Post-classical ambient minimalism for crepuscular airports

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.

Junto Project 0327: Time Zoned

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.

George Lucas is apparently obsessed with the number 327. On message boards and wikis around the Internet, fans of the Star Wars series have circulated increasing amounts of evidence. The docking bay station that holds the Millennium Falcon is number 327, the number of the Cloud City landing platform is 327, etc. And so it goes.

“The folk tale is for entertainment,” wrote the mythologist Joseph Campbell. “The myth is for spiritual instruction.” The unconscious mind rules subliminal behavior by converting fuzzy nuances into absolutes, thus rendering indistinguishable binaries that would otherwise never connect. Paul is dead, except he’s not.

Immanuel Kant believed that humans actively construct pictures of the world according to speculative theory. Working with three time signatures at once is a similar work process. The ear wants to create order from disorder by locking into a groove, because that’s how the brain digests information.

For this short piece, Suss Müsik created three distinct fields. The opening piano chords are played in 2/4. The fake woodwinds and accent piano are played in 3/4. The drums and acoustic bass are played in 7/4. To create a sense of randomness, the piano and woodwinds were passed through analog effects pedals at the same tempos as their parents and mixed live to 8-track.

The piece is titled Herodotus, named after the first known historian to systemically arrange a list of events for the purpose of testing their accuracy. The image is a distressed sheet of acrylic press type.

Junto Project 0326: Wave Turntable

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.

As mentioned in Disquiet Junto 0325, Suss Müsik loves the sound of surface dust on a vinyl record. We are also fans of composer Danny Clay, whose work explores territory between the guardrails of chance and curiosity, often finding musical significance in random pairings.

Perhaps Clay’s most inspiring works are his collaborations with elementary school students. In his piece 27 Overtures [after Ludwig van Beethoven], a group of 3rd graders were asked to draw graphic scores in response to hearing Beethoven’s Grosse Fuge. The “scores” were then arranged and performed by a string quartet. Suss Müsik was particularly struck by one student’s interpretation: a boxed sequence of arrows on the scoresheet pointing edge-to-center.

For another Clay piece, elementary school students from Zion Lutheran School each drew and recorded their own graphical “note.” One student wrote the words “low long soft” to accompany her/his drawing, perhaps as a reminder on how the “note” should be performed. Wonderful stuff.

Jon Fischer’s work resides in a similar intersection: the relationship between ambiguity and rigidity, permanence and decay. Tricky Triangle is a series of printed works that portray the passage of time as “one of the least understood aspects of human existence.” Turn Table Drawings does this concept one better, constricting pen-to-paper actions to the rotations of a record player. Lines become loops, loops become forms, forms become evidence.

For this weird piece by Suss Müsik, surface noise on a turntable was broken into four fragments and looped through a Moog low-pass filter. Six sine waves in various tones were then played edge-to-center on a theremin emulator using a self-imposed “low long soft” rule: keep it low, keep it long, keep it soft. These swim lanes converge with a deepening sine wave before being released into random artifacts.

The title is Fischerclay. The image is an imprint of one student’s “score” overlaid onto an excerpt from Turn Table Drawings.

Suss Müsik thanks Mr. Clay, Mr. Fischer and the McEvoy Foundation for the Arts for allowing their creative work to be interpreted for collaboration.

Live Studio Improvisations

Suss Müsik is releasing a series of live improvisations, recorded straight to 8-track in the studio. This effort (working title Non) is in conjunction with an upcoming announcement regarding Suss Müsik’s distribution of material. We’re very excited about these developments.

Anyway, the first release of the series is titled Op-Ed and was performed on treated piano, guitar, electronics, organ and percussion. It got a little crazy after a while, but this excerpt of three and a half minutes was captured nicely.

Junto Project 0325: Fake Book

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 likes the sound of dust on a vinyl record. A compact disk with dust on it simply won’t play. That’s a design flaw, in our opinion.

The Edison Spring Motor Phonograph was invented in 1895. The sound was emitted by a machine that rotated a ceresin wax cylinder across an incising needle at around 120 RPM. A standard-size cylinder tended to yield between two and four minutes of audio, roughly the length of a church hymn or short monologue.

Due to the high cost of replication, there was initially no method for mass-producing multiple quantities of the same recording. By 1901, however, several innovations cheapened production costs while improving sound permanence: more durable wax mouldings, spring-generated motors, and less penetrative needles. There’s no science for removing dust.

The subtle beauty of ambient detritus has been explored by a number of artists over the years. Junto participants might be familiar with Stephen Vitiello’s electronic compositions accompanied by visuals, or perhaps Stegan Betke’s grimy dub tracks performed under the name Pole. Nina Katchadourian went so far as to create an audio tour of the dust buildup at New York’s Museum of Modern Art. Suss Müsik can only imagine how thrilled the janitors must have been.

For this short piece, Suss Müsik sampled the “dusty” pieces of the recordings along with a couple of shorter bits. The sounds were looped through a ring modulation process at various speeds, with the occasional burst of brass or vocals. The lovely, swooping brass bit at the end was left unaltered. The effect is something like what might have happened if the Mille Plateaux label had existed sometime between 1890 and 1915.

The piece is titled Ozokerite, named after the naturally occurring substance from which wax is made. The image is a magnification of household dust from Suss Müsik’s headquarters.

Junto Project 0324: Factory Floor

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 cybernetic revolution has developed more rapidly than many could have foreseen. We are entering the second industrial revolution in which human physical energy—[not only] hands and arms—but also the brain and nervous system are being replaced by machines.”

If you’re the type who follows technological trends, you might think the above was written by a post-2015 Silicon Valley scribe on the emergence of AI. In actuality, it’s a quote from Erich Fromm’s classic book Escape from Freedom, written in 1941. Suss Müsik can’t decide whether to be humbled by such prescient statements or depressed beyond comprehension.

Any attempt to create a work of art that avoids distraction and suggests momentum is bound to fail by at least one criteria. Cognitively speaking, we’re more likely to get into a groove when we minimize distractions. However, it’s well known that humankind’s greatest innovations are the result of expanding one’s realm of possibilities beyond current modes of working. It could be that the true nature of collaboration is where machines and humans each perform the tasks to which they’re most suited.

For this weird piece, Suss Müsik attempted to replicate the above approach by playing a series of looping phrases on piano, organ, sax and percussion. The piano and organ were treated with a Moog MF-101; the sax was passed through a Red Panda Tensor on maximum randomization. The percussion is various stuff we had lying around plus a CR-78 emulator.

The piece felt a bit … dunno what, so we added a vocal component in the middle fed through a Korg 411fx. The text was written by M. Tegler and recited by C. Koustourlis. Suss Müsik doesn’t know what it means, either.

The piece is titled Parabiosis, which is the artificial joining of two anatomic organisms for the purpose of scientific research. The image is a distressed coupling of two computer chips.

Junto Project 0323: Music for Meditation

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.

“Write a poem imagining your conception,” recommends Andrei Codrescu in an essay titled Exercises for Poets. “Use the breath measures that might have been those of your conceivers … [then] write a poem about your birth. The poem itself should be concerned mainly with the journey from the moist darkness of the womb through the birth canal into the light of the world.”

Suss Müsik declines to envision such grotesque imagery, thank you very much. That being said, effective meditation is understood to be something like returning to a womblike state. One concentrates solely on breathing in order to achieve a deep form of relaxation, helping to clear the mind from the cognitive detritus that collects day-to-day.

For this lengthy piece, Suss Müsik began with a simple organ riff that was played through a Moog MF-102 ring modulator. The sound of breathing was sampled and distressed to match the timbre of metallic percussion. You might hear voices and flutes in there as well. A chime enters at the 1-minute mark and repeats just before the final ascension back to consciousness.

The piece is titled Lůno, named after the Czech word for “womb” and dedicated to little Zachary Isaac (who was born this week to good friends of Suss Müsik). The image is magnified cotton.