Post-classical ambient minimalism for crepuscular airports

Misophonia

Misophonia album coverSuss Müsik is continuing to release “The Singles Project,” a series of thematic two-track recordings each based solely on a given concept or theme. All releases are issued and distributed under the self-formed Lůno banner.

The latest of the series is titled Misophonia, now available on Bandcamp and soon to be available on your favorite music streaming vehicles: Google Play, Amazon Music, YouTube, Apple Music, iTunes, Spotify etc. Suss Müsik further penetrates the world with our post-modern nonsense.

Misophonia consists of two tracks, each around eight to ten minutes in length, based on the compositional idea of cyclical phasing. The pieces consist of percussion (mostly vibraphone and marimba), slide guitar, little rocks dropped on strings, birds, and vocals. If you love the music of Steve Reich (comparable to his album The Four Sections), then it’s possible that you might like this. Full description below:

The door to the Suss Müsik studio leads to a wooden gate, behind which is a garden where birds of all types assemble. Occasionally we walk the path with a small box of birdseed and let the creatures fight it out. At one point, we counted as many as forty birds fluttering about the property.

In totally unrelated news, Suss Müsik has been reading about the pineal gland. This is the part of the vertebrate brain that splits the two haves of the thalamus joint and produces melatonin, the hormone that modulates circadian and seasonal sleep patterns. The pineal gland is also known as “the third eye,” a term of metaphysical significance to those who pursue a higher spiritual consciousness.

There is a theory that the pineal gland is the gateway through which we are able to communicate with non-human lifeforms. Suss Müsik wonders if the birds have a similar means of instinctual, non-verbal communication. Perhaps there are sounds we find repetitive or annoying (repetitive dripping water, chewing gum, the tapping of a pencil, etc.) that enable communication with extraterrestrial species beyond our audiophiliac astral plane. But that’s another topic for another time.

Misophonia I and Misophonia II were originally composed and submitted as part of the Disquiet Junto global collective of weekly music projects.

Junto Project 0339: Rude Mechanicals

Someone suggested that Suss Müsik repost our contributions to the weekly Disquiet Junto projects, because they enjoy reading the explanations of the tracks. While you’re reading the original post, make sure you check out the other contributors’ works as well.

TITANIA
I pray thee, gentle mortal, sing again.
Mine ear is much enamored of thy note.
So is mine eye enthralled to thy shape.
And thy fair virtue’s force perforce doth move me
On the first view to say, to swear, I love thee.

BOTTOM
Methinks, mistress, you should have little reason for that.
And yet, to say the truth, reason and love keep little company together nowadays.

Shakespeare was known for great insults, but among his best was the moment Hermia calls Helena a “canker-blossom.” While Suss Müsik hasn’t always behaved properly, at least no one has ever referred to Suss Müsik as an infectious skin disease.

The rude mechanicals are the six amateur thespians depicted in the Shakespearean classic A Midsummers Night’s Dream. Suss Müsik envisions a musical genre named after this troupe to be a vocal sextuplet with minimal instrumental accompaniment.

For this intensely weird piece, Suss Müsik digitally created six vocal “mechanicals” based on their counterparts from Shakespeare’s play:

  1. Peter Quince the carpenter, establishing the flawed structure of the piece.
  2. Snug the joiner, emoting loud noises with no discernible phrasing.
  3. Nick Bottom the weaver, improvising leads that “hath no Bottom.”
  4. Francis Flute the bellows mender, singing phrases intended for a female vocal range.
  5. Tom Snout the tinker, vocalizing a wall with maximum distortion.
  6. Robin Starveling the tailor, attempting to provide a bit of light and failing.

The vocal parts were treated with various digital and analog processing devices and recorded live to 8-track. The fake strings and Moog synth bits were overdubbed.

The piece is titled Lysander, named after the Midsummers character who becomes the victim of misapplied magic and wakes up in love with the wrong woman.

Junto Project 0335: Alone Time

Someone suggested that Suss Müsik repost our contributions to the weekly Disquiet Junto projects, because they enjoy reading the explanations of the tracks. While you’re reading the original post, make sure you check out the other contributors’ works as well.

According to behavioral scientist B.J. Fogg, there are three types of group-level motivators: cooperation, recognition and competition.

Waiting on the telephone is a strange sort of purgatory that offers little intrinsic value. Being on hold might be considered cooperative, in a sense, because we’re making a conscious choice to wait. But there’s nothing in the way of recognition, or even acknowledgement to be gained. “Your call is important to us.” Sure it is.

Which leaves the third motivator, competition. “When you set up a competition,” writes Fogg in his book Persuasive Technology. “People become energized. They want to invest time and effort. They care about the outcome. Competition is perhaps the most powerful group-level intrinsic motivator … there doesn’t need to be a prize; there doesn’t need to be any external incentive.”

For this short piece, Suss Müsik designed a competitive listening experience between telephone technology and the listener’s patience. A dial tone was sampled and refactored through a Tensor pedal and doubled with high-distortion e-bow. Behind that mess is a piano playing a softly repeating loop, blissfully unaware.

The effect resembles someone humming and impatiently drumming their fingers on a table, getting more upset the longer they wait. The piece was composed quickly and recorded live to 8-track.

The piece is titled FBM in honor of Fogg’s Behavior Model.

Junto Project 0334: Mass Branca

Someone suggested that Suss Müsik repost our contributions to the weekly Disquiet Junto projects, because they enjoy reading the explanations of the tracks. While you’re reading the original post, make sure you check out the other contributors’ works as well.

Florence, Italy, summer of 1990. Suss Müsik is sitting in a cafe with three fellow international students from the local art college. We’ve surpassed the “pleasantly drunk” phase and are rapidly accelerating into the “lemme tell you what I really think” stage.

Tonight’s topic of conversation is whether cultural salvation can be found in the likes of David Salle, Julian Schnabel, Jenny Holzer and Robert Longo.

“I hate Robert Longo’s work,” moans Daniel the post-modern painter from Cleveland. “Everything he’s done looks like that Branca album cover.”

“What’s a Branca,” slurs Roberto, whom we’ve dubbed Bill the Person because we suspect that’s his real name.

“He’s one of those New York types,” rasps Hartley the hippie sculptor in his Arkansas drawl. “Like Laurie Anderson.”

“Branca’s nothing like Laurie Anderson,” growls Suss Müsik. “For one thing, Laurie Anderson’s work is exceedingly boring.”

“Oh, like Branca’s not?” asks Daniel. “I mean, if you enjoy ear-piercing volume then that’s great, but boring and loud is still boring. And you really need to see Home of the Brave.”

Home of the Bore is more like it,” growls Suss Müsik. “And seriously, have you actually listened to The Ascension? Do you not hear the hidden tones between the layers of dissonance? The majestic sonic interplay created by hundreds of guitarists strumming a single chord? It’s like a symphony orchestra.”

“Do you guys like the new New Order?” interrupts Bill the Person.

“I don’t even like the old New Order,” dismisses Hartley with a wave of his hand. “Except that one song that goes ‘this is not my beautiful house.’”

Daniel points at Suss Müsik. “You’re nuts.”

“Defending Glenn Branca is nuts? At least someone at this table knows the difference between New Order and Talking Heads. Branca’s music isn’t loud for the sake of volume. It’s genuinely uplifting, cathartic. Plus, his participation in the No Wave movement helped to democratize a male-dominated landscape.”

“Democratic dominatrix no wave what?” squints Bill the Person.

“That is true,” Daniel quietly admits, nodding his head thoughtfully. “I hadn’t considered Branca’s influence on bands like Bush Tetras, Ut and Sonic Youth.” He pauses to wipe his hands on his Silence=Death t-shirt. “Maybe I should go back and check out Lesson No. 1.”

“Branca’s best stuff successfully blurs the line between highbrow and lowbrow art forms,” continues Suss Müsik. “You like Philip Glass, right? Some of Branca’s more cerebral work is similar. And if you want to jump up and down and get sweaty, the final two minutes of Light Field (In Consonance) is perfect. Branca’s probably the most maximal minimalist composer working today.”

“My favorite Allman Brothers album is Eat a Peach,” croaks Hartley. We already knew this because he mentions it every night.

“You know,” concludes Suss Müsik, “one day, there will be a global collective of talents who will come together to celebrate composers like Glenn Branca. They’ll explore the nuances of his craft through their own creative efforts. Who knows—maybe there’ll be some sort of communication technology that will allow musicians to share their output with a worldwide community of peers, inspiring artistic development among trusted friends.”

“Now you’re just talking crap,” murmurs Daniel, shaking his head. “Have another beer.”

Junto Project: Half Evil

Someone suggested that Suss Müsik repost our contributions to the weekly Disquiet Junto projects, because they enjoy reading the explanations of the tracks. While you’re reading the original post, make sure you check out the other contributors’ works as well.

If 666 is the number of the beast (as proclaimed by Iron Maiden nearly four decades ago), then 333 is … what? The number of half a beast? What diabolical acts would half a devil be capable of doing? No, there must another formula at work.

Suss Müsik has been fighting technology lately. This might due to the fact that much of Suss Müsik’s recording equipment dates from the Paleolithic Era. “One persistent dark side of industrialization,” said Jaron Lanier “is that any skill, no matter how difficult to acquire, can become obsolete when the machines improve.” A computer is half a devil.

If Vladimir Nabokov were writing Bend Sinister today, the novel’s setting might be a dystopian landscape in which ethics are established by computers. “At every given level of world-time,” he wrote, “there [is] a certain computable amount of human consciousness distributed throughout the population.” In this futuristic scenario, we might imagine the moral code to be limited by the boundary of storage space. Good behavior would be shared among millions as a precious commodity, passed from one person to another depending on available RAM and disk space.

Perhaps one becomes “half-evil” because there simply isn’t enough good to go around. By the same logic, however, it might be possible to suppress the half-evil from reaching full maturity. We can only hope.

For this creepy piece, Suss Müsik constructed an array of percussive, mechanical loops using two Moog synthesizers. These were rotated in half-measures while a prepared piano was recorded through two reverb pedals. The fake strings and pounding bass drum create the necessary dramatics, while two vocal tracks are refactored using the same Moog settings. The length of the piece is exactly 3’33”.

The piece is titled Padukgrad, named after the fictitious city in Nabokov’s novel. The image is taken from a t-shirt graphic designed by a friend of Suss Müsik.

Junto Project 0332:

Someone suggested that Suss Müsik repost our contributions to the weekly Disquiet Junto projects, because they enjoy reading the explanations of the tracks. While you’re reading the original post, make sure you check out the other contributors’ works as well.

Given a room containing 23 people, there is a better-than-half probability that two of them will share a birthday. This is due to a set of mathematical laws described by David J. Hand as the Improbability Principle, which is why he insists that coincidences should never come as a surprise. “Given enough opportunities,” writes Hand, “we should expect a specified event to happen, no matter how unlikely it may be at each opportunity.”

In September 2009, the Bulgarian lottery randomly selected 4, 15, 23, 24, 35 and 42 as its winning numbers. Precisely four days later, those exact same numbers were drawn again by the same lottery. Hand believes that this event was due to something called the “law of combinations,” in which each time a lottery result is drawn, there’s an increasing chance that it will contain the same numbers produced in any previous draw. The formula is n x (n –1)/2, if you’re interested.

For this nauseatingly jolly piece, Suss Müsik explored the music of coincidence through forced combinations. The Bulgarian lottery provided the inputs; the numbers 4 and 15 were extracted to arrive at a 4/4 time signature in nine segments. The numbers 23 and 24 were added and multiplied by two to create a tempo of 94. The numbers 35 and 42 made a sum of 77.

An electric guitar phrase was looped and sliced at key intervals according to the numbers: 5 second loops consisting of silent breaks at exact intervals: 1m10, 1m40, 1m50, 2m00, etc. The softly modulating background are two Moog devices operating at an LFO of 7.7.

Most of piece was played live and recorded quickly to 8-track. A little sketch indicates cues for when the guitar cuts out and the fake orchestral bits (strings, brass, percussion) come in. Here, have a look:

chart

The piece is titled Shans, which means “chance” in Bulgarian.

Junto Project 0331: Born Under a Bad Sign

Someone suggested that Suss Müsik repost our contributions to the weekly Disquiet Junto projects, because they enjoy reading the explanations of the tracks. While you’re reading the original post, make sure you check out the other contributors’ works as well.

If a robot is sad, it’s likely the fault of a human being. “To some degree, we all live out our emotional lives through technology,” writes Michael Harris in his book The End of Absence. “Yet every time we use our technologies as a mediator for the chaotic elements of our lives, we change our relationship with those parts of our lives that we seek to control … ultimately, we seek machines that can understand our feelings perfectly.”

Suss Müsik has never been comfortable unloading our deepest emotional traumas in any context—human, animal or machine—solely because we don’t want to subject our whinging upon others. A team of scientists once determined that the root cause of unhappiness is the persistence of painful childhood memories, which fester and accumulate over long periods of time. Now imagine a robot programmed to store entire reams of superficial data, terabytes of squalor dumped into its gloomy computerized brain like some digital landfill for the morbidly wretched. Hey, you’d feel sad too.

For this sedate piece, Suss Müsik aimed for a result somewhere between To Rococo Rot and Tom Waits. We started with a somber sequence on prepared piano and played it through a Boss RV-3 on the 12th dial setting. Two electronic figures were then composed for Moog synthesizer to imagine the sounds a sobbing robot might create. The misery ends with a sad trumpet and maudlin fake strings pecking at the carrion.

The piece is titled 0011101000101000, which is the binary code for an ASCII frowning face. The image is a sad little robot in Suss Müsik studios who feels a lot worse after hearing this piece.

Junto Project 0330: Wax Off

Someone suggested that Suss Müsik repost our contributions to the weekly Disquiet Junto projects, because they enjoy reading the explanations of the tracks. While you’re reading the original post, make sure you check out the other contributors’ works as well.

Suss Müsik began with a piece created for Disquiet Junto Project 0264. The brief that week was time travel, which makes perfect sense for thematically exploring the idea of erasure. If Suss Müsik were to go back in time, after all, the first thing we’d do is eliminate all the stupid mistakes we made over the years.

“I think of sound architecturally,” said composer Maggi Payne in Tara Rodgers’ excellent book Pink Noises. “I’m sculpting the space so that it becomes a tiny point source, a huge trapezoid, stretched diagonally, coming from the ceiling in the hall, coming from the top of your head .. it’s always clear that the apparent space is being morphed in some way.”

There is nothing more apparent to a space than having something removed from it. What is left behind but the spatialization of our memories? That’s the approach Suss Müsik took with this week’s Junto.

For this piece, Suss Müsik recorded the finished track from 0264 directly to 8-track, randomly cutting the volume at various points. What you hear in the background are fragments of the original recording session: a bit of reverb electric guitar here, some homemade metallic percussion there.

The piece is titled Tram, a root of the original title Trammel named after a word to describe something that restricts one’s freedom of action.

Junto Project 0329: Extended Version

Someone suggested that Suss Müsik repost our contributions to the weekly Disquiet Junto projects, because they enjoy reading the explanations of the tracks. While you’re reading the original post, make sure you check out the other contributors’ works as well.

“Wood turns electric,” wrote the late Grant McLennan, co-leader of the under-appreciated Go-Betweens. McLennan at first wanted to write and direct movies. In fact, it was a shared attraction to cinema that caused him and Robert Forster to meet and form one of Australia’s best-loved bands.

A semi-hollow body guitar offers a number of ways to create sound, the perfect meld of wood and electricity. It can be strummed or picked conventionally. It can be turned over and played like a percussion instrument. The strings are thick enough to make a satisfying scrape with a piece of metal, and the mere touch of an e-bow results in a wonderfully dissonant effect. All of this is possible even before plugging it in.

For this weird (and probably unlistenable) piece, Suss Müsik explored the hidden nuances of the semi-hollow body guitar. Each part was recorded live to 8-track through a Boss RV-3 pedal and then mixed dry, minus a bit of EQ and compression to fatten the sound a bit. No other instruments were used or abused.

Here’s how the sausage was made:

The opening drones were created by raising the strings with an aluminum tube and lightly tapping them with rubber mallets. The extended buzz-drones were made by loosening the strings while moving an e-bow up and down the guitar body. (Note: the effect is better with double-coil pickups, perhaps because there is more electromagnetic surface area).

That nonsense out of the way, the instrument was plugged into a Vox amp and randomly strummed through a Red Panda Tensor pedal. It’s at this point Suss Müsik remembered that the guitar had yet to be properly tuned, so attention was placed on the lowest string while randomly twisting the peg in both directions.

The percussive bits came about by slapping and pounding the back of the instrument. Those who have studied African drumming might recognize the rhythmic pattern as a warm-up exercise from the Babtunde Olatunji songbook.

The piece is titled Ifamọra, the Yoruba word meaning “attraction.” Yoruba is an official language spoken in the southwestern part of Nigeria.

Junto Project 0328: Sonic Pentimento

Someone suggested that Suss Müsik repost our contributions to the weekly Disquiet Junto projects, because they enjoy reading the explanations of the tracks. While you’re reading the original post, make sure you check out the other contributors’ works as well.

Suss Müsik admits that the words “pentimento” and “pimiento” are similar in appearance, and there was great temptation to do a piece on red peppers. Thankfully, you’re spared such shenanigans.

Suss Müsik also admits that although the work of Jon Hassell is admirable and important, his name isn’t what comes to mind when considering audio pentimeni. Rather, it is the dub stylings of Lee Scratch Perry, Adrian Sherwood/African Head Charge and others who best represent the concept of layering upon previous work to reveal new sonic landscapes – much the same way a billboard advertisement is scrubbed away by weather and wear & tear.

For this weird, almost dubby piece, Suss Müsik started with four submissions from previous Disquiet Junto Projects. (We’ll leave it to you to identify which ones were used). One segments was “scrubbed” using a Red Panda Tensor pedal. Another was stretched and run through a Moog MF-102 ring modulator, and another was played straight through a low-pass filter at various frequencies. The drum patterns were split and given a nice dollop of reverb.

The piece is titled after the artist and educator Merle Spandorfer, who passed away this week at the age of 83. Among Spandorfer’s contributions to painting was her advocacy for using non-toxic materials; her mixed-media works consisted of items from nature overlaid onto handmade paper.

The image is a fading sign on the side of a building somewhere in Louisville, Kentucky.