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.
“Beige box” is a term applied to older personal computers with dated aesthetic appeal and, by today’s metrics, substandard performance specifications. It’s typically used in derision when referring to consumer technologies made by IBM (and their ilk) in the 1990’s.
Suss Müsik is old enough to have used such devices unironically. Syquest drives, Iomega removable media drives, La Cie CD-writers, and (yes, admittedly) the odd IBM Model 30 have all graced Suss Müsik headquarters at some point or another.
For nearly two decades, these “beige box” devices have occupied space in Suss Müsik’s attic. There they sat, resigned to a status as dusty relics of a long ago time before iPhones and high-speed wifi freed us all from the shackles of 56k modems and 16-color graphics cards.
What those devices did have, however, were enclosures of exceptional strength and agility. They were often made from electrogalvanized steel, sufficiently rigid to protect their sensitive inner guts yet pliable enough to drill and cut holes. In other words, the perfect housing for a DIY synth or customized MIDI device.
Suss Müsik, ergo, has given these 25-year-old devices new life as sound-making implements. The first is an Iomega Jaz Drive from 1999 or so; the next piece is a removable SCSI backup drive. Perhaps the next project is an album inspired by technology of a long forgotten and underappreciated era.
Suss Müsik’s DIY praxis continues to evolve. Along with a number of handmade sonic devices comes new prototypes for the customized Artiphon INSTRUMENT-1. New editions include built-in oscillators with modulation and MIDI control functions. Demonstrations can be viewed from the Suss Müsik Instagram and YouTube channels. A couple of examples below:
The visual overlays are cultivated from images of the sky taken with a 1940’s Graflex 4×5 camera. The images are then manipulated to represent eight stages culled from the history of mechanical reproduction: plate etching, Daguerreotype, mezzotint, four-color halftone, sliver print, color film, scanned pixels, and digital glitch using a μ-law algorithm.
The vocals are refactored according to Michel Chion’s theory of acousmatic sound, the result of removing semantic (verbal) context from verbalized text and leaving only the voice as an inherent sonic attribute.
Thanks to ongoing life in the quarantine era, Suss Müsik continues the DIY silliness with two new instruments. One is a combination oscillator and cassette tape looper, built from a hacked Walkman whose amplifier nodes were manually distorted and given a variable-phasing effect. It looks like this:
The second instrument is a synth using built-in filtering, pitch-control and modulation. It can be played either continuously or via a small push-button.
Just to prove that something musical (well, sort of musical) can come out of all this, Suss Müsik has posted a new piece entitled Chagrinningly. Getting the loops to synchronize with other instruments is both challenging and exciting. It’s a possible new direction to explore.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Now that Zygotes has been released, Suss Müsik is exploring new paths in sound creation. We learned quite a bit making music for fake orchestras, and we’re looking to expand that palette into new realms and languages.
In no particular order, here is what has Suss Müsik excited for the time being:
Creating rhythmic signatures involving tuned and found percussion. This comes from a long fascination with non-western musical influences, including the drumming practices of such artists as Babatunde Olatunji.
Use of the Slonimsky-Schillinger symmetric system for creating notation logic using randomized scales. We don’t pretend to understand quite all of it, but it’s an interesting way to work.
Extrapolation of live recordings into sequential patterns. In other words: playing live in a studio for some amount of time and drawing small bits of material from the session. For example, the results of what happens when a digital delay artifact is compressed and randomized with other voices (not unlike the work of Markus Popp, only using instruments rather than software).
Greater accessibility. Suss Müsik was encouraged by the response to our most recent Disquiet Junto submission, which has us thinking that it might be fun to create a series of quirky, danceable dub compositions. Think early 1980’s bands like Maximum Joy or The Pop Group.
Suss Müsik’s latest obsession is hitting amplified objects with homemade mallets. This technique was used to create a piece titled Inemuri for Disquiet Junto 0273. We bowed and tapped electric guitar strings with sticks of metal, then created a customized percussion kit with blocks of wood and metal pots.