Post-classical ambient minimalism for crepuscular airports

Junto Project 0378: Blue(tooth) Haze [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 concept of Transhumanism was first introduced in 1990 by Max More, who optimistically suggested that human capability would soon be augmented by our embrace of augmentative technologies. He wasn’t wrong; examples are all around us in the form of genetic engineering, artificial intelligence and biometric nanotechnology. A more common example might be the way hearing aids and cochlear implants enhance humans’ ability to interpret sounds.

“We favor morphological freedom,” said More. “[We support] the right to modify and enhance one’s body, cognition and emotions.” Suss Müsik agrees. There are, however, ethical and social considerations. If a computer is not yet able to interpret context, then how can it be trusted to accurately convey an emotion? At what point should a machine be permitted to redefine the trust we place in our own senses? While a hearing aid provides wonderful benefits, it also somewhat distorts our concept of auditory range. If a tree falls in the forest and we can’t hear it without a device, can we honestly say that it made a sound? Riddle that awhile.

These are weighty topics, and Suss Müsik hasn’t even mentioned yet how our studio’s Bluetooth UE ROLL speaker (ironically nicknamed “Ultimate Ears”) tends to stutter when a connected device is moved out of range. This was the basis for this week’s Junto. For this piece, two ambient fields were performed and recorded through the UE ROLL straight to disk. The recordings were then sped up to create a base rhythm. Woodwinds, strings, percussion and piano were added afterward.

The vocal is Apple’s “Samantha” VoiceOver reciting an email created by Google’s Natural Language API. The vocal was recorded twice, each through a separate Moog synth module, then patched through a glitch filter at the same rate as the Bluetooth-derived tempo.

The piece is titled Exhumanism. The Creative Commons image is of a British gutta-percha hearing aid made sometime between 1840 and 1910. Thank you to artist and collaborator H. Bean for providing the text, which appears below:

I will be there in a few minutes and I’ll be there.
I will be there in a few minutes and I’ll be there up to today.
And I will be there in a few minutes and I’ll be there up to today and tomorrow.
And I will be there at the same time as the one I have.
The one I have is a good time to come by and see you soon.
I will be there to have a great day and I will be there at the same time as the one I have is a good time to come by and see you guys.
You guys how are you doing today and how are you doing today and how are you doing.
You have a good day and time and have you been up to today and tomorrow.
And tomorrow is the last day of the month and I have a few questions.
I have a few questions about what I am not sure.
I have a few questions about how I am not sure if I can make it to the meeting tonight but I can tomorrow.
If you want to do it in the morning and I will be there is a lot of work to do and I will be there at the same time and place and I’ll be back up to the outside.
And it is the best part about being able to see it and not the same as the one I have.
The one I have is a good time to come by and see you soon.
And have a great day and I will be there at the same time as they.
You know if you are interested in the morning so I can yes I can.
Yes I can.

Junto Project 0377: Algorithms Ensemble [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 most indubitable respect in which ideas have helped mankind is numbers,” wrote the philosopher and logician Bertrand Russell. “We have become, in certain respects, progressively less like animals [in] that forethought more and more dominates [our] impulses.”

Russell believed that all human knowledge was, at most, a best guess based upon knowledge attained to that point. In his 1903 book The Principles of Mathematics, Russell argued that mathematical concepts were immune from doubt because they were constructed entirely of logic. An algorithm is really nothing more than a process — a set of rules to be followed in order to achieve a result.

The logic breaks down because life and language are slippery, inexact and subjective. A famous example of Russell’s Paradox is the barber who shaves everybody in town except those who shave themselves. Who shaves the barber? If he shaves himself, then he doesn’t shave himself; if he doesn’t, then he does. Groucho Marx once remarked that he would never join a club who would have him as a member. Suss Müsik doesn’t really make music, nor do we do much sussing. Paradoxes abound.

For this piece, a simple four-note phrase was played on piano utilizing a scale of 8 notes. The 2431 algorithm was applied not only to note sequences, but also to sustain levels and attack times. This created a weird phasing effect during transitions. The algorithm was also applied to a “scale” of wordless vocal recordings by Suss Müsik friend, collaborator and mentor Wm. Wolfgang Allen. Expect more such collaborations from this team in the very near future.

The piece is titled Russellian. Many thanks to NorthWoods for contributing this inventive and interesting assignment to the Disquiet Junto community.

Junto Project 0375: Despite Yourself [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.

If you were to go back in time and flip through the record collection of 13-year-old Suss Müsik, you might discover a few surprises. Tucked somewhere between Lamb Lies Down on Broadway and the odd Brothers Johnson album, you’ll find the heavy metal classic Paranoid by Black Sabbath. Even today, a casual listen of “Fairies Wear Boots” is impossible to resist. Arms raised, convulsive head shaking, ‘devil horns’ hand gestures … the whole bit.

Birmingham in the 1970’s was a largely working class city, its economic infrastructure dependent on factories and manufacturing. The sound of early Black Sabbath reflects their industrial surroundings: a chugging, blues-influenced slog characterized by low guitar tunings and beastly repetitive rhythmic structures. It was primordial sludge with a lyrical penchant for examining one’s sense of identity under traumatic (and chemically self-induced) conditions.

Suss Müsik wonders if Paranoid had been a different sort of album had the band emerged from, say, London or Berlin. “The ability of each organism to respond to environmental challenges introduces a degree of uncertainty into the physical word,” wrote the physicist Louise B. Young in her book The Unfinished Universe. “Consciousness is the central experience of life … even the most elementary inert forms of matter act in a manner which extends their own existence [over] time.” The appeal of heavy metal music, despite the genre’s increased sophistication and diversity, remains fundamentally distinct: RAWK OUT, DUDE.

Suss Müsik created this warped piece as a sort of homage to “uncertain” heavy metal, investigating the nuances between cosmic self-examination and our rudimentary (almost primal) compulsion for survival. Think of it as Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs set to 4/4 time with lots of guitars. It’s no “War Pigs” or “Iron Man,” but you might bob your head a bit. Bonus pseudo-mystical nonsense included free of charge.

The piece is titled Dopamine, the brain chemical linked to feelings of pleasure yet known to cause paranoid anxiety when administered in high amounts.

Junto Project 0374: Glitch 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.

Glitch can be interpreted as a form of deception. Technological malfunctions impede the transference of accurate or complete information, akin to how human being lie in order to shroud an unpleasant truth.

A double-glitch is akin to a poignant human arrangement in which two people willingly deceive one another, relinquishing any semblance of trust in order to achieve mutual recognition. “Therefore I lie with her, and she with me,” wrote Shakespeare in Sonnet 138. “And in our faults by lies we flattered be.”

Suss Müsik mourned the loss of Mark Hollis this week. Even during Talk Talk’s relatively commercial phase as a viable mid-1980’s synth-pop band, one can hear undercurrents of instrumental distress. Listen to the guitar on “Life’s What You Make It,” for example. A friend of Suss Müsik described the guitar tone as sounding like “it doesn’t even want to be there,” which brings to mind the uneasy relationship that musicians sometimes have with their instruments.

For this weird piece, Suss Müsik sought to explore the dynamic between humans and musical instruments in the form of glitch mechanics. A simple acoustic guitar phrase was played live and recorded to disk. The digital output was spliced and reassembled as a loop. The loop was then passed through an Infinite Jets re-synthesizer and re-recorded live to 8-track.

The piece is titled Sissela, named after the Swedish author and ethicist Sissela Bok. In addition to writing the book Lying: Moral Choice in Public and Private Life, Ms. Bok won a Nobel Peace Prize the same year Talk Talk’s debut album was released.

Junto Project 0371: Concrete Ambience [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.

Concrete is all structure with very little aesthetic appeal. Wallpaper, on the other hand, is all visual aesthetics with no structure. What concrete and wallpaper have in common is they both crack. The cracks that emerge destroy the structural foundation of concrete and the visual appeal of wallpaper.

“For almost everyone, the word ‘structure’ evokes a strong visual of something that has been built,” wrote Mark Eberhart in his book Why Things Break. “A civil engineer fashions designs from a palette of I-beams, reinforcing rod, and concrete … yet simply putting things together from the appropriate palette does not qualify one as an engineer.” You might be thinking this same rationale disqualifies Suss Müsik from having anything to do with musical composition. No argument here.

Anyway, Suss Müsik approached this project with the intent of exploring composition as a palette of sounds. The ‘concrete’ elements comprise a blocky phrase performed on strings and Moog synthesizer. The ‘wallpaper’ component is a nonstructural mess that has no beginning or end, requiring the buttress of a flat surface (percussion) in order to display its intent. The piece was performed live from two laptops and recorded quickly to 8-track, minus overdubbed percussion.

The piece is titled Synovial, named after the fluid that lubricates joints in the human body and allows us to crack our knuckles.

Junto Project 0366: Ice Breaker [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.

“Suddenly I saw the cold and rook-delighting heaven,” wrote the poet William Butler Yeats. “That seemed as though ice burned and was but the more ice … And I took all the blame out of all sense and reason.”

Yeats’ classic poem expresses a shift in his opinion of what heaven will offer. Without his true love, the vision he had of spending eternity in warmth is replaced with cold neutrality. Perhaps this what Talking Heads were attempting to convey when they told us, “Heaven is a place where nothing ever happens.”

In totally unrelated news, Suss Müsik has been dealing with a bone fracture. One’s appreciation for human capability increases the moment it’s taken away. Still, there is the desire to get up and get on with things. Hence, what you have here is a one-armed composition for Moog synth, strings, organ, percussion, and ice cubes.

For this piece, Suss Müsik recorded ice cubes in a glass filtered through an Infinite Jets glitch processor. Select bits were resampled and patched to create the two base rhythms, one housed within the other like how a skeleton supports the human body. The remaining instruments were played and recorded live.

The piece is titled Osseous. The image is a medical ice pack, Suss Müsik’s best friend of late.

Junto Project 0356: Ground Swell [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.

First settled in 1733, Savannah is the oldest city in the U.S state of Georgia. The bustling port played an integral role in the Atlantic slave trade, importing thousands of African people of primarily Congolese descent.

Even after the state banned the direct important of Africans in 1798, written records indicate that slave ships arrived on coastal Georgia as late as 1858. Many of these were driven by pirates who profited by luring escaped slaves to their boats, imprisoning them, and selling their labor overseas.

In 1854, a French ship called The Grietely arrived in Savannah to collect 71 runaway slaves. Chained to the bottom of the boat, the slaves pounded the walls in order to escape. As the damaged ship began to take in water, the captain refused help from locals to save those imprisoned below deck. Everyone chained to the boat perished.

Legend has it that the harbor remains haunted by the ghosts of those who drowned on The Grietely. Some sailors insist that they can sense a force in the waters that pulls their boats off course. Others have reported hearing voices spoken in Bantu.

For this piece, Suss Müsik layered recordings of African American laments against a bed of Moog synth and bass drum. Listeners may recognize the haunting lyric of New Buryin’ Ground: “Well I can hear the hammer ringin’ / On somebody coffin / A well, it must have been my captain,” in addition to an unknown vocalist singing Arwhoolie Cornfield Holler.

The piece is titled Grietely. The image was taken on the waters of the Savannah river.

Junto Project 0355: Sonic Vivisection [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.

Galway Kinnell’s poem “The Bear” explores the conflict between humans and their natural environment, signifying the metaphorical paradox that occurs when hunter and prey become one. The poem’s seven section takes us through a grisly dream sequence in which the central theme (a bear’s animalistic search for food) represents one’s instinctual need for survival, married with the subconscious hunger to understand how and why we exist.

At the poem’s crucial moment, the narrator’s comes upon the “scraggled,/ steamy hulk” of an eviscerated bear. He splits, devours and enters the rotting carcass before assuming the bear’s identity:

I hack
a ravine in his thigh, and eat and drink,
and tear him down his whole length
and open him and climb in
and close him up after me, against the wind,
and sleep.

And dream
of lumbering flatfooted
over the tundra,
stabbed twice from within,
splattering a trail behind me,
splattering it out no matter which way I lurch …

The poem’s final line is the narrator asking himself, “what, anyway,/ was that sticky infusion, that rank flavor of blood, that poetry, by which I lived?” Suss Müsik often ponders similar questions.

For this piece, a ravine was hacked into a sound field and worn like a fur-covered shell. Organ chords were played through two MoogerFooger processors, then spliced, sampled & distorted in real time using the Infinite Jets “swell” setting. An additional noise filter compressed the signal, its melodies lumbering flatfooted over a wintry tundra splattered with sonic debris.

Although the piece lacks any sort of “surgical” precision, such is often the case when cuts are made with bone rather than medical instruments. The final result was performed live and recorded quickly to 8-track.

The piece is titled Poincheval, named after the French artist who lived a week inside a fake bear.

Junto Project 0353: Warp & Weft [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 initially misread this week’s Junto theme as being inspired by a line from an early Cocteau Twins song: “The devil bite’s dirty, we warp and weft.” This should provide an inkling of how little we know about the textile sciences. Not that you couldn’t make the same assumption by simply looking through Suss Müsik’s wardrobe.

As part of our research, Suss Müsik consulted with an expert versed in the subtle art of warping and wefting. “Basically the warp is vertical lines of yarn attached to a loom,” we were told. “The weaver then inserts the weft yarn horizontally back and forth to form a fabric.”

Okay, got it.

“There are different techniques when making something like a tapestry. You can do a vertical slit by weaving two wefts toward each other until they meet at the place where the slit is desired. You can also do a diagonal slit by turning at the same point in succeeding weft passes, moving one or more warp ends to either side of the previous turn.”

Um … okay.

“You can also do something called hatching, where two weft yarns approach, meet, and return from one another in a series of joins in a random overlapping fashion. My favorite is the dovetail interlock, where two adjacent color wefts circle a common warp end as a turning point.”

At this point, Suss Müsik politely shooed away all this talk of warping and wefting and got to work. An egg shaker provides the longitudinal structure, while two gently plucked guitar phrases behave as weft hooks. Two Moog synth washes are then “woven” across the front of the mix.

Halfway through, two drum patterns interlock as a binaural databend of the provided image stretches behind them. Hand-over-hand piano polyrhythms complete the “tapestry” while an EWI whines in the foreground. The last sound heard is a harmonic treatment of the original image’s bit data converted to sound.

Upon hearing the piece, our textile consultant determined that it most closely resembled a dovetail interlocking pattern. Something to do with a third color emerging from the two grounds overlapping, so we’re told.

Junto Project 0352: Layering Permutations [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.

Next time you misplace your keys, try thinking like an ant.

Ants solve problems collectively by secreting messages to other ants. When an ant finds a source of food, it walks back to the colony leaving pheromone markers. As other ants discover that the pheromone trail leads to food, they populate the path with their own markers. The more ants who travel the path, the more pheromones are dropped. Once the food source is depleted, the ants cease populating the trail and any remaining pheromones slowly decay.

Scientists who study this behavior refer to something called the Ant Colony Optimization (ACO) metaheuristic. That’s a fancy way of saying that ants tend to prefer shorter trails with stronger pheromones, not unlike how computer algorithms disambiguate search terms. When someone types the word “cars” into Google, for example, it’s important to differentiate the intended task of buying an automobile from watching a movie or listening to a 1980’s new wave band.

For this piece, Suss Müsik treated a single piano melody as an “algorithm” by layering each permutation. As the base path is developed, other instruments randomly travel outside the melody, perhaps resembling how ants continue scouting for additional food sources. The sequence ultimately “optimizes” with all musical pheromones aligning toward a single discovery.

The piece is titled Pheromones and composed for piano, violin, woodwinds, cello and brass.