Posts Tagged ‘radio’

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!

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Season’s Holidays! Happy Greetings! A Gift for you and yours!

December 24, 2007

Holiday madness being what it is (work’s no party either) I figured I probably wouldn’t have the time to do a post pre-christmas. However, as I was thinking about it, I realized I do have something to share. Though I haven’t been posting them, Al and I have continued to record, almost weekly improvisations. I would post them all, I just like to, if I can, present them in a more “finished” state than I usually have time for. I thought I’d make an exception though, 1, because I haven’t posted anything form us in a while and 2, because I fear christmas delaying my posting even more than usual. So here we go…

This was recorded this past friday at Al’s house which has become the new recording place of choice for a number of reasons. The session is about 72 minutes long with a decent variety of sounds being made. Here’s a (probably incomplete) rundown of what is being played: four-track loops, realistic dx-440 radio, modified singing christmas ball, tape feedback circuit, brass bowl, wooden box, tongue drum, pig scraper, bells, chimes, cymbals, 4 oscillator noise box, wooden xylophone, saw-blade, vibes, organ, bell piano, harmonica, rams horn, kalimba, surfaces, various apartment furnishings, etc. The session has been loosely subdivided into six parts, though each part may encompass more than one discernible movement. Hope you guys enjoy this, it was a lot of fun to make.

latralmagog, session XVIII:

– part 1 

– part 2

– part 3

– part 4

– part 5

– part 6 

Catching the radio wave

October 21, 2007

I have been infatuated with radios recently. The more of them I get, the more I want. Right now I have an AM/FM/VHF radio, an AM/FM/SW/VHF1/VHF2/UHF radio, and an AM/FM/SW/SSB/LW/MW radio. Sure the AM/FM bands are redundant, It’s mostly the other stuff I’m interested in. The last one is a digital PLL synthesized circuit radio; the Realistic DX-440. From what I can tell, this is the Pentax K-1000 of DXing. What is DXing? In short, it’s distance surfing for radio waves. The act of seeking out the furthest signal you can pull in. This may sound like a pursuit that would bottom out fast, but thats only if you don’t account for the constant change in weather (solar and otherwise) that affects what you can hear. For instance at a certain time of year, and maybe only for a day, you can pull in Radio Free Mongolia (totally made up) due to the weather condistions being just so.

As you can see, I’ve been nerding out again.

Funny thing is, due to the fact that I don’t have a nicer antenna (the bigger the better as with just about everything) the Realistic (my nicest radio) doesn’t pull in quite as interesting content as my no name AM/FM/SW/VHF1/VHF2/UHF radio. Lately it’s really been the VHF bands that have been interesting. Now you any be thinking… VHF, that’s TV isn’t it? Well… yes, but it’s a lot of other things too, like CB and Walkie talkie systems. I’ve heard a lot of odd broacasts, consisting of little more than… KSSCHT… Charlie, Baker, Washinton… KSSCHT!!! What are they??? I have no idea! I guess that’s what makes them so intriguing.

Today I got a similar and interesting one that consisted of some of those words-as-letters calls, and numbers too. A whole mass of people, some coming through loud and clear, and others way back submerged in fuzz. I had no idea what I was hearing. After listening to it for about 2 hours though, It finally dawned on me… it’s control towers and pilots! I’m guessing from the local international airport. Ok, so it’s not as cool as the Lincolnshire Poacher (what is?) but it was interesting none-the-less. I thought I could use it for something, so I recorded it for about 39 minutes and edited it down (lots of dead air) to about 12 or so. Here it is:

– Air traffic

If anyone checks this out and know it to be something different than what I believe it to be… please let me know.

Look out for more shortwave audio, there are some AMAZING sound floating around out there. I’ll post more soon.

Short Wave Music Rocks!

September 14, 2007

As usual I’m awaiting a solid 3 or 4 hour block of time in which to do my next post, which seem to be fewer and farther between. For now however, I want to just drop a quick note for you to check out a wonderful blog I stumbled across today.

I have been looking into getting a shortwave radio as I am fascinated with radio noises to begin with and shortwave is the mountain to AM/FM/TVs mole-hill so to speak. Right now, I’m mired in radio-purchasing research land (someone just point me to a cheap one already!) and I have been purusing many sites looking for info. During a quick blog search today I discovered ShortWaveMusic a great blog by Myke Weiskopf, featuring recordings he’s made of various indigenous musics he’s captured on shortwave, complete with technical, historical, and sociopolitical commentary. So far, It has been music to my ears and a great read too.

It’s funny to find someone out there doing pretty much what I had intended do do with my shortwave explorations, and great to find someone doing it so well.