Post-classical ambient minimalism for crepuscular airports

More Collaborations with Artist B.G. Madden

Over the past year, Suss Müsik has enjoyed working with visual artist B.G. Madden on a series of art/sound collaborations. One piece explores system in nature to reveal hidden relationships between the natural work and synthetic technology. Another piece uses Madden’s work as graphic notation, rendering pigment and plaster into polyrhythmic fields.

This partnership has produced three new pieces built almost entirely from audio scans of Madden’s newest work: a series of open compositions inspired by the sculpture of Richard Serra and the architecture of Tadeo Ando. Both of these visionaries transform the brute aesthetic of their chosen materials into delicate studies of ever-shifting light.

Suss Müsik sought to accomplish a similar synthesis in sound. Madden’s work was scanned using a computer algorithm. These unendurable blobs of static were processed in real time using the major pentatonic (five-tone) scale in keys of D# and F#. The process resulted in a rich library of sonic overlaps.

The first piece, titled Montessori, combines two dissonant (yet seductive) surface textures to form an engagingly simple configuration of glitchy ambience:

The second piece, titled Corbusier, references building architecture less subtly in both its title and single-chord scaffolding. The title is derived by the educational approach that focuses on behavioral observation:

The third piece, titled Dovum, was created from Madden’s more Jan Dibbets-inspired work. The title is a mashup of the words doven (prayers recited in a Jewish liturgy) and ovum (a cell that reproduces when fertilized by its counterpart):

Marc Weidenbaum of Disquiet wrote a very kind analysis of Dovum that beautifully sums up what Suss Müsik has been trying to achieve since 2015: “a digital purity of sound that is employed to present materials whose cumulative chaos strives to approach that of the natural, analog, flesh-and-blood world.” Thank you, Marc.

The entire B.G. Madden collaboration is available for listening on SoundCloud. Discussions are underway to release a proper album and play some live dates. Stay tuned.

Update = Yet another new collaboration has arisen. The piece is titled Oort, named after astronomer Jan Oort who discovered a sphere of icy objects at the edge of our solar system and from which comets are believed to originate.

Original graphite works by B.G. Madden are shown below:

Art 1 by B.G. Madden

Art by B.G. Madden

Art 3 by B.G. Madden

Egret Zero EP

Egret Zero album coverThings slowed down a bit on the Suss Müsik communications network; however, there was a great deal of activity behind the scenes. For one thing, we launched a new musical project with the very talented Wm. Wolfgang Allen called Egret Zero.

The first EP was released at the end of 2019, with easily another three albums’ worth of material yet to be mined. The EP is available on all the usual channels (YouTube, Spotify, Amazon, Bandcamp) with a possible vinyl release under discussion.

There is every possibility that Mr. Allen will release at least one or two solo albums within short distance as well, and you would be well within your senses to explore his guitar and electronic landscapes when they become available.

Junto Project 0420: Luna Tick

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.

“Women’s cycles are controlled by the moon,” someone recently told Suss Müsik. “After all, the word menstruation is partially derived from the Greek word mene, which means ‘moon.’ Obviously there’s a connection, right?”

Data science suggests otherwise. Menstrual cycles do not sync with the phases of the moon, according to researcher Dr. Marija Vlajic Wheeler, who analyzed 7.5 million cycles and found no correlation between the two. Then again, perhaps the connection is not so much scientific as romantic—less empiricism, more mythology. Consider the following passage by Helsinki poet Paavo Haavikko:

You marry the moon
and the sea and the moon and the woman: ear less, all. ·
You’ll listen to their voices, you’ll talk to them
and they say
it’s a game.

You Marry the Moon is an example of “Haavikko’s awareness of the complexities of communication involved in any sexual relationship,” according to translator Anselm Hollo. Such acute awareness is “gained through the realization that only the particular is worth the attempt. It is there, a world, waiting for others to discover as much of as they can.”

Perhaps the lesson we take from this is to think of the moon as a transient being. The phases of the moon are defined by its position in the sky, fleeting and always temporary. Our lives resonate in proximity to heavenly bodies, the paths we cross subconsciously intertwined. As Haavikko wrote:

in sleep nothing exists, only the moon is full,
the moon your silver mother
sleep on
and the moon’s path will cross the sky of your sleep
be at rest
no-one will come, oh, no-one else, only the moon
crossing your dream sky on its way to earth’s.

For this weird piece, Suss Müsik sought to explore phases of sound that concentrate on “the particular” while crossing one “dream sky” with another. Human sounds are passed through a grain synthesizer at the same frequency as recorded static, their individual “phases” overlapping in cosmic synchronicity.

The piece is titled Haavikko. It was recorded live to 8-track in January 2020.

Junto Project 0415: Seasonal Metal [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.

Tinsel is made by sliding large sheets of polyvinyl chloride plastic into a large cutting machine. The film is sliced into long, thin strips before being fed into a threading contraption that spins alongside a galvanized wire lead. The process is complete when the entire ribbon is twisted by centrifugal force and lifted out by hand, ready to be cut and packaged.

Suss Müsik used a similar process for this week’s Disquiet Junto. Guitar loops of different sonic textures were sliced into loops and fed along a Moog arpeggiator “lead.” These slices were then twisted around each other and played conventionally, increasing the reverb from dry to wet. About 90% of the work was in the preparation; the final result was recorded quickly to 8-track.

The piece is titled Tinsellator. The image is a Polaroid photograph of tinsel taken with a cheap Holga camera.

Junto Project 0390: Pace Quickens [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 speed of time increases naturally as we get older. In Suss Müsik’s estimation, the only way to stop time is to create a parallel facsimile that suspends belief in our sense of chronology. Good luck with that.

In 1880, Eadweard Muybridge underwent a similar conquest: he wanted to start and stop the action of time in motion. Using a camera equipped with two boards and a spring (leaving a 1/8 inch opening in the lens), Muybridge was able to capture the image of a man riding a horse at one five-hundredth of a second. Putting these images together in a sequence allowed for a visual precision never achieved by the human eye.

Using a device Muybridge named the zoogyroscope (basically a metal drum mounted on a spindle with slits on the side), viewers could watch an entire series of Muybridge’s frames at any speed they wished. Thus was born the technology that eventually became the motion picture. If you’ve ever been stuck watching a truly horrid movie, blame Muybridge.

For this odd piece, Suss Müsik started with the output from Disquiet Junto 0299. Granted, it doesn’t take much effort to speed up a tempo of only 10 BPM, but there you have it. The instrumentation is largely the same with some added electronic percussion, soft electric piano chords, and gritty synth guitar to form a bit of structure.

The piece is titled Muybridge. The image is one of his series of a woman playing tennis.

Junto Project 0389: Long Then [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.

Extending time between moments provides opportunities for self-reflection. Anselm Hollo’s wonderful poem, titled Bits of Soft Anxiety, examines the mental space in which long-ago memories calcify into decisions we never intend to make:

dreamt: crossroads
drove straight ahead
arrived then with some confusion beating of wings sound of great engines etc.
in a strange country where things kept falling on him and out of him
they didn’t hurt but caused some anxiety nevertheless
maybe they were just cherry blossoms
maybe it was just his old difficulty of remaining in the upright position of
the higher primates
maybe it was May
as it was in the other place where he spent most of his happy waking time

For this piece, Suss Müsik revised our contribution for Disquiet 0275, which in itself was a revision of Disquiet 0272, a version of which ended up on a Suss Müsik Bandcamp release in a different style. This resulted in a derivative of a revision of a revision, which at one point became a derivative of another revision. Got all that?

The piece from Disquiet 0275 consisted of eight polyrhythmic phrases counting six notes apiece. The pace was slowed down to a third its original tempo, which allowed for greater nuances between instruments. The piano was replaced with a heavily treated Wurlitzer sound; the vibes and strings were set at 1/4 and 1/8 their original meters.

The piece began to sound like something out of a David Lynch movie, so vocals were used to add a spot of color. The piece was recorded live to 8-track; the quality is a bit dodgy.

The work is titled Rosaceae. The vocal is by Roses Sabra and used under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license (CC BY 3.0) . Full details below.


This work, “Rosaceae [Disquiet0389]”, is a derivative of “Romantic – night hour >> Saturday.mp3” by Roses1401, used under CC BY 3.0. The original source audio was edited, copied and pasted into 16 parcels controlled by a MIDI pad device. Filters and reverb were applied to the individual samples during recording.

Junto Project 0388: Random Less [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 Strachey Love Letter Generator was a computer program developed by Christopher Strachey in 1952. Arguably the first known work of digital literature, the program was created on a Ferranti Mark I Computer (MUC) at Manchester University.

Using a series of templates, Strachey’s program could randomly produce love letters at a pace of one per minute, for hours at a time, without a single duplicate. A simple sentence beginning with the word “My,” for example, could generate over 424 million combinations from only 20 nouns.

Here’s an example of the swoon-worthy prose the Generator was capable of producing:

DARLING SWEETHEART,

MY FANCY TREASURES YOUR HUNGER. YOU ARE MY FERVENT ENTHUSIASM, MY LOVING FERVOUR, MY EAGER LUST, MY PRECIOUS AFFECTION.

YOURS LOVINGLY,

M.U.C.

Makes the heart flutter, don’t it? Feel free to try it yourself.

For this strange (and thankfully short) piece, Suss Müsik consulted an online random word generator 2 with one simple rule: use the first three instruments that appear, in that order, while also using an adjective that appears in the same set. It took a long time, but here’s where we landed:

organ < > corroded
cymbal < > insistent
guitar < > utopian

What does a “utopian guitar” even sound like? Who knows. Maybe it sounds like this. Maybe it doesn’t. It’s random!

The piece is titled Strachey. The image is a mashup of two public domain images from the British Library collection.

Junto Project 0386: New Colors [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.

By the time each one of us is born, we’re already intimately aware of security. We sense our mother’s heartbeat while residing in the womb, which carries us through childbirth. As an infant, when we hear a familiar voice—frequently that of our mothers—we begin to develop the rudimentary physiological responses that correspond to feeling safe and protected.

The human brain is remarkably adept at processing complex information, which arguably is what separates us from other living creatures. Plants have no parents and thus no thoughts or feelings—or so we assume. Suss Müsik poses an interesting philosophical dilemma: it’s a crime to harm a human being, and there are strong moral arguments for treating animals with the same level of respect. And yet, the ethical argument against plucking a tomato from its vine is considered an exercise in absurdity.

Clearly, one must draw a line someplace. Any living creature—human, plant, or animal—can only express the information it receives and internalizes according to its cognitive capabilities. That said, it’s entirely possible that the concepts of timbre, pitch, rhythm, tone and context are untranslatable between species. And none of us can formally declare that a plant doesn’t verbalize danger in its own fashion. Wasn’t it Roald Dahl who wrote a short story about trees that scream?

For this soothing yet quietly unsettling piece, Suss Müsik sought to create a concept known as “evergreen noise.” A soothing synth wash was played for an amount of time in one channel (the “human” side), then pitched downward with a dollop of static added in the other (the “plant” side). In the background are sampled female voices coupled with heavily treated audio recordings of deciduous foliage fluttering in the breeze.

The piece is titled Tomatis and named after Dr. Alfred A. Tomatis, a French otolaryngologist who specialized in the way infants use sounds produced by their parents in order to develop cognitive and social skills. The image is an organic “herb wall” in Austin, TX.

Junto Project 0385: Audubonus Instrumentum [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 corvus sonic bowl is a type of musical instrument that uses a wide copper or crystallophone rim to produce musical tones by means of friction and velocity. The first models were produced in Finland, where one is most likely to hear and see the instrument in action.

The actual word has no lexical meaning in Finnish, and in Finno-Ugric language the instrument is often called a korppi meaning “raven.” It is unknown what ornithological significance this holds, but we know that the name comes from the Latin corvus vis Swedish korpen, both derived from the Indo-European root ker, “to cry out.” Mysteries abound.

The corvus (as it’s typically called) can be played two ways: by rubbing the edge of the rim with a moistened rubber ball, or by flicking various parts of the body framework with your finger. The emitted sound may be highly percussive, like hitting a clay pot, or it can resemble the angelic tunes produced by a glass harmonica.

Since the corvus was (and is) an expensive instrument to produce, recorded artifacts are exceedingly rare. Suss Müsik is fortunate to own several albums in which the corvus makes an appearance.

The Scottish progressive rock band Aloysius Colourboxx featured the instrument on their 1972 triple-album opus Trade Language, and US flower-pop outfit The Third Fifth Forth was known to break out a corvus throughout their two-week existence in the autumn of 1967.

Suss Müsik’s personal favorite corvus tunes are “Sifting the Soft” by funk-jazz great Bootsie Sidewinder, and an obscure 1977 B-side from punk band Screaming at the Mirror titled “The Apple Doesn’t Fall Far From the Tree (Unless I Throw It At You).”

Highly skilled corvus players can emit a wide variety of sounds in a single session. Suss Müsik isn’t that skilled at anything, really, so we cheated by multi-tracking the recording for this week’s Junto. Unfortunately the rim cracked during our session before completely shattering to pieces, so that’s it for Suss Müsik’s corvus phase. Sorry.

The piece is titled Corvus. The image is a primitive sketch of the instrument drawn purely from memory.

Junto Project 0383: Interstellar 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.

In his classic book The Design of Future Things, Donald A. Norman described how engineers once programmed what they called “comfort noise” into telephones.

In the old days, the phone’s clicks and buzzes were necessary to process long-distance calls. As technology improved and circuitry became quieter, people were concerned that they no longer had implicit auditory clues to signify progress. (“I don’t hear anything, it must not be working.”) Hence the introduction of fake sounds designed solely for the purpose of giving phone customers the impression that something was actually happening.

Sound is important for providing informative feedback, and we live in a noisy world. Still, the lack of sound can also be a distraction. We hear the slight buzz of a refrigerator, the gentle hum of an air conditioning system, the purr of an automobile engine. While much effort has gone into developing quieter devices for our environments, there is something unnerving about the abyss of absolute silence. It might be mere “comfort noise” to an engineer, but naturalistic sounds tell us that the products we use are working efficiently.

For this piece, Suss Müsik examined both the utilitarian and utopian characteristics of ambient sound. A living environment was imagined in which the polyphony of auditory spaces was something that could be “tuned” according to mood, texture or biometric response. The pulsating waves of synthetic fields create a privatized envelope of mechanically reproduced life systems.

The piece is titled Sensorium. The end abruptly cuts off in order to join at the beginning as a perfect loop. The image is an audio speaker from a hotel lobby in Washington DC, whence a lot of non-comfort noise seems to originate.