Often, interview questions unduly influence the way in which one considers an interviewee’s response. By framing the responses with silence, a greater interpretive space is left open.
Conducted over Skype, September 2012
Often, interview questions unduly influence the way in which one considers an interviewee’s response. By framing the responses with silence, a greater interpretive space is left open.
Conducted over Skype, September 2012
The Musical Condition of Reasonable Conspiracy is a discussion-performance from the “discussion in a room” series I’ve been developing since 2011. My phone interview with the Australian composer Chris Mann discussing ‘composer’s conspiracy’ is transcribed into a script and reenacted by two performers while a group of Rome-based composers intervene throughout the conversation. Here, “discussion” means something simultaneously organized and performed by re-enactors, speakers, listeners and beholders, all of whom become conspirators in a shared unfolding process.
Re-enactors: Michael Fitzpatrick, Gaby Ford (The English Theatre of Rome)
• Chris Mann, composer and performer. “Language is the mechanism whereby you understand what I’m thinking better than I do (where i is defined by those changes for which i is required)”. He is currently based in New York City.
Meseo Pietro Canonica, Rome, Italy
J. Gordon Faylor
Iteration · December 8–10, 2012 · Philadelphia
Counter-variation · Strict partial order · Samples · Apartment · Two rooms subdivided into four sections, connected by another · Two to four doorways · Peavey bass amp · Water · Vans
Outline/blurb assigned numbered coordinates · Comments referencing room sections, objects occasioned, faulty time coding: https://soundcloud.com/lateral-addition/abd/s-3B10u · Lament metanalysis
Nonrandomized domestic recordings: four linear tracks, seven breaks · Contingent irregularities — exception: three guests arrive · Additive objects and/or surfaces substitute, account for one another’s duration — obfuscatory spatial treatments · Per lack of attention, nonproportional proximity the rooms the podcast · Admeasure · Aural minimalism in lieu of fiction · A man hissed from behind the door · Terminology · Regressive link · Discourse: “just me walking around” inference — preemptive, unsystematized save f trials of these spaces, their interchangeability, section lengths “two arbitrary silences, facilitating sound for rec,” imposing experiences, rites, approaches · Walking to and away from · Inability to construe systematization (e.g. weather) as voiding aesthetic games, I sunk my head only a little out of disappointment · Amount
The guests annex media · Andy Martrich : Iona (BlazeVox, 2012), Once : “The Empty Deck” (N/A, 1981), Trisha Low : Purge (Troll Thread, 2012) · Discretionary approaches of interaction and abandonment — compulsive wandering, browsing, setting down of
Attempts 40 seconds 8:00-13:00 · 50 seconds 22:00-25:00 · Bonus two more eclipsed segments
Ian M. Fraser and Reed Evan Rosenberg
“To understand the trajectories of the stars through a galaxy, Michel Hénon computed the intersections of an orbit with a plane. The resulting patterns depended on the system’s total energy. The points from a stable orbit gradually produced a continuous, connected curve. Other energy levels, however, produced complicated mixtures of stability and chaos, represented by regions of scattered points. […]
The nested detail, lines within lines, can be seen in final form in a series of pictures with progressively greater magnification. But the eerie effect of the strange attractor can be appreciated another way when the shape emerges in time, point by point. It appears like a ghost out of the mist. New points scatter so randomly across the screen that it seems incredible that any structure is there, let alone a structure so intricate and fine. Any two consecutive points are arbitrarily far apart, just like any two points initially nearby in a turbulent flow. Given any number of points, it is impossible to guess where the next will appear—except, of course, that it will be somewhere on the attractor.
The points wander so randomly, the pattern appears so ethereally, that it is hard to remember that the shape is an attractor. It is not just any trajectory of a dynamical system. It is the trajectory toward which all other trajectories converge. That is why the choice of starting conditions does not matter. As long as the starting point lies somewhere near the attractor, the next few points will converge to the attractor with great rapidity.”
From Chaos: Making A New Science by James Gleick (pgs. 148-150)
The track is a collection of études whose content is entirely derived from sonification of the Hénon Map and a sound file of the Chaos: Making A New Science AAX format audiobook interpreted as raw audio data.
Realized in real time without any human interference, each étude is the diffusion of a single variation of a compact patch coded by Fraser & Rosenberg in Supercollider in which the chaotic sonifications modulate various parameters regulating the playback of the raw data sound file. The études were sequenced in Audacity, each separated by a period of silence. All software utilized in the piece is free and open source.
– RER & IMF
Jordan Topiel Paul
Field recordings, MP3 compression
Recordings often ask you to listen out-of-body by immersing yourself in the stereo image that the medium is reproducing. As if music were a window whose objects you could only perceive by imagining yourself on the other side.
Immersion Loop asks you to stay where you are, to view the surface of the window and feel its effects in your space. The music is immersed, not the listener. Go about your business as though this sound is equal to all others: chatter, wind, traffic, footsteps, radios, appliance noise, etc.
Sound is contingent on material yet it has no material component of its own. In some of your recent work, you focus on the material that shapes acoustic environments (such as the wood in Tonewood Hills and the awning in Eve). By emphasizing the physical reality of sound, the non-ethereal, material aspect of aural perception is accentuated. It is my belief that part of what distinguishes the culture surrounding sound practices from the wider field of visual culture is the tendency to look inward and deal with the formal aspects of sound while neglecting the outward, external elements that also inform sonic experience. I would be interested in you addressing this particular concern within your work.
Sound has no obvious materiality but it does still have materiality.
As with the media of light, one of the unique and fascinating characteristics of sound is that it can be present and absent simultaneously.
I am very interested in the relationship between the various elements that shape a situation, a space, an experience. You might say that light makes it possible to see walls or that walls enable one to experience and catch light. With sound resonating in a room, a room’s tone is created by distances, material, heights of ceilings and the thickness of walls.
A point I find interesting in Steen Eiler Rasmussen’s text Hearing Architecture is that buildings are built to make certain ways of singing or talking possible or impossible and that certain ways of singing are developed for specific buildings. This relationship between sound and architecture, in particular, has been crucial for me.
The relationship is also something I am currently investigating as part of a work/study in South India. In several of the temples here, there are pillars constructed specifically to create a unique room tone. These are referred to as musical pillars. In one particular temple, two pillars were removed by the British at some point in history. I am interested in somehow imagining and re-creating the tones that the two missing pillars may have created.
From a conceptual point of view, the project relates to a series of soundboards made of resonating tonewood that I have made. The soundboards do not produce their own sound. They exist as suggestions for alternative non-standardized resonances (see Three Non-standardized Resonances). The space between what can be heard, what can be audibly remembered and audibly imagined is central to my practice. And here the materiality and form of the objects become objects in their own right but also abstract tools with which to begin the thought process into the remembered and the imagined.
Me: I just listened through again
Me: like what if we move the first question set to after the talking set?
Me: it’s hard to say though if that would make any difference
Me: though the pink noise helps
EL: its a cleanser
Me: totally a palate cleanser
EL: I’ve been working with pink noise
Me: the first three sections
Me: what if we start with sine tone?
Me: or at least give it a try
EL: the one mix thought I had
Me: it’s a super shitty recording
EL: I usually dont mess with the mix too much on LA cause I want it to be as it is
Me: either clean it up or make it messier
EL: ok I might just leave it then
EL: I think this is all about
Me: there’s some mic feedback that happens
EL: not changing things to make them more palatable
Me: no and my sort of thing is lo-fidelity
Me: partially because I don’t have the right equipment
EL: ok I’ll leave it
Me: and partially because all these artifacts are becoming extinct
EL: it’s all just diffusing into the ether
Me: so when I was listening again today
Me: though I did spend some time thinking about how to pose a question in sound
EL: like our idea of “question” was too open ended?
EL: it’s a perspective, right?
Me: and we didn’t get a chance to really talk midstream about what was happening once we started passing sound back and forth
EL: so maybe you felt lazy
Me: but if this is an interview
EL: going with whatever sound you think is appropriate
Me: I definitely think that back and forth interviews over the internet make it difficult to get the true face to face quality
EL: kind of like how everything is photoshopped
Me: is it worth it to share what kinds of questions we felt we were asking with the sounds?
EL: you will process the interview differently than if you experience it as a work
Me: I mean I definitely took each track as a question
EL: more macro
Me: and started from there
EL: I think it has interesting aesthetic implications though
Me: how so?
Me: what are the aesthetics of an interview ?
EL: trying to struggle with how to approach the sounds
Me: my thought was what does it mean to pour different content into established forms
EL: yeah maybe its less about questions and answers
Me: the abstraction of asking a question in sound is probably too broad
EL: I think its pretty clear that
Me: yea.. I think so
Me: is that less interesting
EL: we can just call it Interview
Me: I thought about the questions that these sounds may have raised
EL: yeah I think
Me: that’s an important distinction right.. is this an interview, a discussion, a debate?
EL: its too serial to be any of those
Me: it’s also really linear
EL: we approached it that way
Me: well supposing that it’s difficult to say who was asking the question and who was providing the answer
Me: perhaps that’s on account of my relationship to the sample
Me: which I’ve used in so many different performances now
Me: the other sounds are all open for me
EL: but it doesnt necessarily answer any of the other questions
Me: I love when this guy talks about how he loves lyricism
Me: and cites Eminem as a favorite
EL: I thought it was perfect
Me: he’s just scrolling through this screen
EL: “some really bad questions in here…”
Me: “no offense to those that sent them in” !
EL: I’m really happy
Me: shout out to MongolianGnome
Me: he’s very smooth
EL: whats your middle name
EL: you? Bonnie Bethel
Me: Bonnie Bethel Jones
Me: do you carry a pocket knife?
EL: such a fine start
Me: I’m wondering about the impetus behind my response/question to this…
Me: I think my response was snarky
EL: what is describing food from?
Me: english language lessons
EL: thats what i thought
Me: for Koreans
EL: I was thinking if I could go back and tweak what I did
Me: you could do that if you wanted
Me: the Mexico into that first section is musically awesome
Me: hard not to hear it that way
EL: we are changning it anyway
EL: and I like how it kicks off
EL: I dont want to be doing this from an aesthetic place
EL: originally were kinda aesthetic
Me: yea… I think my first question was aesthetic
EL: its good
Me: my other choices were made as quickly as possible
EL: what are we deciding on describing food
Me: I think I wanted to put it out there that the voice is an instrument
EL: he thinks it’s all tasty
Me: that’s weird
EL: do you know this guy
EL: we should tour with him
Me: oily is for like skin and hair
EL: and oilies
Me: I’m not sure I’ve ever had a conversation that felt completely open
Me: entire areas unresolved
EL: i think thats a definition of a good musical experience
Me: what about the hounds do you think?
EL: I thought it was you at first
EL: thats a live duo?
Me: I guess I have been thinking more about nature and electronics
Me: perhaps this is on account of the cicadas
Me: they were up here in New York and I caught just the tail end of them
EL: aged and ripe
Me: not a piece..an interview
Me: maybe we should do a COD style
Me: we can set something up after you put out the edition
EL: you never know
EL: what are we calling this?
Me: .. was trying to think about that
Me: I sort of love the idea
Me: interviews and trying to tell someone about musical ideas in words
This recording was produced during a sculpture critique with Irina Arnaut and David Barr.
Please read the following instructions before playback:
The audio above is not the work but a means to facilitate the dynamic listening which you must perform.
Throughout playback you must adjust the volume of your playback system in relation to the constantly shifting loudness of the audio track.
The object of continual volume adjustment is to maintain as constant a resulting perceived volume as possible, despite continual changes of volume built into the track. Performance requires constant attention to the track’s loudness and simultaneous compensation in relation to its changes:
– if the track gets louder, you must turn down playback volume;
By such constant compensation, perceived volume should remain as static as possible.
There are two suggested base playback levels and options for performance:
1) Throughout performance, audio should be kept at the threshold of audibility. This means that the volume level to maintain throughout should never exceed or be less than that volume level below which you could no longer apprehend an audio signal. This means that throughout performance, what you hear should be perpetually on the edge of “nothing”: as soon as you hear “something”, tend to turn it down; as soon as you can no longer hear “anything,” tend to turn it up.
2) Throughout performance, audio should be kept at the threshold of comprehensibility. The material of the audio track is spoken English text. This means that the volume level to maintain throughout should be the minimum level necessary to “follow” the semantic context of the text. This means that throughout performance, what you hear should be perpetually on the edge of clearly making out the content of the text, but no more: as soon as you clearly understand it, tend to turn it down; as soon as you can’t understand it, tend to turn it up.
In both cases, loudness changes in the track swiftly, slowly, and at every speed between; so too must your compensatory adjustments be.
– Audio begins only after 15 seconds.
The text of the audio track, a condensed version of Bill Dietz’s “Holiday Vignettes” (2013), was read by Tami Birch, Chris Dietz, and the author on January 10th, 2014 in Bisbee, Arizona.
A live study for “Nuvole Detail” was presented on December 21st, 2013 at Exploded View Gallery in Tucson, Arizona.
A “Nuvole Detail” Tutorial Diversions Profiling Software, with which any audio source material can serve as the basis for listening performance, will be released later in 2014.
1 – An aphorism interrupted by some anecdotal wood
Uneven Developments is conceived as two independent monophonic compositions of synthetic sounds to be played simultaneously.
Diverse sonic events with varying duration and volume appear and behave independently on each channel. While the palette of sounds may be quite similar on both channels due to the uniform method of sound generation that is based on and inspired by analog modules, the aim of this piece is to reconsider the dominant consensus regarding the notion of stereo sound. Therefore, a central and fixed position for listening is not required and “uneven” or “unusual” speaker arrangements are strongly encouraged.
The piece is born out of two sound collages made with digitally generated sounds from Supercollider and includes processed recordings realized at the BEA5 analog studio of The Institute of Sonology in The Hague, 2013.
Compiled by Catherine Lamb and Bryan Eubanks
Contributions from (in the order in which they occur):
Please click here to listen with Dan Letson’s visuals.
Music for The Memphis Group was written in late 2013, inspired by the Milan design collective of the same name. The work produced by the association of international artists – active between the years 1981 and 1987 – playfully engaged in hypothetical and pragmatic applications (furniture, apparel, sculpture, kitchenware) for emerging global resources, both synthetic and organic, rare and commonplace.
The loud colors, plastic laminate, and asymmetrical patterning was intended in part as a rejection of dominant Modernist aesthetic ideals of the time – ideals that still hold over today in contemporary attitudes concerning clean, “essentialist” design. The Memphis Group’s willful, incongruous eclecticism filtered into a catalog of gleeful chimera, where the space-aged ornamentation of American Googie architecture fused with minimalist post-industrial Japanese practices, and where quick-witted Italian commercial design ran rampant alongside crude approximations of tribal iconography.
Despite their polymorphous approach, I could not find clear-cut examples of musical pieces sanctioned by Memphis. Scattered bits of influence seemed to be apparent – the contemporaneous work of Hosono Haroumi, Mark Mothersbaugh’s Muzik for Insomniaks, and Shimizu Yasuaki’s Music for Commercials served as principal inspiration for how to translate these aesthetic ideas.
Since the Memphis Group’s productivity emerged alongside of General MIDI and Fairlight technology, I collected large sound libraries of correlated materials and peppered them with 1950s exotica records. I made this choice to highlight the shared, reckless sense of global appropriation. Compositionally, I used contrasting time and key signatures as well as abrupt tonal shifts to mirror Memphis’s commitment to the asymmetrical. Above all, my priority was to preserve the humor and accessible heterogeneity of the original work.
Dan Letson is responsible for the visual element. His involvement was something that I had hoped for, even before the piece was finished, as his insight into the Memphis Group’s practice was absolutely integral to finishing the work. In this presentation, each track is coupled with an algorithmically-generated pattern constrained by a set of parameters that reflect certain compositional elements. Each viewing generates a unique arrangement.
I’d also like to thank Andrew Shamash for repeated listening and Eric Laska for corralling this effort and sharing it. I hope you enjoy it.
While I still buy records and tapes, increasingly for me, the time I spend Listening To Music has become a part of the more general act of Media Consumption, which is largely grouped under the heading Time Spent on the Computer. There is a permissiveness to mixing content in the new culture of sitting on your couch with your laptop, making your own entertainment. The flatness of more access means we listen to more disjointed content all the time, and has created a feeling of normalcy around collage. “Everyone is a DJ.”
A rising tide lifts all boats, and the flattening effect we feel around instant digital access has raised the volume of consumption while simultaneously making each audio delivery channel less special and each act of listening more interstitial. I’m trying to embrace music as just another type of audio, flowing seamlessly with audio from the Internet, Radio, TV, Social Media, and every other formerly autonomous media that has been folded into a computer and now comes out of laptop speakers. I’m trying to use my mixes and radio shows to reflect on this change in my listening and exploration habits in the world of audio.
This centralization of listening has made me much more keenly aware of where and how I listen to music or audio. If digital provides All Access to Everything All the Time With No Forgetting, and if all genres are equal in the Long Tail, then to me, the new challenge is to curate or corral content from different listening scenarios. The patter and crowd noise of live sports broadcasts that come out of my TV. The band pass filter of AM talk radio in the car. The slowly evolving house music on long drives. The podcast for doing dishes vs. the other podcast for woodworking. The freedom of the tinny bluetooth speaker vs. the tether of the high quality stereo ⅛” plug. Physical formats continue to intrigue me, too. Each unit entombs it’s own content, era, sound, and culture as it recedes into obsolescence, and it’s need for specific playback technology dictates a setting, a set of constraints for listening. I have another project where I record live radio on the fly, trying to capture some of the magic of a seemingly now outdated, non-personalized, live media delivery format.
Doing freeform radio shows have allowed me the flexibility of trying to capture and express a curated version of the Universal Listening, the sound of Media Consumption Today. While I appreciate and gather content from genre-specific and format-specific DJs, I’m too interested in the avant garde, and the excitement of grasping at the contemporary to fully commit to nostalgia in my own DJing. I want to make work that treats the sound of an episode of True Blood with the same reverence as all those Parliament albums I’m supposed to know. And with this mix for Lateral Addition I feel I took a step in that direction. I’m trying to let go of some of the “complete-ism” that drives both dedicated vinyl collectors and Spotify evangelists, because to save everything is not to know everything. It’s natural for content to recede past the horizon of our memory and to be renewed again through rediscovery.
I moved to Santa Cruz about a year ago. As a newbie, I have spent a good deal of time alone, as I have only a small social circle, and not a lot of work that gets me out of the house. I have turned to radio, podcasts, and other media as a way to fill the air with voices, to feel less alone.
This mix reflects that through a myriad of voices. It includes talking cowboys, surfers, computers, hippies, stoney prank caller types, TV teens, and awkward real life teens in their bedrooms. There’s an eight year old pretending to be Bill Clinton, DMX revealing that he sounds exactly the same in real life as on his records, mixtape DJs yelling, Miami drive-time radio DJs yelling, and one particular Miami drive time and mixtape DJ yelling about McDonalds. Back in the 70s and 80s Jerry and Cronos chatted with the crowd at their live shows, a Village Voice writer cut a record while riding real high on the fumes of the 80s downtown crossover scene in New York, while Travolta the townie scumbag kid danced in Bay Ridge. We’ve got more kids singing in Spanish, plus their Peruvian hype man, autotune, comedians who voice cartoons, video game troll dudes, and a Chicago commuter who hears jazz in the parking garage. About ten years ago for Halloween I wore a long shroud that I made out of cassettes and fishing line over a sort of b-boy jumpsuit. I bought those tapes off Craigslist, and digitized two of the home recorded gems for this mix.
Artist – Title (Album, where applicable)
Stardrive – Stardrive (Intergalactic Trot)
Audio Excerpts, Movements 1.5, 2
The notion that underlies this piece is levitation, both literally and metaphorically. When composing I imagined the possibility of the sonic elements existing in a parallel dimension, the aural aspect holding matter suspended as if it were an apparition in an interstitial space. In the presentation of the work, a literal manifestation or demonstration of low-end frequency levitation takes place using hand-crafted subwoofers with materials hovering in the windows of the boxes. The piece evolved out of studies accompanied by drawings and texts as investigations of threshold states. It is comprised of three movements which, forming a tapestry structure, allude to the triadic process of Hermetic sublimation.
OPUS17ASLIMEVARIATION#4 is the fourth variation and first issuing of Roc Jiménez de Cisneros and Stephen Sharp’s re-interpretations of Hanne Darboven’s Opus 17a. The realisation remains true to the original composition save the occasional algorithmic hiccup on the DR-660.
Please click here for commemorative PDF.
Jacqueline Kiyomi Gordon
This audio comprises binaural and stereo recordings. As a result of the mix, it is best experienced when listened to on headphones.
The binaural audio is related to the research I conducted during my residency at EMPAC in Troy, New York in 2014. During two weeks in May 2014, I created different architectural configurations employing 16 moveable walls made out of materials with various acoustic properties. I placed many speakers around them to compose sounds that focused attention in different ways, an approach that reinforces sonic hierarchies.
In November 2014, I focused on one particular wall/speaker configuration and invited choreographer Jocelyn Tobias to wear binaural microphones and record while moving in the space. In February 2015, Eric Laska and I asked Jocelyn to listen to the binaural recordings while simultaneously verbalizing her experience of listening to them. Her verbalizations were recorded in stereo and added to the binaural mixes. Below are the 3 takes in order with notes on what was playing though the sound system during the binaural recordings.
take 1: noise (white noise played through all the speakers with equal power)
This project is an attempt to process a sound experience through another language, in this case dance and words. In the EMPAC installation the walls and sound system are moveable, the audio interchangeable, our understanding of the space is in flux. The most stable thing in the room is now the performers/participants own body.
I am interested in how an individual, trained in movement, listens and to what extent I can guide their movement with sound. How attention moves between one thing and another. I believe it is in this in-between space where we are most vulnerable and open. How do we respond between our bodies and the sound, what feedback do we allow?
Please click here to watch Jocelyn Tobias recording at EMPAC.
The work of Dove Bradshaw bridges the delicate line between object and environmental dynamics. Much of her material exploration is grounded in John Cage’s use of chance as compositional methodology, emblematic in works that employ elements such as live doves or ammonium chloride, the stochastic properties over which she has no control. Time is an active agent in Bradshaw’s oeuvre, lending her an exit route away from artistic bias or intention.
In 1990 and 2014, Bradshaw curated two group shows at Sandra Gering Gallery in New York with works from the personal art collection of John Cage. The first of these shows had the title Imitating Nature in Her Manner of Operation and the latter Strategies of Non-Intention. The artists, consistent for both shows, were William Anastasi, Dove Bradshaw, John Cage, Tom Marioni, Robert Rauschenberg, and Mark Tobey.
In this informal interview, Bradshaw discusses the underlying conceptual thread running through both shows and her own artistic practice.
Recorded October 2014
Voice, drums, recordings here and there.
Composed July – August, 2015
I started this piece walking down by the Limmat on a cold, windy day. Whitecaps chopped the water and I was a bit out of breath from fighting the wind and trying to keep warm by moving at a brisk pace. Under the Hardbrücke the deep resonance there swallowed me up. A long rowboat chained to the concrete pilings of the bridge whipped to and fro in the strong current. I headed up the stairs to my studio.
Schulhaussingen happens twice a year at my kids’ school. I usually go and I also usually record this. I like the fact that all the parents are there to hear their kids sing. People in my neighborhood come from all over the world. It’s cool to see so many different nationalities, hear all the different languages. The kids sing these really goofy songs but it’s a nice vibe all the same. And afterward they all mingle in the entrance to the auditorium. Their laughter and shouts fill the space like a fierce storm. I like to disappear in those voices.
Most days I go to play the drums at a musicians collective not far from my house. I bring my cymbals, set up and start to play. Nothing in particular. Sometimes I have the Sony along and record whatever it is I’m playing. I guess I’m always recording something. The material just piles up. I like to go back and pick stuff randomly. It’s amazing sometimes what I’ve recorded. Maybe in that moment it just sounded OK, nothing special. But with time, wow, where did that come from? I don’t remember that!
I’m not sure when I started singing. I guess when I was a kid. And then in some bands later on. But those recordings never saw the light of day. And now a few years ago I started again. It’s not really something I practice at technically, like I did the drums. More just when I get a hankering to do it. It’s just a feeling. Sometimes I get the chance to do this in front of an audience, either alone or with others. I like sitting there, vulnerable. There’s nothing between me and the listener. No microphone. Just a guy sitting there on a chair making sounds with his mouth.
I’m not sure how this piece came together. I knew how I wanted to start it, down by the Limmat. And the end had to be this lullaby which I sang to nobody in particular. But the rest was just this hole. Finding that recording of the kids singing had to be one station between the beginning and end. And then too Alice learning to talk. I think she was two years old then. Now she talks non-stop, so it was funny hearing her wrestle with wildebeest and giraffe. Time flies, as they say. The title is taken from the lyrics to Hooked on a Feeling. I prefer the B.J. Thomas interpretation of this song to Blue Swede’s commercially more successful version.
Why did I put the drums in there? Hard to say. Maybe as a musical interlude?
The beginning is me reading a text I wrote about a man standing at an intersection in downtown Los Angeles, jingling coins in a tin cup. This happened around fifteen years ago. The city has long since cleaned up this part of town. They got coffee shops and cute restaurants there now, so I don’t think the man would be able to stand at that intersection anymore. Or, if he did, certainly not for as long as I saw him standing there. I sometimes wonder where that man is now.
In Peter Ablinger’s work, the listener is often asked to cross the distance between sounds. These types of comparative actions fall into at least three categories. One of these categories is a comparison between two sound sources: a recording and a reproduction. The term Ablinger uses for these reproductions is “phonorealism.” Another type of comparison is between a sonic memory and the sound that is present. I’ll play two examples later that activate specifically musical memories through a process called “verticalization.”
We’ll start, though, with yet another type of distance that is to be traveled, this time in the sonic imagination, between a text and the sounds it suggests. In Weiss/Weisslich 11B, you hear one thing, but your mind’s ear is being directed to a different series of sounds. As Ablinger explains:
Since 1994 a series of scripts have been written for which I would sit for 40 minutes each and write down what I actually hear. I would love to think about this noise protocol as music: one imagines the sound which is actually read. The music arises in the head of each reader or listener. I think “real” music is not too different from that.
So the listener’s work is to imagine the sounds as they unfold in this script. There is no assistance here apart from the descriptions themselves. The speaker is to read the text without expression. Ablinger’s method of capturing a memory becomes the site for your own imagination, constructing these sounds internally as extensions of the sounds that are present in your memory. One of these texts has been translated from German to English. The sounds that were verbally transcribed took place over 40 minutes in October of 2001 on a terrace at the Villa Aurora, near Los Angeles. I’ll read part of it now.
[2:24-4:50 Weiss/Weisslich 11B, excerpt]
Moving on to phonorealism, I’ll play three examples from the second act of City Opera Graz. The first act is “an acoustic topography” of the city, 400 recordings distributed among 36 listening stations, to be heard through headphones. 21 of these recordings are used in the second act, which Ablinger calls “The Orchestra” and describes in this way:
the orchestra as Trojan Horse:
This grid can also be understood as pixellation, the reduction of data to a resolution that can be reproduced. Here is one example from the second act, intermezzo 11, called “Record.”
[6:12-6:54 Intermezzo 11, “Record”]
Since the recording and the orchestral rendition of this record are played at the same time, the listener is invited to compare them. There is no question of which is which, but the distance between them becomes the listening space. The listener’s work is to assess the fidelity of the reproduction to the original—but the original is also a reproduction. Ablinger describes the steps in his practice of “phonorealism” in this way:
1) The first step is always an acoustic photograph (“phonograph”). This can be a recording of anything: speech, street noise, music.
Even a digital reproduction, whether audio or visual, can be distinguished from the actual thing it reproduces. When there is a hand-made component to a reproduction, the fineness of the detail and the types of techniques used are brought into question. In Tableau II of Act II, “Endless Cassette,” a message on an answering machine is played six times, and the orchestra also plays their version of the recording, at increasing degrees of resolution.
[8:45-10:57 Tableau II, “Endless-Cassette”]
The final example from this act of City Opera Graz is of a more sustained recording—the sound of passing traffic in a tunnel.
[11:08-12:14 Tableau V, “Plabutsch (Tunnel 2)”]
As I go back and listen to that recording, the removal of distance between the sound of traffic and the sound of an orchestra is causing me to imagine those two forces in the same space. It’s a terrifying image.
We’ll stay with the orchestra for the next set of pieces. Weiss/Weisslich 22 is a set of verticalizations of the complete symphonies of six composers. I won’t get into the details of how it is done—you can read more about that on Ablinger’s site—but each composer’s section lasts for 40 seconds, and then immediately switches to the next. I find myself listening most actively at those points of transition. How is my memory of all the Mozart symphonies I’ve heard different from my memory of all the Beethoven symphonies? Is that reflected in that transition? Yes, it is. Is it my imagination that it is reflected there, or can I point to specific qualities that are different, specific changes in the cumulative presentation of the work? My effort to do that is an act of speculation, and that act of speculation becomes my listening experience. I am tracing the distance between my memory of Mozart’s work and my memory of Beethoven’s work, and also between my memory of each composer’s work and this presentation of them. So here they are, in order: Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Bruckner, Mahler
[14:00-18:00 Weiss/Weisslich 22, 1995 version]
Ablinger offers this explanation about the set of pieces called IEAOV:
The basic operation for the IEAOV pieces is allways the “verticalization” or “condensation”: By condensation successive events are transformed into the simultaneity of a spectrum. A succession of sounds as an input (the “palette”) turns into a color of sound as an output.
The Prestudy for IEAOV is described as a “verticalization of all white piano keys,” that is played alongside a very slow upward pitch shift of that same verticalization. Here, there are two types of comparison that are possible. One is between the two verticalizations: the one that is static and the other that is in motion. How are these pitches playing against each other in their frozen and semi-frozen states? The other type of comparison is between your image of the sound of the piano and the actual sound of this piece. No sound is presented here other than the sound of the piano, but I find that it sounds like many other things.
[19:27-48:38 Prestudy for IEAOV]
– Jennie Gottschalk, August 24, 2015
Attila Faravelli and Enrico Malatesta
On June 6th and 18th of 2015, I recorded the sounds Enrico produced from manipulating empty aluminum cans. Discouraged by the boomy sound of Enrico’s living room (let alone the noises coming from a few hyperactive neighbors) we decided to take the car out and go in search of a quiet spot in the country. On the crest of a hill we found an almost anechoic slope, populated by dense tall grass. We wanted the recording to be “pure” – as dry and close up as possible in order to verify with plenty of sonic detail the reasons an object that belongs in the trash was so appealing to us.
What follows is a transcription, translated from Italian, of a conversation between Enrico and I recorded on July 15th, 2015. Audio companion mastered by Giuseppe Ielasi.
EM: I started playing with empty cans totally by chance, while doing a residency at an art gallery in Canada. I remember that I had stumbled on some videos, on the Internet, about so called rudimentary ethnic percussion; during those solitary nights, after a few beers, I absentmindedly started crushing and manipulating the empty beer cans, I kind of tried to imitate, by rhythmically pushing with my fingers the tin, some simple patterns that I had heard in the documentaries. At first, quite naively, I had considered the tin as a means to get a sound that was already present in my mind, treating the can as an inert piece of rubbish, which it is, that I could play as if it were a musical instrument. After a while I realized that the can, when manipulated, would reveal an interesting ability to deform and to react in unpredictable ways. This might sound pretty trivial but I realized that with the disposable material I would allow myself to produce deformations to the aluminum that were non reversible, to slowly destroy the can, and that the affordances of this proto instrument would evolve over time accordingly. Simply put, what the can was offering me in terms of its possibilities would change quite a lot while messing with it.
AF: I recall you telling me that you were very productive during that specific residency, playing and recording a lot. It strikes me that you probably were quite unfocused while making sounds with empty beer cans at the end of the day, on top of that you had drank them all till the last drop… I find the loose nature of these moments quite interesting, that you found something inspiring while in a relaxed mood, while perceiving and listening in a less direct but maybe wider way?
EM: When I “play” the can, I try to be both distracted and focused, in order to be able to enjoy a material with a behaviour I cannot fully control nor understand, as I said a tin transforms itself in time, by undergoing deformations. Also, manipulating soft and thin metals gives me a tactile pleasure. In my work with the percussion instruments I’ve been practicing this a lot, by listening with my fingers (my ears are not alone here) to all of the kinds of properties of an object; every time I touch an object this provides me with information about its internal structure, its weight, its grain, its robustness or conversely its impermanence. In this sense, the point of loosening time with rubbish cans has to do with adapting my hand’s posture to an object that transforms itself, also knowing that my actions will damage it forever. It’s a matter of practical understanding, very physical, and as a measure of that also enjoyable.
AF: What you say about playing something that bends and breaks and at the end gets ripped apart makes me think in relation to the normal musical instruments, especially the ones from the western tradition. It’s as if they were built so that a musician would be able to predict their sound. A well trained piano player, for example, knows how to get a certain sound: by pressing a middle C he’s gonna hear a middle C, if he presses the same key heavier he’ll hear the very same sound, just louder. A philosopher that I like a lot, Manuel Delanda, insists on the rarity of linear processes in nature, linearity is the exception not the rule; by introducing the same kind of energy in the same system, but varying its amount, the effect can change a lot. In his public lectures he sometimes uses this example: try to pull your lip, the more you pull, the more the lip goes forward, even a light force is enough. But then it comes to a point when pulling gently doesn’t produce any movement in the lip, our flesh resists the pulling and in order to get the lip moving we need to pull harder, there’s almost no such thing as a linear process. Another intensive threshold (that’s what Manuel Delanda calls them) occurs when water freezes or boils, cooling or warming water by a certain amount produces predictable effects, you just get cooler or warmer water, but at certain specific “intensive thresholds” the water freezes or boils. The same is true with cans, a slight pressure allows the material to bend back to its initial state, reestablishing its original form, a stronger pressure produces a definitive deformation in the aluminum. You are right when you say that it’s a matter of practical understanding, the only way to go is by doing it.
Another fundamental contribution by Manuel De Landa is the clarification of what Gilles Deleuze meant with ‘’topological thinking’’. It’s a philosophically very dense, almost specialistic concept but I feel like it applies perfectly to your “dirty” practice of playing the cans… If “intensive thinking” (derived from thermodynamics) destroys the foundations of linear causation by acknowledging any subject or object as having the capacity to form “assemblages” with other subjects or objects whose emergent properties are always new, specific, creative and unpredictable, “topological thinking” stems from differential geometry and consists of describing an object without building a set of abstract coordinates around it. Let’s say you want to describe a curved flat sheet of paper; an old scientist would start building around this object a set of abstract coordinates and would measure the distances of any point on the object to these out of the world straight lines. Modern geometry, and Deleuze suggests we should do the same when reasoning, gets rid of this metaphysical “shoe-box” and undertakes the description of the object in a more concrete way; by checking the actual differences and accelerations along the material itself. Deleuze seems to suggest that an object is better described the same way our physical experience of the world is, which is very different from tracing mental coordinates. Our body deals primarily with a set of accelerations and curvatures relative to other points on the same surface, when we touch and manipulate an object we perceive directly a series of immanent differences, in order to understand something we have to stay “attached” to it. Speaking about the way music is practiced by many people (I know a few jazz and conservatory trained musicians), it seems like they struggle all the time to reach an “optimum standard”, which would exists in some ideal space, be it the real intention of the composer who wrote the score that they are going to play or a flawless technical ability on the instrument. Manipulating a can, for as trivial, for as rough as it might be, forces you to be primarily concerned with the way the material folds, breaks, bends, resonates.
EM: Talking about musical instruments, a drum, for example, is made from many different materials: skin, wood, metal. There’s a lot of ways to play it, you can articulate its sound in many ways. A beer can of course is completely different, let alone it’s not designed to be used that way… it’s made out of just one material, it’s very uniform and the way accents are produced is spontaneous, they naturally come out of torsion, ripping, bending, compression, decompression. At the same time it has a resonating chamber and it can get pretty loud. Working with “readymades” actually makes me think about the norm, the musical instrument. A drum is conceived, as you say, to exhibit a consistent performance, when you play it you are supposed to stay within a limited range of force applied to the skin, unless you want to break it…
AF: I guess a proper musical instrument is built in such a way to offer the musician a certain degree of comfort as well, which also stabilizes the way one plays and the level of confidence in what can be achieved in terms of sound, when applying a specific force in a specific way. Speaking of which, I’ve been noticing that your hands were sweating a lot while messing around with the tin…
EM: Yes, that’s true. The aluminum that the can is made from, unlike the skin of a drum, or the wood of a stick, doesn’t absorb the sweat. But that’s also interesting, the grip fails on you every now and then and this forces you to look for another way to handle the object. This adds to the overall instability. I’d say that the can’s “capriciousness” offers me the opportunity to keep the “instrument” (the can) at a distance. You really have to listen to its behavior, there’s no way for me to merge with the instrument the way I am able to when I play instruments that I have trained on; I know well how they will react to my actions and this will lend to a unification between me and the instrument. When I play the percussion instruments I feel like ”owning” the instrument whereas with a can the aluminum is working against my intentions and ideas, and I have to deal with that.
AF: It’s probably just a futile effort trying to establish a form of linear cause-effect relationship while “playing” a can… Let’s think about playing any instrument in general: it takes someone to apply a force to an object, it doesn’t matter whether you are blowing the hell out of a trumpet or caressing a harp’s string. If you hit a drum strongly, not only will the sound be loud but the stick will rebound back strongly as well. If you hit the same skin lightly, the sound will be soft and the rebound will be lighter. This is a kind of linear behavior. After a while your body will learn how to merge your musical intention and the instrument together, and achieving that is perhaps the main struggle for every musician. Being able to access a form of fusional playing. The mainstream idea is that you have to master the control on the instrument in order to achieve this merging. On the contrary, when you produce sounds within a system within which the force that you inject achieves unpredictable results, well maybe in this case it’s another class of skills that has to be evoked, like an ability to listen and to react, I don’t know.
EF: I have to say that I’m not so much interested in the kind of “tension” that occurs when you try to control an object and it doesn’t let you do so, that’s sort of typical of some experimental musicians who know the technique of their instrument very well, and they intentionally push their instruments to the limit in order to lose control. That seems strange to me… What I’m interested in is similar to that but on the surface. When I play the can, I sometimes feel as if I were keeping an object with a life of its own in my hands, like as if it were kind of suspended. It’s nothing magic, it’s not as if the object were actually alive… at the same time, to some degree, it is pulsating on its own and I can feel as if it were at a distance, on another level from me, sort of autonomous, so to speak. I’m producing sound by manipulating it but this sound is not fully contained in my hands, the cracklings happen along invisible tanglings that pertain to the object itself, not to myself. It’s quite different than hitting a percussion instrument and in doing so putting its membrane into motion. When I keep the can in my hands and I shake it, it crackles in crazy ways, sometimes it really surprises me.
AF: Although compact and uniform a can is a complex thing. If we think in terms of “elasticity”, well, almost all the musical instruments are very “elastic” according to the dictionary: able to return to an original shape or size after being stretched, squeezed, etc. The strings on a violin or in a piano, after you have struck them, tend to go back to a state of static equilibrium, in this sense the engine of a musical instrument is elastic. Nonelastic systems can present a greater degree of complexity. At the same time the can also has the tendency to get back to its original shape, if you don’t press too much.
EM: It’s strange because even if I cannot control or understand what’s going on with the can, I can nevertheless recognize some tendencies that the object has. I cannot tell exactly what’s going to be the next sound but I can recognize a generic path that it will follow. Anyway, I’m not so much interested in the ”results”, whether what I can achieve by crushing a can is gonna be nice or musical. Instead, I find it useful as a form of research, as an activity that forces me to listen to an object, to explore its tendencies, and most of all I consider it a tool to train and to expand my perception.
AF: Looking at you while playing the can recalls a basketball player spinning a basketball on the tip of his finger. To keep the ball from falling he has to tap it from time to time, and this must be done very carefully, in order to not interfere too much with the natural tendency of the ball to keep rotating. It’s a fragile balance.