Post-classical ambient minimalism for crepuscular airports

Artistic Collaborations

Suss Müsik continues a very fruitful collaboration with visual artist B.G. Madden. The latest piece, titled Dotto, was rendered from audio scans of Madden’s most recent work.

Given current pandemic conditions, Madden delivered his contributions via US mail in the form of handmade post cards. The new pieces are beautifully reminiscent of post-modern “picture theorists” from the late 1980’s: Richard Prince, Annette Lemieux, and especially the late John Baldessari. The scanned output was then filtered through grain synthesizers and Moog modulation boxes.

Suss Müsik has lagged behind the Quarantine Concert series. Dotto will likely be the next piece “performed.” Or maybe something different. The new social archetype is ambiguity, and Suss Müsik embraces it.

In related news, Suss Müsik’s piece entitled Attaché (also a collaborative work, this time employing Madden’s art as graphic notation) will be featured at this year’s New York City Electroacoustic Music Festival (NYCEMF). Again due to the global pandemic, the entire concert series is taking place virtually. Some great work there to be heard, however, and you don’t even have to leave your house.

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.

Artistic Collaboration: Limitrophe

A border is a sort of marker between two systems that share common attributes. While national law varies between territories, organic science has no respect for governance. Which begs the question: does the universe abide by its own set of rules, to be unearthed through examination, or does discovery occur by chance?

“The way different people have come to the same discovery independently,” wrote William H. Whyte in his 1956 book The Organization Man, “refutes the ‘great-man’ concept we cherish. It’s mostly luck who makes a discovery. If there had been no Einstein there would, in all likelihood, still be a relativity theory.”

piece by Bernard Madden

Artist B.G. Madden explores systems in nature as would a scientist, revealing hidden information and transforming meta-relationships into a new visual language. His work extrapolates these meanings into renderings of graphite, pigment and plaster, resting comfortably between avant-garde experimentation and traditional formalism. The piece Madden creates are beautifully disquieting yet energetically precise.

This piece, titled Limitrophe, is the first of a collaborative series between Suss Müsik and B.G. Madden. The first half is a series of layers: electronic fields of Moog-enhanced static, generated by an audio “scan” of Madden’s image. A base melody is performed on strings and accelerated during the piece’s coda, performed for fake orchestra using strings, brass and percussion. One field’s relative attributes informs the other, forming a clear delineation between the two approaches while maintaining their connective bond.

We are looking into possible performance/exhibition opportunities in which to further this fruitful experiment in cross-pollination. Stay tuned.

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.

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.

Two New Pieces

Two new pieces are starting to emerge from recent sessions. One is a sort of hypnotic, Steve Reich-style piece with marimba and authentic bird sounds. The birds were recorded just outside the Suss Müsik studio walls. It’s too early to say whether the piece will be more like Tourbillion or perhaps something else altogether.

The other new piece is a loud, messy cacophony of electric noise, somewhat building upon the themes explored on Kommunal. This piece will feature Native American ceramic flute played by John Kulias of Meadowlark Flutes. We at Suss Müsik immediately fell in love with the spatial tones of Kulias’ playing, especially when the instrument’s rich spirituality is set in a modern industrial setting. The process by which Kulias creates his flutes is a wonderful study in artisan workmanship.

Both pieces are currently in the neighborhood of 20+ minutes and take a long while to get where they’re going. They need more work and will likely comprise the next Suss Müsik release by the end of 2016.

UNSEEN series | Apertures

On June 10 in San Francisco’s Mission district, Gray Area’s UNSEEN Series will presents site-specific, collaborative performances by Bay Area artists. The show will explore current practices in immersive media, including expanded cinema, video and sound art, experimental music and technology.

The UNSEEN series is curated by Oakland artist Matt Fisher and features contributions from Suss Müsik friend and collaborator Marc Manning. Other performers/artists include Maggi Payne, Marielle Jakobson and Chuck Johnson.

Tickets are $8 presale, $13 day of show and $15 at the door. A cash bar is available to those 21 years and older.

Noumenon

A new Suss Müsik piece entitled “Noumenon” is now available for listening on SoundCloud. The piece features the contributions of New Orleans saxophonist Stephen J. Gladney, who brings a jazz-inspired phrasing that strongly recalls the work of Pharoah Sanders. Suss Müsik is moving into more lyrical, somewhat emotional territory where it’s possible to actually hear instruments in the mix. We are excited about this direction and expect further collaborations to lift the material further.

In case you’re wondering, the title derives from philosophical concept by Immanuel Kant, literally intended to mean “the thing in itself.” A noumenon is something that exists independently of how it appears to our senses. The larger idea is to define what stands on its own versus humankind’s capacity to act as an agent of change. Now you know.