Post-classical ambient minimalism for crepuscular airports

Junto Project 0350: Selected Insomniac Works

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 knows all about insomnia for the mentally fragile. We’ll spare you the details, other than to say this: when one is dedicated to the craft of “post-classical ambient minimalism for crepuscular airports,” exploring the nuance between dusk and dawn is something of an occupational necessity. It’s a tough job, but someone has to do it.

“I fellowed sleep who kissed me in the brain / Let fall the tear of time; the sleeper’s eye,” writes the poet Dylan Thomas. “There grows the hours’ ladder to the sun / Each rung a love or losing to the last.” These two couplets succinctly describe the duality of insomnia, which in Suss Müsik’s experience takes two forms.

The first form of insomnia is a woozy precipice between not quite being asleep or awake — not exactly alert, yet consciously aware that time is passing. The second form (usually following the first) is a whirlpool of cognitive dissonance: the body may be tired, but the brain actively rages at an endless cycle of unanswerable questions. How many years do I have left? Did I remember to pay the insurance? Do I have cancer? What’s that sound downstairs? Who or what is touching my leg?

For this piece, Suss Müsik sought to represent both forms of insomnia through sound. The piece begins with the insistent tempo of a CR-78 drum machine, which signifies the ticking of a clock, its rhythm punctuated by jabs of piano. A field of electronic fog slowly emerges from within and builds to a quiet roar. With the whine of a saxophone, everything retreats back into the subconscious. The ticking CR-78 returns to close things out.

The piece is titled Chiasmus, named after a grammatical structure in which a phrase is reversed with no repetition in words. Next time you have insomnia, try to list as many of these as you can remember from when you were in school.

Junto Project 0349: Got Glitch? [repost]

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.

Shredder 1.0 is an “alternative web browser” developed in 1998 by artist Mark Lanier. It remains live and online today, even twenty (!) years after launch. You can try it out at www.potatoland.org/shredder/.

The application works by passing a website’s source code through a rudimentary Perl script, which then rearranges the visual elements into a two-dimensional pile of abstracted screen fragments. The effect resembles a screenshot sliced into tiny pieces and thrown all over the floor, not unlike the random chaos of a Jackson Pollack painting. “My works are not objects but interfaces,” Lanier wrote in 2001. “By interacting with the work, the visitors shape the piece, causing it to change and evolve in unpredictable ways.”

In his book Why Things Break, author Mark. E. Eberhart describes how “for almost everyone, the word ‘structure’ evokes a strong visual.” Lanier’s approach turns this definition on its head by forcing us to visualize the *lack* of structure, or at least to contemplate a structure whose components are always in fluctuation.

A glitch, then, might be defined in digital terms as the identifiable break in which computerized output (graphics, text, etc.) experiences a change in structure. “Into the computer goes the question,” writes Eberhart, “and out comes a total change in entropy.”

For this weird piece, Suss Müsik sought to recreate a change in entropy through sound. Random musical phrases were played on piano, organ, electric guitar, fake woodwinds and percussion. These recordings were refactored and split using a digital delay pedal, then resequenced to 8-track as a single audio pane.

The piece is titled Shredder. The image is the Suss Müsik website run through the Shedder algorithm.

Junto Project 0348: Hot Mise en Abyme [repost]

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.

In 1978, a young animator named Louis Carpenter used computer-generated fractal geometry to draw complex objects in three-dimensional space. He started with a pyramid, dividing each of its triangular sides into smaller shapes and repeating the process indefinitely. You can see the output of Carpenter’s efforts in Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan, the first feature film to contain a computerized sequence using this method. Now you know.

Evidence of fractal geometry can be found everywhere throughout the natural world, from the branching of trees to the human cardiovascular system. Taken in this context, mise en abyme might reasonably be considered the most organic of creative practices. Some consider the craft to be nothing more than a recursive gimmick: M.C. Escher on a coffee mug. Yet if one were to view ultrasound images comparing the vascular structures of healthy organs against those riddled with tumors, the significance of fractal repetition can be creatively inspiring.

For this piece, Suss Müsik played a simple piano/violin phrase and split it into smaller “shapes” to be looped through various effects modules. Every sound heard in this piece is derived from the original using some combination of ring modulators, glitch/swell effects, low-pass filters, digital reverb/delays, and a bit of tube amp distortion. The subdivided sonic “shapes” grow smaller and smaller until rendered inaudible.

The piece is titled Sierpiński in honor of Waclov Sierpiński’s recursive process in which a shape is subdivided into smaller versions of itself. The image is one side of a crystal polyhedron.

Junto Project 0347: Remix Remodel [repost]

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.

This is Suss Müsik’s first Disquiet Junto project in a while, following a period in which the studio was used as temporary storage during a renovation. it’s difficult to create while working around 4′ x 8′ stacks of building materials. In between were periods of travel, illness, confusion, sedation. It’s been a weird summer.

Re-emerging from a self-imposed hiatus is something like awakening from a cryogenic slumber. The world has changed, except it hasn’t. In his classic children’s novel The Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Grahame describes (through the voice of Mole) the benefits of hiding away:

“Once well underground, you know exactly where you are. Nothing can happen to you, and nothing can get at you. Things go on all the same overhead, and you let ’em, and don’t bother about ’em. When you want to, up you go, and there the things are, waiting for you.”

Suss Müsik poked through the topsoil recently to discover two amazing pieces of music by longtime Junto participants. One is a lovely bit of electronic froth by mat; the other a bracing percussion sequence by Daniel Diaz. Suss Müsik enjoyed these bits immensely and thought they might sound nice together.

Listen to “Tachos number 2” by Daniel Diaz.

Listen to “just type w// norns foulplay” by mat.

For this strangely tranquil piece, Daniel’s kitchen percussion was sequenced front-to-back while mat’s synth noodlings were split into smaller bits. Both components were played in real time at various “glitch” and “swell” settings using Hologram Infinite Jets and Moogerfooger MF-102 processors. No other instrumental voices were used other than a single piano chord.

The piece is titled , named after the Danish word for “thaw.” The image is frozen juice pulp.

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.