Disquiet Junto Profile

Followers of this website (all eleven of them) will recall that Suss Müsik is a regular participant in the Disquiet Junto. Headlined by writer and publisher Marc Wiedenbaum, the Junto is a online music community who participate in weekly assignments. Prompts have included experiments in visual scores, collaborative projects with international arts organizations, and tributes to noteworthy composers.

Marc is publishing a series of profiles on Junto participants, and Suss Müsik was honored to be included in May 2023. Topics include a Neil deGrasse Tyson quote, some insight on DIY instrument building, and the importance of a good set of headphones.

“Soft Refusal” Video Performed on DIY Synths

Suss Müsik continues to build strange electronic devices that make strange sounds. The latest is a midi-sampler that triggers AI-generated audio. Built from a 1990’s Syquest drive, it resembles a steampunk adding machine.

midi-sampler built from a 1990's Syquest drive

You can see and hear the device in action in a performance video of “Soft Refusal,” a piece from Suss Müsik’s latest release New Hopes.

Junto Project 0588: Swell Time (Make Some Surf Music) [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.

P.oceanica is a slow-growing species of Posidonia, a global seagrass that provides food and shelter to marine organisms, protect coasts against erosion, and purifies natural water resources. P.oceanica covers the entire coastline of the Mediterranean Sea with its network of roots and rhizomes. One colony discovered off the coast of Ibiza is believed to be nearly two-hundred thousand years old, which would make it the oldest living plant in the world.

Marta Solé, a research scientist in environmental engineering at the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya in Barcelona Tech (UPC), has spent her career studying the impact of noise pollution on marine biology. Solé’s previous research demonstrated that cephalopods hear sound through small sensory organs, which become damaged when noise exceeds a certain volume and frequency. P.oceanica have exhibited similarly adverse effects to noise, compromising the plants’ ability to connect to root systems and gather nutrients from the ocean.

Suss Müsik considered the metaphorical duality of sound waves and ocean currents as a framework for this Junto project. Three “waves” of synthetic material were treated with various distortion effects and allowed to pass over each other. A cyclical pattern simulates the gently modulating seagrass that lies beneath the surf, insulating its tender blades from the harsher noise just above the crashing waves.

The piece is titled P.oceanica and was recorded live to Tascam 8-track. Those who wish to learn more about Solé’s work are encouraged to read The Sounds of Life by Karen Bakker.

Ryuichi Sakamoto 1952-2023

The year was 2010, the setting a restored movie theatre converted for live performance. The event was a solo concert by composer Ryuichi Sakamoto.

Against a backdrop of pre-recorded material (including an under-the-ice stream of water recorded from a glacier in Greenland), Sakamoto assumed his position on one of two grand pianos and played what can only be called “a duet with silence.”

At one particularly quiet point during the concert, the wail of a siren could be heard from the fire house across the street from the theater.

It was not unlike how Alan Licht once described a 1952 piano piece by John Cage protégé Christian Wolff, in which the sounds of traffic noise outside Wolff’s open window were louder than the notes he played.

A thin red line was projected on the screen above the stage, slowly moving from left to right as the sound of the fire trucks faded into the distance.

For a brief moment, everyone in the room occupied the same acousmatic field, a happenstance encounter encompassing both creator and audience.

A faint smile on Sakamoto’s face seemed to indicate that the siren was not a distraction, but rather a delightful accident analogous to the shattered glass visible in Marcel Duchamp’s The Bride Stripped Bare By Her Bachelors, Even.

The result was a beautifully unintended yet compelling coincidence, shared by all who participated in its magical serendipity.

It made for the most entrancing moment in the evening teeming with entrancing moments: a collectively satisfying experience encompassing light, sound, space and time.

Junto Project 0578: Rabbit Spirit Ally [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.

“You said a moment ago that everybody you look at seems to be a rabbit,” says the doctor to his patient in a cartoon by James Thurber. “Now just what do you mean by that, Mrs. Sprague?” Meanwhile, Mrs. Sprague recoils in horror at the vision of her therapist’s enlarged, leporine head.

There is a rabbit who lives in the underbrush just behind Suss Müsik headquarters. We’ve named her/him Clover. Clover has grown to be fairly large and tends to regard humans with more curiosity than fear. Still, Clover can still easily escape from predators when compelled. Perhaps Mrs. Sprague could take a leaf from Clover’s book.

The rabbit is viewed in Chinese tradition as a calm, gentle yet crafty animal, whose energy emphasizes balance and intelligence. The phrase jiǎo tù sān kū (狡兔三窟) loosely translates as “a cunning rabbit has three burrows and more than one means of escape.” With the arrival of the Lunar New Year, this is the approach Suss Müsik took with this week’s Junto.

The piece begins with a gentle piano arpeggio, broken into three fragments that randomly shift cadences like a tone poem. A fake fretless bass moves things along until a DIY synth glitches things up. Brief stabs of percussion interrupt the calm, gentle atmosphere, yet the overall feeling is one of balance and crafty intelligence (or whatever the Suss Müsik equivalent would be).

The piece is titled Jiǎo Tù Sān Kū. The image is based on an etching owned by The Welcome Collection, the use of which is covered under Public Domain Mark (PDM) terms and conditions.

Suss Müsik Featured on CKRL “La Croche Oreille”

On Sunday 16 October, Suss Müsik will appear on the CKRL radio program La Croche Oreille, hosted by Gaëtan Gosselin. The program is hosted from Quebec City and broadcast in French. Maybe someone who speaks that language fluently will kindly let Suss Müsik know what’s being said. This coincides with Suss Müsik’s latest album New Hopes being listed as this week’s “What’s New” feature. Exciting stuff.

Contact Mic Synth & MIDI Device + Meng Qi Wingie 2

Suss Müsik created a video demonstrating a handmade contact mic synth and customized MIDI device, built from recycled 1990’s computer hardware. (You can see the hard drive housing that serves as a sort of “plate reverb”). One channel was run through a Meng Qi Wingie 2. Reverb and delay pedals were controlled via footpedals; vocal samples were triggered by another handmade device using pads. The piece was largely improvised and recorded live in September 2022.

Junto Project 0557: Condensation Is a Form of Change [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.

Condensation is a form of change, but this is only half of the story. Condensation is what happens when vapor transforms to a liquid state; evaporation is what happens when liquid changes back to vaporous form. It’s a constant, cyclical form of reclaiming what was lost.

Michael John Harris, author of the book The End of Absence, has an interesting perspective on loss vs. gain: “My child will never know the value of learning to read a map without GPS. This is the problem with losing lack: it’s nearly impossible to recall its value once it’s gone.“

Some cognitive scientists argue that digital media has rendered our brains into mush. Others believe that, like how the clouds above manage moisture content, it’s simply a matter of displacing one form of cognitive processing with another.

For this Junto project, Suss Müsik explored the cyclical nature of something being there and then not there. The original photo was scanned and rendered to high-contrast, which revealed two distinct patterns: the first a reasonably formed outline comprising a circle (we’ll call that v.1), the other a series of amorphous blobs (v.2).

high-contrast scan of four condensation rings

high-contrast scan of four condensation rings, abstracted

v.1 became the basis for a cyclical riff played on fake bass and a DIY synth device. v.2 was played by tracing a finger across a DIY piezo mic resonator (constructed from old hard drive enclosures) and passing the signal through a Meng Qi Wingie 2. Some sloppy piano was overdubbed; interruptions were designed per interpretation of the “score.”

The piece is titled after Hieronimo Squarciafico, the 15th-century Venetian editor who warned that the invention of the printing press would inhibit humankind’s ability to remember things.