Post-classical ambient minimalism for crepuscular airports

A Future in Commons

“I am driven by two main philosophies,” said the astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson. “Know more today about the world than I knew yesterday, and lessen the suffering of others. You’d be surprised how far that gets you.”

For the past year or so, Suss Müsik has participated in the weekly Disquiet Junto projects led by Marc Weidenbaum. For those unfamiliar, a junto is a gathering of like-minded colleagues for the purpose of sharing knowledge, friendship and conversation. The first Junto, known as the Leather Apron Club (now there’s a great name for a band), was launched by Benjamin Franklin in 1727 and lasted for 30 years.

Taking part in the Disquiet Junto has turned out to be a richly rewarding experience. We’ve made new friends and been exposed to a constellation of artistic influences from around the globe. Sadly, we were also made aware of the plight of Bassel Khartabil, a 3D modeling artist and software developer who was was detained by the Syrian government in 2012.

A Future in Commons coverSince his incarceration, human rights organizations have persistently campaigned for Khartabil’s release. His last known whereabouts was the Adra Prison in the suburbs of Damascus, Syria in October 2015. It was unknown whether Khartabil was alive or dead up until very recently, when in August 2017 his widow received confirmation that her husband had been executed.

In celebration of Khartabil’s life and work, English/Swedish musician and Junto participant Rupert Lally spearheaded the creation and release of a 31-track compilation album entitled A Future to Commons. All of the music is provided by participants of the Disquiet Junto.

Suss Müsik is honored to be a part of this moving tribute, yet we are frustrated at the senseless nature by which evil is permitted to transgress the boundaries of human existence. One might concede that from suffering can arise newly semantic forms of artistic expression, although we’d argue that a world with Bassel Khartabil alive and safe is better than one without.

The following is an excerpt from Marc Weidenbaum’s liner notes for the album:

During [Bassel Khartabil’s] incarceration, and during the extended period when his death was presumed but not yet confirmed, his story became a rallying point around the world. His plight inspired essays, and conference sessions, and political statements. And it inspired music … Facets of Bassel’s life provided several such prompts over the years. We created soundscapes to bring a new dimension to his CGI renderings. We sampled his voice and turned it into music. We created VR scores, and we tried to extrapolate sound from the poetic language of his correspondence. In the end, what we tried to do was spread word of his plight, to keep his story alive even after he was no longer.

A Future to Commons is available on Bandcamp, with all proceeds going toward the Creative Commons Bassel Khartabil Memorial Fund.

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 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.”

Eclipsa

“Words have a hypnotic thing about them. To me they have connotations that are kind of blinding, a buzz in my head. I picked that up from trying to be like Dylan Thomas. If you’re going to try and be like Dylan Thomas you don’t really need to make sense all the time. Understanding the noise will get you through.”

~John Cale

Eclipsa coverIt was a full moon last night. Those who work in police and emergency medical services anecdotally claim that the full moon results in busier work shifts. This perception may be rooted more in personal psychology than statistical reality, yet common knowledge insists that crisis severity is accentuated by 30-day extremes in the lunar cycle. It’s human nature.

Things have been a little crazy of late on the world stage, much like a ball of yarn unraveling to its core. Those who are paid to interpret what is happening tend to blur the distinction between fact and opinion; those who make important decisions do so under a miasma of verbiage intended to confuse, rather than explain. In our attempts to deconstruct what has been said, we apply a layer of bias to confirm intentions that may or may not exist. It’s human nature.

Suss Müsik has created a 50-minute piece that operates as both distraction and sedation. Instruments are buried under a thin veil of amplifier noise, creating a restful calm despite the unrelenting dissonance. The piece is titled Eclipsa, which means “obfuscate” in the Catalan language of eastern Spain, and is available as a free download on SoundCloud or BandCamp.

A final thought: according to a 1968 essay by Philip Larkin, Dylan Thomas believed that William Butler Yeats was the greatest poet of his generation. The following verse from Yeats’ “The Second Coming” seems eerily prescient:

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Update 01/16/17: Due to the album’s popularity on Bandcamp, Suss Müsik has exceeded our monthly allocation of free download credits. We’ve set a low price of $2 USD until our credits refresh on 02/15/17, at which point we’ll again offer the album as a free download for one month or until credits run out. Suss Müsik sincerely thanks everyone for their continued interest in what we do — hope you enjoy it.