Posts Tagged ‘improvisation’

Get the new BSC album for a Tweet!

May 6, 2010

You read that right. The Boston Sound Collective’s new work “23% Bicycle and/or Ribbons of the Natural Order” is available now, for a Tweet. Just go here and submit your Tweet to be taken to the download page, where you will have a variety of formats available to you, and an option to donate.

Here’s more on the album from Bhob Rainey’s blog:

Bhob Rainey – Soprano Saxophone, Director
Greg Kelley – Trumpet
James Coleman – Theremin
Liz Tonne – Voice
Chris Cooper – Guitar and Electronics
Vic Rawlings – Cello and Electronics
Howard Stelzer – Tapes
Mike Bullock – Bass
Get this release for a Tweet!

23% Bicycle… captures the BSC shortly after an intense series of performances at the Phoneme Festival, a three-night event in Philadelphia featuring members of the band in a series of small groups followed by full BSC sets each evening. In one sense, the music is tight and controlled, maintaining a sustained tension as events peel from one to the next, not so much moving forward as revealing increasingly buried layers. But, from the very first sound, it is clear that everything teeters on chaos. The familiarity between the musicians is apparent, as is their willingness to undermine that familiarity, to send each other to unlit corners and map whatever sublime beauty or horror is found there. To say that the resulting music is dark is to miss its jubilance. It is complex and visceral, the work of an ensemble committed to both its refinement and unraveling.”

On the first couple of spins, this sounds like it’s going to be pretty rewarding to dig into. The surface is pretty moody overall, the sonic palette hearkening back to the golden era of European avant garde music, while deftly avoiding parody. Once your ears adjust to the sea of undulating sounds, you are drawn into an unfolding drama full of shifting colors and textures, with new combination’s and approaches continually emerging. Looking forward to getting closer to this one.

Okay, enough blabbing, go get it!

Great article on extended technique

May 5, 2010

This past week Bhob Rainey posted an excellent article from Dusted Magazine, that I had somehow overlooked. The article tackles the sometimes thorny subject of extended technique and it’s relative takeover of new improvisation. A slightly dated (or just tired) subject for some, but Charlie Wilmoth’s take still sounds fresh and insightful. A pretty great read for any fan of improvised music.

I’d also say that if you’re one of us that has the odd relative or friend who can’t get why you want to listen to music consisting of scrapes, squeals, static, etc, this article may be able to shed some light. Wilmoth does a great job of linking this movement to touchpoints in jazz, modern classical, etc, in a very approachable way.

Enjoy!

Dustedand Magazine – Scrapes and Hisses: Extended Techniques in Improvised Music

Cathnor Vignettes series, review 4, Paul Abbott & Grundik Kasyansky – “green ribbon residue, in this case″

January 9, 2010

[Edit: Sorry, the original version of this sounded too flip, so I tweaked it a bit.]

Every sound, once unacceptable, is now acceptable in this current music. At least it seems that way. So how can we, standing at the edge of the aesthetic earth, possibly move forward?

I’m sure there is a way forward, or more specifically, a way to avoid stagnation, to continue to make fresh, exciting music. I think, in this area of music it is very important to constantly be challenging the status quo, the common gestures, the obvious movements, to say something about who, and where, and what we are. I think the most exciting records for me show signs of this, and the ones where I cannot see it never really get to the point of interest for me.

Listening to “green ribbon residue…” about 30 times over the past few months, has lead me ultimately to places it more in the latter camp than the former. It has some tasty ingredients, sure… copious stillness, pregnant silence, threads of keening feedback, crashes of percussion, electronics bursts and pulses, all deployed with an almost processional calmness, solemnity and poise. Sounds like it could be pretty good right? Well, in a lot of ways, I suppose it is. There are moments (few of them unfortunately) where the two players begin to build something together that points to more exciting territory. Had I seen this live I probably would have been riveted. On record however, there seems to be something achingly absent.

The familiar feedback is there, but for some reason it’s not enticing, or frightening, or even difficult, the hair-pin turns appear, but they just go back to that reservoir of silence that can be so readily dipped into. There are painterly gestures here and there, but they come off somehow awkward. It begins to feel like we are sort of playing “EAI” here. It seems like all of the hallmarks are here, but I just don’t feel like it’s getting to a place that will make it more than a reading in a style.

It could be tempting to say that the issue with this disc is that it is not really pushing things, that it’s not exactly groundbreaking, just ok. But, maybe the issue is different. Maybe this disc is merely too affirming of our current taste as a collective to truly move me.

Of course, maybe I’m just looking for something here that there was never intended to be. I don’t know, all I can really do is give you my impression. In this case, this disc is pleasant, and intriguing enough that it will get occasional revisitings, but as for how I feel about it now, it’s just ok.

Submitting some music to the Dictaphonia microcassette comp series

January 9, 2010
Dicataphonia 5

Image, courtesy: Hal McGee

This isn’t something I’d normally do. These kinds of open request comps tend to be largely comprised of acts whose music no one else is willing to release. While I certainly fit snugly into this category, I by no means want to end up one of those people who submits to every open comp for this sort of thing that happens by. (one of the reasons I’ve never contributed to the IHM comps)

So why this and why now? Well, one, I love working under restrictions. There is something about limited formats that appeals to me. I also love gritty lo-fi sounds, and of course, tape. I also noticed in a quick glance-over that there is really not much like what I do on these comps, and in general I’m not seeing my approach to this kind of thing taken by anyone. So why not try and present something different?

Over vacation, I’ve been recording a bit with my microcassette recorder, trying to come up with a track that is the right combination of length, and musical interest. So far the length thing has been the most difficult. The approach I decided to take here is similar to what I’ve been doing recently in general; using only the object of focus produce sounds, usually by means of some form of preparation, with as little “gesture” as possible. The object of this approach is to (hopefully) produce music that is not only interesting, but that unfolds as if it is happening by some natural process outside of human intervention. This is of course very difficult, and my success rate is spotty, but that’s the goal.

In my attempts to produce something for the comp, I have generated a bunch of tracks that are just too long (I’m trying to play within the bounds without editing), though I find them all to be quite interesting in their own way. So I’ve decided to post them here for your enjoyment. Enjoy!

MP3:
12345

FLAC:
12345

Cathnor Vignettes series, review 1, Hankil / Eubanks, 777

November 21, 2009

I recently purchased all six of the vignettes series from Cathnor, due to a really great deal Richard was running on the Cathnor site. Cathnor has been a really great addition to the group of small labels covering this area of music, and I think a fairly distinctive taste is starting to show through, which I look forward to seeing develop more in time.

The vignettes series is currently comprised of 6 3″ CDRs, in very nice oversized packaging. Giving them the feel of some kind of audio postcard. They really (especially if you have all six) feel great to hold in your hands, and the larger format is successful in getting you to the place of absorbing the artwork as part of the experience. I’d be psyched if at the end of the series, Richard released a box for them or something, as it would seem fitting (at least to me).

Though I do have all six vignettes, I thus far have only really begun to internalize 2, due to being without a way to rip the CDs onto (or play them on) my computer.

The first is Bryan Eubanks, Ryu Hankil – 777
I have been a strong proponent of the nascent Korean improvised music scene since I first laid ears on them. There is so much experimentation going on there, and it is so well documented thanks to Balloon n Needle, the Manual, and Dotolim, that it is impossible to ignore. One of my favorite things about this scene, is the predilection towards the use of raw untreated mechanical sounds. In my mind it’s a necessary confrontation to a music which can still at times have a bit too much reverence for virtuosic technique.

One of my favorite purveyors of such sounds is Mr. Ryu Hankil. The seemingly gestureless, abstract clicks, whirs and metallic sputters of his clockworks create a world of music architecture, where micro compositions of small sounds become unique structures in a landscape. Tiny villages of sounds that one can live in for days, and still find mystery.

I was excited to hear that this outing paired Hankil and Brian Eubanks, as Eubanks back catalog bears some of my favorite releases in this area, his album “Anti-sex anti-wiretapping”, as half of GOD, is the favorite of what I’ve heard thus far.

So this was a big pairing for me, and I was really excited when my package from Richard, finally arrived. This was one of the first I listened to. The first and only piece on this disc starts out with some gentle small rattles from Hankil, and some nice textured static from Eubanks soon finds it’s way in and so the first two or so minutes of the piece are going along nicely. Hankil then switches up to a slightly different metallic texture, and Eubanks heads into a distant nineties ambient techno kind of bleeping, blooping thing. The quality of this sound is akin to something one may find on a “Techno Sound Effects of the Late Nineties” sample disc. I have to say this unfortunately sets the tone for much of the rest of the disc.

Now, I really was positive I was going to love this pairing, and I’m sure many others still will, but I have to say that Eubanks’ playing on this just does not go down well for me. If there are two things that I have no interest in hearing, one is the very transparent use of effects to create “ambience” or some sense of emotional/spiritual density, and two is thematic repetition. And Eubanks’ performance seems to be all about these things.

It’s not that he doesn’t do a good job, he does in many ways, but all I can hear are echos of Raster-Noton (and some less tasteful references) from 5-10 years ago. The question for me is, why rehash these specific sounds? Especially knowing what Eubanks is capable of. One of the things that makes the aforementioned GOD record a joy is the way in which effects are deployed in a somehow non-schlocky way, a very difficult feat seemingly pulled off with ease. But here, largely we hear what sound to these ears like the classic trappings of digital technology.

That all said, there is a lot about this record that still holds my interest. The brief moments where Eubanks eschews the ambient bloops for grainier, more tumultuous territory are really worth hearing. And Hankil, even in the midst of somewhat hostile environs, manages to pretty much play exactly what will add the right edge to stop things going into “Ambient Chillout volume 258″ territory. It gives a clue as to the potential of this pairing which is imo, is just hinted at here.

It sucks to have to give this one a so-so review, as I really do want people to support Cathnor, but all in all, this one is not my cup of tea, though Hankil’s contributions I’m sure will keep me coming back, and perhaps I will at some point see through Eubanks’ playing, and find some hidden joy. If I do, I’ll be sure to report back here.

Stay tuned, I plan to review this whole series, and by far this is the one I’m most uncertain of.

Next up, Lee Patterson’s “Egg fry #2″.

The continued evolution of this blog | Some recent inspiration

July 3, 2009

This blog started out initially with an idea, but no real plan. And as I’ve carried on, things have changed and the initial idea, no longer really suits me. I think about this blog all the time. It seems every weekend almost, I plan to write but I hardly do. I’m less interested in some of what I used to do, and more interested in other things. I’m busier. I got promoted at my job, and my wife and I bought a new house and moved into it. All the time though, I think of this blog and how I can post better and more often.

A perceived need to continue on in the initial spirit of this blog is one of the things that made it so hard to come back. For one, almost every post in the past contained something I had recently recorded. While I still plan on dropping the occasional random recording on here, my focus in recording has gotten much more specific. I have also slowed down in my production/collection of new gadgets for reasons I have addressed before. This can no longer really be the blog of random happy sounds that it used to be.

While it seems like I may have stopped doing a bunch of things (and this is true) my musical pursuits have gained in other ways. I have become interested in a lot of new music and have been seeing some great shows. I have also met some new people whose ideas have influenced mine for the better (I hope). Since I’ve been gone a while, here’s a little list of the things that have been on/in my mind for the past few months.

The Watchful Ear – This is the blog of Richard Pinnell. A far more ambitious blogger than myself, he writes about music every day, and his blog is something I come back to almost as often. Richard has the fortune of finding himself sat right on top (or perhaps just to the side) of one of the most fertile improvised music communities anywhere these days. And he writes about it in such wonderfully thoughtful detail, it makes me want to catch the first plane to London. He also does a ton of reviews. Over the last few months he has saved me a bunch of money, as due to the quality and quantity of his reviews, there is no real reason to purchase the WIRE anymore (ok, I’m kinda joking). Really, I think his blog is one of the things people in the future will look back on, and say wow thank God for that.

Dotolim – Dotolim is (from what I understand) and improvised music series in Seoul,  Korea. It is organized by Jin Sangtae and seems to take place about once a month. It features mainly musicians from Seoul, but there are occasionally guests from Japan and the states. The best thing (for someone not based in Seoul) is that they video record, almost every set, and they are available on youtube. In a grenre of music that seems for some reason relatively distant from the benefits of modern internet technology, this is a real treat.

The format is relatively simple. Each night there are 2 – 3 sets featuring different combinations of players, and occasional solos. Since the Seoul scene is relatively small there are a few recurring players, and it has been interesting seeing how there approach changes with different partners or playing devices. Overall a great window into a scene that is very exciting right now.

Philly Sound Forum – PSF is an improvised and experimental music series that takes place in Philadelphia and is curated by Jesse Kudler and Ian Fraser. We had talked on occasion about how there were opportunities for very exciting musicians to play Philadelphia, that were not being taken advantage of by some of the other music series in the area. And how there were some smaller scenes in the surrounding areas that were worth attention as well, and yet not getting much. So Jesse and Ian got together to just do it themselves, and thus far it has been great. Based on some inspiration from dotolim, they also have made an effort to put as much documentary content about each show on the website that they can, and there is some excellent music and video offered there for free. I’m always looking forward to new PSF show announcements.

Another thing we have been discussing is some form of improvised music workshop, which hopefully will come to pass within the next few months. While we are still working out the details, I will say that the general idea is to 1) allow more opportunities for improvising musicians in the area to play 2) to open communication between musicians in the area and encourage dialogs that will help us hone our craft. 3) ?????…. we are still figuring it out, but keep coming back, I will be posting about it as it takes shape.

I could go on here, but I’ve already run on longer than I wanted to. I will continue in the next month of this blog to highlight things that have made an impact on me. They may just be mentions and urls, and they may be full reviews. More in a while…

Indeterminate Improvisation

December 9, 2008

One of the issues with improvisation that i have been (and doubtless will be) grappling with, is the issue of non-intention, and indeterminacy. As a bit of a Cage devotee, I of course, find these things to be very important in the kind of music I make, but there is always the question of how and why they are utilized. Initially I think my instinct in music making was toward picking up instruments with which I had no relationship, and exploring the sounds they made as a total novice. While this approach can certainly be effective, even very effective at times, I found that it never ended up growing a real relationship with the instrument that continued past the initial novelty. At some point, the stumbling about as indeterminacy, wears thin, as you become more familiar and therefore more determinate in your playing. You either have to resist this, or become more focussed in your approach, and there are plenty of arguments for both sides (but that’s not what I want to get into here).

I suppose then, that this may be a good explanation, for why I appreciate accidental sound sequences so much. They get to be so fresh and sometimes so beguiling, with no effort to remain true to any praxis, and no overanalyzation. The sounds don’t worry about themselves.

This interest has lead me to experimenting with various strategies for incedental sound making and recording. One device i have been using a bit of late, is the utilization of contact microphones to pick up the sounds of othwise mundane activity. An example of this technique could be contact micing your dinner table, while you and a friend have dinner, thus transforming all of the incedental movements you make into a sequence of pseudo-random sound. Sometimes these techniques work surprisingly well on their own, but often times they really work well, when combined with other sound sequences, so that the sounds “collaborate” in interesting ways.

Here are a couple of examples I think work particularly well, and that I have found very enjoyable to listen to:

Accidentals 1 (4:34)
Stereo contact mic recording of myself working on the computer/Stereo contact mic recording of myself unloading dishes from the dishwasher.

This piece is full of interesting moments. The space between sounds becomes very charged at times, and may be intereupted by forceful and precise bursts of sound. I find this piece to have a delightfully in-human sense of space and timing. It upsets my expectations still after multiple listens, something I have been appreciating a lot recently. I also like how small each “instrument’s” pallette is. There is a relatively small variety of sounds, and yet somehow this restriction works as more an asset than a drawback.

Accidentals 2 (6:08)
Edited stereo field recording/Shortwave radio scan

While the first piece is thick with charged silence, this piece has none. The shortwave scanning is constant, and was not initially intended to be an improvisation. It was recorded up at a friend’s cabin in the Poconos, as I searched for interesting signals. The field recording is assembled from incedental sounds resulting from the disassembly of an oil tank and the silences that surround them. Sometimes the sounds are gentle, sometimes not. The radio here forms a range of sounds from soft pads of detailed texture, to blasts of unruly static, distant voices, and contaminated music. While the field recording plays agitator with unpredictable pin pricks of sounds and occasional sheet-metal roars.

enjoy!

Dictaphone cassette collage part 2

September 28, 2008

So, it’s been nearly a year since I first mentioned this technique, and since then, I’ve been in quite a few places and recorded a ton of audio snippets. Funny thing is, I’m still not even near filling up a tape, and at this point, I’m in no rush. I have however, ripped what i’ve done so far and edited it some, and i really like it. It’s strange listening back now, and not remembering what half of it even is. It’s a delightfully screwed-up ride through the past year of my life.

Once I was done, I wanted to hear it in stereo, so i chopped the track exactly in half and made a stereo file. This one is particularly enjoyable. I love the random sonic collisions that take place. Sometimes the placement of sounds is so perfect, I wonder if I some how composed it intuitively, but I know that’s just not possible.

So, now that i’ve gone and done this, I feel like I have finally gotten it out of my system, and I don’t really need to do it anymore. The funny thing is, that I can’t stop recording sounds! I may go back to the loop cassettes and start building a sound catalog, but I can’t help thinking I’ll wind up back on the same old tape, in exactly the place i left off, continuing the journey.

- Dictaphone Cassette Collage Mono

- Dictaphone Cassette Collage Stereo

Mystery audio from second-hand tapes

August 10, 2008

I’m a total thrift store and flea-market junkie as you can well imagine from the contents of this blog. I can’t keep myself from any place that brings the world of second-hand audio junk closer to me. From time to time Al and I head out to one place or another and scour the shelves for noise-makers. On one such trip recently, we discovered a booth in a local flea market that was loaded with vintage audio toys. A stack of portable record players here, a stack of recording devices there, amps and speakers and mics everywhere, it was quite a find. Amongst other things, we both walked away that day with cool mini reel to reel players.

Als mini reel to ree

Al's mini reel to reel

I was excited to find another one that was so similar to one I owned already. My thought of course was to use it to make long tape loops during sound performances. Something i’ve been meaning to do for a long time. And of course, I’m still out of luck, because sadly, the one I bought does not work. I can get it to transport the tape, but it doesn’t make a sound, not even static, which is always a bad sign. I’ll probably end up using it for scrap.

Al had similar woes, as his worked, but did not transport at an even rate. It seemed like whatever was moving the tape was slipping intermittently, which while it was a cool effect, it was not what Al was looking for. It moved enough though for us to hear that the tape on it had been used, something that always excites me, because it means a weird audio snapshot of someone’s life is on there, just waiting to be released.

Since Al’s tape machine was working after a fashion, I took it to see if I could fix it. Often these old tape machines used some kind of oil that overtime becomes more glue-like than oil-like, and opening them and carefully oiling the moving parts can revive them, and sure enough it was the case here. Although this tape machine had the oddest transport system I have even seen. It had no belts and was driven only by friction, which of course means that it doesn’t transport very evenly to begin with. Actually a really cool effect, as you will hear later.

Once I got the machine running, I rewound the tape, and listened. It never ceases to amaze me the fantastic audio artifacts that can be stored on these things. It seems to me that pretty much the same fate befell them all. They were bought and a tape was installed, and a series of people recorded fragments of whatever on them, full in the red. Then when the tape ran out, they were put away and never taken out again. While this is sad if you are the type to anthropomorphize tape machines, it produces amazing audio collages. Wholly unpredictable sounds strung together… bits of history, amateur radio announcing, random unidentifiable noise, etc. This particular example starts with a birthday dedication (I imagine for the recipient of the recorder) and proceeds through television commercials, junk drum improvisations (!!!), a faux mission impossible message, and some badly sung Beatles. To me, it’s excitingly unpredictable, and oddly poetic. Almost like an accidental Williams Mix

Having such fantastic luck with that tape, I decided to encode the tape from my defunct reel to reel as well. Not quite as profound, more just plain funny, my tape was filled with a joke telling hessian! I imagine, one of the fellows who sold me the device to begin with (a somewhat magical thought in and of itself). That being said, there are (as usual with these tapes) so interesting accidental audio fragments that are fairly aesthetically pleasing to me. The first minute or so are on regular speed, the rest is slowed down considerably. I can barely make out the jokes, because as per usual, they are recorded full in the red for the most part. I have however, sped the tape up, so you can hear the second part properly. Enjoy!

- Al’s mystery tape

- My mystery tape

While my ipod gently weeps

May 23, 2008

I’m travelling and don’t have time for a full post, but I recorded this a couple days ago and wanted to get it up. I rather enjoy it. I hope you do too. More on when I get back.

- Untitled

Edit:

So in case you hadn’t guessed by the mp3 filename, this track was assembled in real-time, or as I implied, improvised by my ipod. I selected three sound files to use as material and chopped them up into individual sound events.  I also gave a similar treatment to about four minutes of absolute silence. I took the sounds and the silence and made a playlist on my ipod containing all of those fragments. I then set my ipod to play the playlist at random, and began recording. I did this twice, hence the stereo version above.

The sound sources were:
- The ambience and chatter preceding a musical performance I recently recorded.
- The sounds of my dogs wrestling, which i fed through noise removal software
- the sounds of an overtone sax thing i made 

I’m pretty impressed by the results, and I think I may be working in this way more in the future. I’m always intrigued when I hear sound events happening without the burden of the human perception of time. There can never be any real “groove” or “vibe” or “flow” to random sound, so you never get into a scenario of sound events being predictable, and i like this element of surprise.

I’m going to do another one of these soon, but with four tracks, each one a different instrument. I’m looking forward to hearing the outcome of that.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.