Posts Tagged ‘taomud’

And I’m back | New improvisations

June 5, 2009


My life is killing blogging, but i’m going to fight back, because there’s tons of great stuff to write about. I have been busy though, new job, new house, new business etc. Lots of interesting (and time sucking) stuff going on.

So my focus in playing and listening has changed a bit and it’s been causing me to be less active here. I’m trying to turn that around though, and I have a post in the works about all that, but it’s taking some time to write.


In short my playing has changed and become more focused (i think). I used to want to play everything in the world, but i have decided to limit what i do to a couple different things, so i can really begin to develop my own way of playing. What i’m working with right now is mostly centered around frequency, vibration, and playback. My tools include: motors, recorders, contact mics, and objects that can be struck or driven by vibrations.

I’ve also become concerned with the when, where, and why of making this kind of music, so some of my concerns as i’m playing are: How is this sound related to the others? Now that that is over what can I do next to make a break/continuation? How much/little space should there be? Should I do what feels right, or something more dramatic? etc. etc. And in general I’ve eschewed most stereotypical forms of drama or visceral action. I use very little physical movement or gesture, and i’ve done away with vocalization completely. The idea being to move focus away from my presence as a human and “artist/musician” to focus completely on sounds and their relationships/lack thereof.

Below is a couple of somewhat recent solos exploring these devices and ideas. One is using only motors and resonant objects, the other uses those in combination with pre-recorded sounds. I often record/playback sounds that are very similar to what I play live. In some ways it’s a device to blur the line between what i am playing ang not playing.


Motor solo 1

Motor solo 2 (with recordings)

BTW, I suck at wordpress, so I have no idea how to do an image caption. Anyway, what you see there is a vibrating construction with electric toothbrushes a speaker cone pickup and some tin-foil for resonance.

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.



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