lenses. I modeled the piece of medieval morality plays; people have heard echoes of Baptist, Methodist, and gnostic Christian teachings in the text (which wasn’t intentional but I’m sure it’s in there!).

The score is noteworthy because at no point does it give the singers a specific pitch (as you can see in the preview image). The singers are only given intervals in relation to the note they just heard. The piece makes much use of improvisation and small scale indeterminacy. I drew on works by Stockhausen, Alvin Lucier, and Robert Ashley while writing this piece.

A huge thanks to the performers, Aliana de la Guardia, Carrie Cheron, Alexander Nishibun, and Jonathan Nussman, for tackling this weird thing with gusto and all of their skill and bringing my very personal vision it to life!

Listen to me on Mouth 4 Rusty’s new album, “Must Take More Care”

My friend Matt and his musical partner Emma make beautifully exposed and heartfelt singer-songwriter music under the name Mouth 4 Rusty.

I’m lucky enough to perform on some of these releases, including their most recent album, “Must Take More Care.”

Check it out and if you like it buy it – they’re good people make making uncommonly sincere music!