Post-classical ambient minimalism for crepuscular airports

DIY Synth Projects

While quarantined from evil viruses, Suss Müsik spent a chunk of this past summer experimenting with DIY electronics. Among the results was a DIY instrument that creates sound from light. Marc Weidenbaum of Disquiet (origin of the excellent Disquiet Junto projects that occur every week) wrote a very kind description. Here’s a little glimpse of how this weird thing works.

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.

Quarantine Concerts

Given these weirdly unsettling times, it’s gratifying to see many homebound musicians and artists taking to social media as a way to connect with their audiences. It’s a nice thing.

Suss Müsik doesn’t have an audience commensurate with any of these folks; however, home confinement does present interesting opportunities to provide a real-time window into the creative process.

With this in mind, Suss Müsik has begun releasing small-scale performances to an audience of one: a lonely little houseplant who seems to appreciate the extra attention of late.

The first video is a live performance of “Foraging,” inspired by the sculpture of Richard Serra and the architecture of Tadeo Ando. Both of these visionaries transformed the brute aesthetic of their chosen materials into delicate studies of ever-shifting light and form. Sounds are created and manipulated from an audio scan of artwork by B.G. Madden.

If interested, you can learn more about Madden’s work or order a copy of Co-Process, the album on which “Foraging” appears.

The second video is an impromptu demonstration of a Suss Müsik-designed custom frame for the Artiphon INSTRUMENT-1. The frame makes the device easier to play on one’s lap while holding it upright. The piece is attached to the instrument via three 1/4-20 nylon thumbscrew, with a little notch to accommodate a shoulder strap. Specifications, materials and final 3D-printed manufacturing by WALT3D.

In this video, the device is played with a combination of tapping and “bowing” while using the Violin setting. It’s something like playing a Chapman Stick, except Suss Müsik is nowhere near the caliber of Tony Levin.

More video performances to come, pending length of current quarantine conditions. Everyone stay safe, healthy and sane.

Derrida’s Dilemma

Suss Müsik created a little video using the Artiphon INSTRUMENT1, six simultaneous MIDI channels, two Moog analog processors, three electric piano chords, the occasional burp of a grain synth module, and ever-increasing dollops of harmonic reverb.

Here’s the description of process:

Deconstructivism is a philosophy once taught by Jacques Derrida, who believed that absolutes were confining and that multiple meanings cannot be reconciled within a singular work. Think of it as a way of discovering hidden meanings within a structure intended to subvert them.

Deconstructivist architecture is designed to give the impression of fragmentation within a wholly composed building. The style is characterized by non-linear shapes that appear to distort predictable forms into controlled chaos.

With this in mind, Suss Müsik tested the Artiphon INSTRUMENT1. The intention was to see if a complex polyrhythm of interwoven phrases could be built up, broken apart and played in real time. Each phrase is built around a variation of a simple F chord, their timbres and timings controlled manually.

A total of nine component phrases (each with its own voice and notation) were looped with slight variations in the base chord fingering. This allowed subtle phasing between 3-note and 4-note sequences on the Artiphon.

Eventually the pieces dissolves into an ambient wash, signifying the release of absolute structure. When the parts are reassembled, a glitch filter and two Moog processors distress the remaining bits — a semblance of fragmented reminders.

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.

Live Studio Improvisations

Suss Müsik is releasing a series of live improvisations, recorded straight to 8-track in the studio. This effort (working title Non) is in conjunction with an upcoming announcement regarding Suss Müsik’s distribution of material. We’re very excited about these developments.

Anyway, the first release of the series is titled Op-Ed and was performed on treated piano, guitar, electronics, organ and percussion. It got a little crazy after a while, but this excerpt of three and a half minutes was captured nicely.

Fake Orchestras

Suss Müsik has been doing quite a bit of composing lately. Much of the material falls under the category of what we call “fake orchestras,” often involving some combination of digital and traditional strings, piano, woodwinds and percussion. We think of it as something like a broken consort. We explored this concept on a couple of Disquiet Junto projects over the past year, and we’ve expanded upon this dynamic to create new pieces of increasing depth and complexity.

In order to fully pursue this new approach, Suss Müsik has once again (to the probable dismay and irritation of our seven fans worldwide) delayed the Decatenation project for the short-term future. It makes more sense thematically, since the final track listing of Decatenation skews more toward definable song structures, with at least one piece resembling what could almost be considered a “single” in some weird parallel universe.

It’s interesting, upon reflection, the somewhat convoluted path Suss Müsik has taken over the past eighteen months from ambient minimalism (i.e. music as meditative furniture) to something more structural and intentionally arranged. We think it’s a good progression, and Suss Müsik embraces the challenge that the interplay of instrumental voices presents when working more acoustically.

In other news, Suss Müsik is exploring the possibility of playing some live dates in 2018. We are not yet certain how this will work logistically or what it will involve, but we’ll let you know.