Post-classical ambient minimalism for crepuscular airports

Junto Project 0274: The Genre of Broken Sound [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.

Suss Müsik is egalitarian when it comes to concept development. We asked our friend Carvin to describe the experience of listening to a genre called broken sound. What does it sound like, Carvin?

“The sonic equivalent of H.P. Lovecraft’s description of the Old Ones,” he replied. “Incomplete, phasing in and out of dimensions, and the sight of which drives one to insanity.”

Love it. Tell us more.

“Tonally frustrating. The rhythm and phrases are out of time and place. They’re there and then they’re not. Cohesion and confusion buried deep. Like DNA with chunks of helixes missing and replaced with something else.”

For this project, Suss Müsik distorted the concept of a broken consort, which refers to Baroque music composed for instruments of more than one family (i.e.; strings and woodwinds). We used piano in addition to such nontraditional “instruments” as power tools, electronic gadgets and mechanical toys.

The result is an amorphous, glitchy mess of a piece: creepy, unstructured, atmospheric, dissonant and decidedly unrefined. It’s not exactly ambient in the usual sense, yet you’d be hard pressed to score any notation except in rare bits.

The piece is titled Nyarlathotep, named after the evil shape-shifting deity invented by Lovecraft who is capable of assuming 1,000 unique formations. The image is a blob of clear liquid soap.

Disquiet Junto 0273: Alarm Clocked [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.

The timing of this week’s Junto project oddly coincides with a new Suss Müsik obsession: hitting amplified objects with handmade mallets. This is the fundamental mechanical concept behind every alarm clock invented by Yi Xing, Levi Hutchins, Antoine Redier and Seth E. Thomas. The intention is to establish a firm break in a sleeper’s circadian rhythm. Once the serotonin pipeline is disrupted, there’s no going back.

An aside: striking something (or someone) with a heavy object is also a fundamental component in any Tom & Jerry or Three Stooges sequence. Suss Müsik hopes that this linkage is not taken literally in the Junto, and that no participants are harmed for the sake of creativity. For our part, we ruined a perfectly good rice cooker in the process.

For this short piece, Suss Müsik used an actual alarm clock purchased in Japan. As clocks go, this one’s pretty weird. The alarm settings include traditional bells, cute electronic songs probably lifted from video games, an odd take on Beethoven’s Für Elise, and a muffled voice shouting “hello.” We’ll let you identify which samples were used.

Anyway, the piece begins with lightly bowed and tapped guitar strings, which were run through a Vox amp on rotary reverb and recorded straight from the board. A cyclical counterpoint of marimba, synth and bass drum follows, everything rising in volume until the alarm clock announces its arrival. After the three-minute mark, clanking percussion and fuzzy bass take the listener on a tribal march to consciousness.

The piece is entitled Inemuri, named after the Japanese word for “snooze.”

Disquiet Junto 0272: Exoplanetary Intervals [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.

Suss Müsik is fascinated whenever a new planetary system is discovered. We imagine the excitement must be similar to a child finding loose change while building sand castles, albeit at a much grander cosmic scale. It’s evidence that life could have existed before we entered the scene, giving resonance to our actions.

According to an article on Gizmodo, a new Harvard University study raises the compelling evidence that the TRAPPIST-1 planets are close enough to each other that microbes could hop from one planet to another, skipping over rocks suspended in space between forms. Some scientists even suggest that life on Earth could have started this way, but don’t tell your Sunday School teacher that.

For this short piece, Suss Müsik created a series of simple polyrhythms on piano: 3:2, 4:3, 5:3 and what we think is sort of close to 8:5 (we lost count). These phrases were cycled “in orbit,” giving the effect of emerging and receding into listening distance. Individual notes were then allowed to “travel” from one phrase to another within a four-octave range.

The piece is titled Panspermia, named after the theory that life on our planet originated from chemical microorganisms who traveled through outer space searching for an environment suitable for habitat. The image is a chunk of marble pilfered from the cliffs of Carrara, Italy.

Disquiet Junto 0271: Prison Sky [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.

“Wait, for now,” wrote the poet Galway Kinnell. “Distrust everything, if you have to. But trust the hours.”

When one is incarcerated, life is nothing but empty hours. It’s a peculiar sort of time that is both structured and unstructured, shaped by the constraints of geometry and dictated by astronomical cycles. If one is fortunate to have a window to the outdoors, the view of the sky is framed not only by the size of the opening but also the sun’s rotation on its axis. Six hours of sky, half a meter square.

The ordeal of Bassel Khartabil is a heartbreaking love story. Suss Müsik imagines Noura Ghazi staring out her window and wondering if her husband might be alive or dead. Perhaps there was a moment when they gazed upon the same patch of sky at the same time, their thoughts locked as one.

For this piece, a melodic phrase is twinned on piano and flute accompanied by organ. The mood shifts at the 2:30 mark and becomes increasingly more foreboding. A drum machine clicks off time as the atmosphere deadens, recalling the anxious footsteps of a loved one awaiting bad news that may never arrive.

The piece is named after the Arabic word for “heart.”

Disquiet Junto 0268: In Tribute to Jiro Taniguchi [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.

Suss Müsik recalls reading an interview with Ryuichi Sakamoto, another Japanese legend who had a strong affinity for walking. Sakamoto mentioned his dislike for automobiles and admitted that he had never driven a car in his life; however, he enjoyed the sound that cars make while in operation.

Walking is a solitary activity that lends itself to mind expansion. We rarely concentrate on the destination or even the process of getting somewhere. Rather, we remain lost in our own thoughts as images and sounds blend into the background, superseded by the bitter noise within.

For this short, quiet piece, Suss Müsik consciously investigated “the space between” while walking. A simple piano motif replicates the heavy, soft footsteps we heard during our nocturnal stroll: thalum-thum, thalum-thum. In the background is the sampled sound of a distant train, manipulated beyond recognition, which accents the phased piano.

A strange thing occurs just after the two-minute mark, where it sounds as if nothing is happening even though the mix appears rather busy. That moment operates, perhaps, as a metaphor for how the mind travels while not thinking of anything in particular.

The piece is titled Mawaru, a Japanese word meaning to “wander about.” It can also mean to feel dizzy. The image is the rear plate of a plastic timepiece — we liked the little arrows.

Disquiet Junto 0267: The Metronomic Society [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.

Metronomes are based around predictability. In group musical performance, metronomes are necessary for accurate timekeeping. Even if an actual device isn’t available, at least one participant (usually the drummer) is responsible for ensuring that everyone knows how to count in: “And a one, and a two, and a three, and a four … rock and roll, hoochie koo.”

Metronomes are also the spine of anarchy, because every form of resistance hinges upon our interpretation of constraints. In probability theory, Bayes’ Law tells us that the likelihood of an event taking place can be determined by studying its conditions. The more evidence that is gathered, for example, the more likely we are to believe or not believe that something may or may not happen. Which explains everything about gambling and nothing about predicting weather.

For this short piece, Suss Müsik recorded a single percussive hit and replayed it by splitting the phrase and moving up one octave. The sequence was sampled and replayed with varying amounts of reverse-reverb. At times, the original phrase seemed to drown in its own echo before resuming its march. We went on for awhile and then stopped when it got tiresome, as all metronomes do at some point.

The piece is titled Bayesia and may eventually become a more substantial work. The image is an arrangement of clear acrylic blocks.

Disquiet Junto 0264: Time Travel [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.

God: You can never change the future. The past, yes, but not the future.

Lucifer: How do you change the past?

God: Why, the past is always changing—nobody remembers anything. But the future can no more be turned away than the light flowing off the moon.

This bit of dialogue is from Arthur Miller’s underrated play The Creation of the World and Other Business. It comes at a crucial point in the narrative where Lucifer admits to God that he compelled Eve & Adam to partake of the forbidden fruit, an act that ultimately banished God’s children from the Garden of Eden.

Time travel is not impossible; we are always revisiting past events in our efforts to understand the present, and our attempts to predict the future often arise from moments of stagnate contemplation. Anyone who has experienced the feeling of traveling by air or rail understands the dichotomy between moving and not moving, not unlike how a great piece of music rewards the listener’s investment by making time stand still.

For this short piece, Suss Müsik literally went back in time—ten years, to be exact. The source material is an eight-bar guitar phrase played with a Danelectro 12SDC 12-string in 2007. The sample was chopped through a Korg ToneWorks 411X processor and recorded live from a Vox AD30VT. The binaural motion cycles for about two minutes or so before the reverse reverb winds it down, coming almost to a halt. The momentary respite allows for a calming pause before the cymbals announce their arrival.

The piece is entitled Trammel, a word to describe something that restricts or impedes one’s freedom of action.

Disquiet Junto 0262: Ice Code [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.

Suss Müsik doesn’t believe in coincidence. The timing of this week’s Junto occurs with our current interest in using environmental noise as a compositional element. Also, it’s snowing outside.

The sound of ice hitting glass is inherently percussive. Live sampling allows simple yet compelling rhythmic structures to form. This technique was used to great effect by such artists as Kate Bush (think “Army Dreamers” or “Babooshka” on her album Never For Ever) and Pink Floyd’s famous use of a cash register on “Money.”

This short piece employs three short phrases played in counterpoint on violin, flute and piano, each missing a note at various points. Ice cubes were dropped into a glass tumbler to create the rhythm. (It’s surprisingly difficult to keep accurate time with melting ice — the cubes get slippery). A Boss RV-5 was used for the echoey ice-clink harmonics near the end. Some sort of weird phasing happened in there, but Suss Müsik has no fear of happy accidents so we left it in.

The piece is titled Syllogism, which is a form of deductive reasoning in which three categorical propositions are used to arrive at a false conclusion whose premise is at least one third invalid. We all know the feeling.

Suss Müsik gives a nod to Progchattery777 (who has a wonderful YouTube channel) for reawakening our appreciation of Kate Bush’s early-1980’s work. Special thanks to artist C. Koustourlis for playing the ice.

Disquiet Junto 0259: Lost Signals [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.

Suss Müsik is intrigued by the idea of sound being both there and not there. Every horror movie has at least one scene where someone asks, “Did you hear that?” The other person replies, “Hear what?” Panic ensues.

We’re reminded of the post-apocalyptic scenario described by science fiction author John Wyndham, who wrote The Day of the Triffids about a species of plant that blinds people when they look at it. The intent is clear: we can’t trust our senses because they are so easily disrupted.

Suss Müsik is further intrigued by non-verbal communication. When T.E Grau describes an “odd chanting like a spectral dirge,” it’s easy to envision that the ghostly transmitted message being heard is a warning of some kind.

Grau’s mention of a “lonely Indian powow” recalls the Northern Paiute religious leader and prophet Wovoka, founder of the Ghost Dance movement in 1890. The Ghost Dance was used by Native American tribes to call upon ancient spirits following the Wounded Knee Massacre, in the hope that the ritual would help them reclaim the earth they had lost.

For this short piece, Suss Müsik sought to summon the lost voices hidden between static noise and the instrumentation of chance. One of the guitars was strummed with a jar of rocks on the strings; another was played by dropping pebbles and metallic objects on its fretboard. Cables were scraped with a file. The odd percussion is a handsaw tapped with a mallet; other saws were “played” conventionally by actually cutting things.

Somewhere along the way, an odd timbre emerged that resembled a human voice or hiccup. It sounded weird but we liked it. The result is something like a brief personal encounter, two bodies moving at different speeds in different directions, intersecting at an unrepeatable point in time.

This is a reconfigured excerpt of a longer composition entitled Wovoka, which means “wood cutter” in the Northern Paiute language. Anisotropy is when a physical property has different values depending on how it’s measured. The image is a cut glass lens refracting a single point of light.

Disquiet Junto 0258: Sonic Climate [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.

It’s winter at Suss Müsik headquarters; today is the first truly cold day of the season. The first evidence of winter is usually the hollow sound of the wind blowing through our chimney and rattling through the studio ductwork. The greenery outside has begun its period of dormancy, the colorful vibrancy of fall replaced with a neutral thicket of browns and greys. We may get snow tonight.

WInter coincides with the holiday season. Bells can be heard ringing through the streets and there’s a sentimental magic to the air. After the holidays, an abyss takes over where sunlight is scarce. Those who embrace the festivities of December will isolate themselves come January, especially when winter storms are fierce and roads are impassable.

An aside: Suss Müsik recalls spending time in the farthest reaches of the north, where the construction and logging industries come to a halt between November and April. Unemployment in those parts is rampant during the cruel winter months. People exist in quiet desperation, waiting in solitude for the spring thaw with only cabin fever and a bottle of Thunderbird for company.

For this short piece, Suss Müsik attempts to channel three elements of the winter season: the first breaths of an early snowfall, the Yuletide celebration, and that moment of terror when the walls close in. A simple piano motif builds upon a bed of mallet percussion and ceramic flute, followed by an insistent beat topped with fuzzy bass and snarky guitar feedback.

We didn’t intend to make such a dark piece, but the muse goes where it goes. The piece is titled Weltschmerz, a German word that describes the melancholy feeling of being disconnected from the physical world.

Featured are the beautifully spatial tones of ceramic artist John Kulias playing a homemade Native American flute. Check out his work at Meadowlark Flutes and his wonderful YouTube channel.