Post-classical ambient minimalism for crepuscular airports

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.

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.

For Those Confined to Shelter in Place

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.

Quiescent coverSuss 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.

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

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.

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.

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.