Post-classical ambient minimalism for crepuscular airports

Junto Project 0445: Aare Tribute

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 River Aare is notable for its turquoise color, which gets bluer and richer as the weather in Bern gets warmer. Minerals from the surrounding mountains drain into the Aare via melting snow and ice, leaving an exotic cocktail of minerals in the water. Some locals suggest that the blue color has intensified over the years, as more glaciers melt due to overall warming of the earth’s atmosphere.

The color of the Aare was the start of Suss Müsik’s tribute to one of Europe’s most beautiful and overlooked geographies. The piece begins with a blast of “blue noise” generated by a grain synth, sequenced according to conversion maps drawn in the shape of the River Aare.

map of River Aare

The supplied image of the river and surrounding hotspots was then converted to high-contrast, binary tones. The resulting picture was then scanned as a high-resolution audio file and processed into samples. These were sequenced according to the matrix of hotspots as they appear on the original map. What resulted was a series of little blips and blorps in the key of B.

All of these components were then played and recorded live to 8-track.

The work process employed by Suss Müsik is similar to that used for an ongoing collaboration with visual artist B.G. Madden, whose first name coincidentally is Bern.

The piece is entitled Aare. Thanks and kudos to Tobias Reber for proposing such an interesting Junto project.

Junto Project 0442: One Sentence [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.

“So what hovers along with the general unhappiness of everybody with things as they are?”

That quote is by the American poet Robin Blaser, spoken as part of his July 1992 lecture on the nature of belief and doubt in politics. You can listen to the entire digital transcript at the Naropa Poetics Audio Archive.

“Inside that sense we may positively read the future,” Blaser continues. “And as a consequence [humankind] becomes one of the pieces of the puzzle … to try to make a difference.”

Suss Müsik finds this idea both relevant and fascinating. One almost imagines current events operating as a sociocultural trompe l’oeil, a layer of ornamental unrest necessitating our advancement as a kinder, more empathetic species. One hopes so, anyway.

Suss Müsik original’s attempt was to translate the cadence of Blaser’s voice into notation, something like Steve Reich’s excellent Different Trains. Suss Müsik is not Steve Reich, however, and what you hear are various sonic fragments in major pentatonic scale played on fake strings and woodwinds. One of these fragments comprised a four-chord piano phrase, which marks the transition to a synthetic wash approximating the same cadence.

Suss Müsik was struck not only by the content and inflection of Blaser’s sentence, but also the raspy quality of his voice — cavalier, droll, almost indifferent to the importance of his question. For this reason, Suss Müsik accepts Disquiet Junto demerits for including it in the final piece.

The piece is titled Atrococo, a mashup of the words atrocity and rococo. The image is an overlay of Suss Müsik’s attempt to map Blaser’s sentence to some form of notation.

Junto Project 0441: Three Stones [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.

Suss Müsik found three flat, smooth stones. They stack quite nicely into a pillar, which brought to mind the “stone town” of Kuklica.

Located near Kratovo in North Macedonia (about 260 kilometers northwest of Thessaloniki), the Stone Town of Kuklica is an area consisting of over 120 naturally formed stone pillars. The pillars are the result of natural erosion in volcanic rock over the past 100,000 years.

The most famous legend explaining the pillars’ formation is about a man who couldn’t decide which of two women he should marry. He planned to marry each woman on the same day, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. (Suss Müsik recommendation: don’t do this.) While the first wedding was in progress, the second woman showed up in a rage. She cursed all the attendees and turned them into stone, where they stand today.

For this piece, Suss Müsik sought to capture the moment at which a wedding becomes a petrification event. An array of “hits” using the three found stones were converted into random patterns using a grain synthesizer, then compiled into a more coherent rhythm. The piece concludes with a few somber piano chords. The vocal melody is a distressed field recording of “Ave Maria” sung in Greek.

The piece is titled Kuklica and was recorded live to digital 8-track.

Junto Project 0438: Deep Plan [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.

“Continual activity and excitement seem to me a true perception of the nature of things,” said poet Kenneth Koch. “Because everything is always changing and turning into something else, and, as we’re sitting here talking, monkeys are jumping around in the trees, and waves are going across the Hudson, and new poets are being born, and covers are coming off books—I mean, all sorts of things are going on.”

We think of quarantine as a time of stasis and repose. Suss Müsik imagines something quite the opposite, however: small quarks of nervous energy, found in rooms inhabited by the impatient and restless. Carpets worn threadbare due to constant pacing; the passing of ambiguous deadlines; a flurry of activity in all directions without a compass.

The term Poka Yoke is a Japanese term used in manufacturing since the early 1960’s. Literally meaning “mistake-proofing,” the intention is to eliminate defects in production in order to prevent human errors from occurring. One imagines the chaos that ensues when the constraints fail and behavior can no longer takes its shape: the well-oiled machines break down. Covers get torn off books.

That’s how Suss Müsik approached this week’s Disquiet Junto. A cyclical counterpoint of organ, malfunctioning CR-78 and fake woodwinds provides a background for simple piano chords. When the rhythm is disrupted, all hell breaks loose. Everything comes back together, eventually, but not before we hear a passage of Numachi, a short story written by Ryūnosuke Akutagawa on the theme of insanity.

The piece was played live and recorded quickly to 8-track, minus one overdub for the text.

Junto Project 0420: Luna Tick [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.

“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.