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.
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.
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.
Update: a rough translation is available in transcript form.
Suss Müsik has released a number of mini-albums and EP’s since the COVID-19 pandemic took hold of our globe. The latest is an eight-track LP of short electro-acoustic compositions for handmade sound-making devices, fake strings, piano, percussion, barely detectable vocals, and (in one track) a penny-whistle. The album is entitled New Hopes and currently available on Bandcamp. New Hopes will soon arrive at your favorite music streaming service. In the meantime, listen and read the always entertaining liner notes.
Suss Müsik is participating in the 2022 Earth Day Art Model, a global telematic festival of art and sound in response to climate change and biodiversity loss.
For this piece, Suss Müsik “thaws” a “frozen” synth wash by breaking it into rhythmic shards, metaphorically representing the splitting of sea ice into melting and floating fragments. The piece is performed live using a custom-fabricated Artiphon INSTRUMENT-1 and two homemade electronic devices. The piece is titled 4° and first appeared in demo form as part of Disquiet Junto project 0511.
The vocal is a refactored recording of Professor Betts’ 2009 speech for the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, hosted by Oxford University Centre for the Environment. The use of Professor Betts’ speech is covered under a Creative Commons license and is “free for reuse, remixing and redistribution in education worldwide.” The use of this material is intended to promote broader interest in the scientific evidence supporting our planet’s climatological transformation.
Suss Müsik accidentally recorded a new EP, titled :: (pronounced “dotbox”). Recorded in a series of improvisational weekend sessions in March 2022, these pieces seemed to hang together well as a single release. It wasn’t the intention, but Suss Müsik allows for happy accidents. Performed, in part, using handmade elecro-acoustic instrumentation and customized MIDI devices, all four pieces are reworked Disquiet Junto projects. The EP is now available on Bandcamp and soon will appear on all your favorite streaming services. Here’s the cover:
Suss Müsik was interviewed as part of the Maker Faire Philadelphia podcast series. Topics of discussion include: DIY instruments, Suss Müsik’s surprising influences, what compels artists to create, the significance of being “crepuscular,” and the best time of day to feed birds.
Suss Müsik is honored to be included in the San Francisco-based Maker Music Festival, taking place virtually as of this writing. Some really amazing work being presented, not the least of which is a contribution by artist Sudhu Tewari and experimental music royalty Fred Frith (swoon!). Group participants include London’s Hackoustic (London), MakeMe from France and San Francisco’s own Center for New Music. Suss Müsik’s contribution is the vactrol-controlled Cyanbox. Thank you to creators Joe Szuecs and Sherry Huss for pulling this community together.
Suss Müsik is readying a new release, a 34-minute album of reworked (and some previously released) material entitled Ex Post Facto. Here’s the cover:
Most of the tracks are decidedly kept short, between two and four minutes each. One track approaches the eight-minute mark, but for the most part the intention was to make the point and evacuate. The pieces are performed on fake strings, piano, mallet percussion, some fake woodwinds, and (on one track) a table saw.
The album is in the mixing/mastering stage and should see formal release in May 2021.
Update: Ex Post Facto has been released. Give it a listen and read the liner notes.
Out of nowhere comes a new Suss Müsik release, a brief little six-track EP that shan’t take more than a half-hour. It’s available on Bandcamp and features instruments built or customized by Suss Müsik. Visual artist B.G. Madden did the cover. Full description below:
SixOverEight is an homage to life-as-prototype, based on the theme of adaptation.
The concept of “sixes and eights” came about organically. Sequences of notes or chord progressions (the “eights”) were performed using customized or handmade instruments. The most workable bits were then developed into short offerings (the “sixes”) and recorded live.
Coincidentally (or not), sixes and eights also refer to personality types within the Enneagram. For those unaware, the Enneagram is a complex system of patterns developed by Russ Hudson and the late Don Richard Riso.
Put in simple terms, everyone emerges from childhood with one of nine personality types dominating their outlook and behavior. Sixes, for example, tend to look outside themselves for personal validation: jobs, relationships, social status.
Eights, meanwhile, are more willing to follow their instinct. They have no problem asserting themselves (sometimes to the point of hostility) and believe their life mission is to openly challenge the world.
Identity is fluid, however, as are all forms of survival. The human experience is defined by our capacity for resilience. As the year 2020 draws to a close, may we all support each other in mutual adaptation.
Instruments used include: prepared piano; piezo-amplified kalimba; homemade sawtooth synth; distressed fake marimba; open D-tuned Artiphon INSTRUMENT-1 (3D-printed frame) with custom voices; photo-sensitive synth played with a flashlight.
Suss Müsik amassed enough decent material from the latest collaborations with artist B.G. Madden to put out a proper release. Co-Process Volume 2 continues the path forged by Co-Process released earlier this year. It’s all glitchy, droney, ambient weirdness. Sound was created from audio scans of Madden’s visual art, which was provided in the form of postcards delivered via US mail. (These quarantine days necessitate drastic creative measures). The scans were then manipulated using all sorts of technical gadgets, from grain synthesizers to DIY electronic devices. The album is available on Bandcamp, and more of Madden’s beautiful artwork can be seen here.
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.
Jellyfish have three essential life functions. They eat, have sex, then they die. The rest of the time, they simply float about the water trying to avoid being attacked by predators. It’s not a bad way to live.
The jellyfish mating ritual is typically the outcome of chance encounters experienced while drifting about the ocean currents. Think of it like aquatic low-speed dating in today’s pandemic climate, with potential partners randomly hooking up while trying to stay away from each other.
Suss Müsik considered the art of avoidance in developing this short piece. Two synth engines were modulated to allow their waveforms to “drift” unpredictably, with a small dollop of spring-reverse reverb to create a “bounceback” effect. An alternating pattern for fake dulcimer provides the melodic “current” that brings these two mates together.
Jellyfish die not long after mating, and such is the case with this piece. A few brief piano notes symbolize the fertilization process and portend the coming demise. What once was clear becomes opaque and drops to the ocean floor.
The piece is titled Scyphozoa. The image is a public domain photograph by Lydia Jacobs.
We’re navigating a period of tremendous challenge. Hopefully most of us will emerge on the other side. Of greater concern is the state of our communities and whether we’re strong enough — physically, spiritually, economically — to survive what will likely be degradation of historical proportion.
Suss Müsik can’t mass-produce hospital equipment or develop vaccines. Suss Müsik can’t even tell you that everything is going to be all right, because who knows what’s going to happen.
The only thing Suss Müsik knows how to do is make sounds. A number of listeners report that some of Suss Müsik’s output has a calming effect on them, a sort of vibroacoustic conditioning that elevates concentration, improves mental outlook, and reduces stress.
Suss Müsik won’t even begin to pretend that an hour of ambient noise will successfully halt the decimation of global life. All that can be hoped is that, possibly, this piece can serve as a mentally therapeutic diversion for those who need it.
The piece is called Quiescent and is offered for free to anyone* who wants it. The running time is exactly 55-minutes. Put it on as background while you work, meditate, mourn, heal or rest. Or listen intently and think about a better future that can’t arrive fast enough.
*Subject to Bandcamp limitations on free downloads per month. If the download isn’t available, contact Suss Müsik and a download link will be provided to you.
Things 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.