This project has been gaining some legs in the recent months now having a monthly home at The Mercury Cafe and now beginning to feature a rotation of guest artists. The most recent episode of Sonic Pixels produced a work session followed by a performance with David Thomas Bailey. David isn't content just being a guitarist so he plays bass at the same time on his custom made 7-string guitar.
The addition of a second guitar and a bass really sent the processes in a new direction, mostly due in part to David's two separate amps that are not a stereo split (one guitar and one bass), which required two new inputs into the already complex routing table. This created new layers to capture and reintroduce into the sound palate, the engineer often set up several voices of counterpoint and the swirl of melodic lines set in motion a variety of affects and colorful collisions.
The Sonic Pixels Project is striving to further explore the possibilities of performance and composition and encourages the same adventurous approach from their listeners.
From the onset of this blog-thing I have had to redirect my thoughts and focuses several times. Mostly this is due in large part to my constantly shifting interests in music and my alignment with whatever it is that I happen to be leaning more heavily towards at that particular moment. As a listener I can just as easily be enthralled by a circuit bent toy freaking out on itself for ten minutes or listening to radiohead; I can feel just as engaged by Bach as I can when listening to solo by David Gilmour. For me the problem is that everything is fascinating. Convincing an audience of that however is another problem all together. It’s difficult to persuade a listener to look beyond their preconceptions of what music is and what it should sound like, particularly with experimental music. For now it’s been my hope that with time I can contribute to my community by creating an environment for performing or sharing music so that hopefully my listener will open their ears further – If you take the time to look at any one thing for more than a brief moment it has the potential to be beautiful.
So speaking of things I find fascinating and for those of you that aren’t familiar with what you’re about hear, this is the music of Michelle Yom. Among a variety of things she uses acoustic and amplified flutes, piped thorough a preamp that slams her into a pa system with some adaptive limiting being handled by Max/MSP, but other than that there’s no portion of her signal being processed. Her improvisation/composition processes hinge on the interaction between her playing and the gear itself, amplifying and distorting the techniques she creates from inside the flute. In asking her more about what she does she replied:
“I also play circuit bent toys and radio, which I like a lot because they have minds of their own and its more theoretical than my normal flute stuff.”
Here is some recent music of her's with Loïc Bertrand on circuit bent toys, Danny O'Really on no input shermen, and Michelle on amplified flute.
Whether as a soloist or in an ensemble there’s an experiential nature that often unfolds as certain eccentricities reveal themselves, which create interest and organization amidst figured sound sets. I know I am always inpired by the sheer variety of colors and textures she manages, particularly on some of her flute solos.
You can find other stuff of her's at her website as well as on her SoundCloud.
Here's a quick blast of some recent updates.
Look In Ensemble was given a spot at an art gallery but with the allotted time for setup/playing/breakdown it just makes more sense for me to roll solo on this one, sigh. You can follow this link to the event calendar for more information.
If you didn't get a chance to check out a piece of mine that was played by The Playground back in April please check it out, it was such a privilege to have them play it.
And finally, music is being written and ideas are colliding for a show with music and playing with a new ensemble consisting of me, Jessica Mays, and Sonya Yeager-Meeks among others. Prospective dates are mid October-ish, keep an eye out for more details.
“The current state of things.” How many posts on contemporary music blogs have started this way? It isn’t my intent to further the arguments for or against where things are going in the realm of the Contemporary-Classical-Western-New-Modern-Art-Music-Thingy and all the millions of proprietary taglines that go with it that supposedly identify ones validation as one who participates in such Contemporary-Classical-Western-New-Modern-Art-Music-Thingy, but I guess in short I kind of just did a little.
It does seem pertinent to additionally say that things that make this music, or that music if I can’t actually consider what I do as such, is created with a level of depth in either or both concept and content. But in the end, no matter how complicated the theory or how charged the underlying choices for composing may be, it’s all make-believe.
One of the composers that I was working with on some sound art recently posted some of his new works on SoundCloud and one of them particularly grabbed my attention. This is Oren Boneh’s Enso.
While entirely fixed I found the composer’s process to really align with some of my approaches to new music. Enso is a collection of prerecorded trumpet sounds, some only a few seconds long, with postproduction computer manipulation. When asked about what he had done Oren had this to say;
“…I think. I went about it pretty loosely. I used SoundForge to manipulate the sounds as I've done with all of my electro-pieces. Then I used Reaper as my DAW to mix everything together to create the final track.
In terms of other processes I used, I can't really be of much help because I'm pretty sure I just tried a bunch of things until I got sounds I liked. SoundForge is very user-friendly for people like me in this regard because you can just click stuff until it sounds good. I didn't (and still don't) actually have any idea what I was doing.”
While I can attest to Oren’s music always being very deep in all the Contemporary-Classical-Western-New-Modern-Art-Music-Thingy ways, I really appreciated the honesty in both his process and his way of talking about it. No matter how complicated the system is or which great piece of art you were looking at when you came up with what you wanted to tell people you did while composing, in the end we are just playing make-believe with sound.
You can find more from Oren by poking around his SoundCloud page as well as on his website.
While I'm working out some details with others regarding their content I thought I'd point out that I completely redesigned the layout and functions of the Listen page, please check it out if you have time.
In the meantime, here is some music. This is an improvised piece that I did with free iPhone synths, a guitar, and a fairly simple effects chain. A phrase looper was used to create a layers of activity that become a bed of sound and develops subtly over a long expanse of time. The guitar was used to create insect-like sounds and the recurring bass line. An additional looper was used to manipulate time and give the impression of soundmasses while at the same time creating sidebands as the material from each looper collides with the other. And yes, it is long but hopefully the overall arch that is achieved will be as enjoyable for you to listen to as it was for me to create it.
So I have been tinkering around with this thing for quite a few days now and while I think it sort of represents something that is on the right track, I was struggling to articulate my thoughts on what my first post should include. While thinking of this I started to mull over all the possible subjects and points of interest, which has run on for days now, but then I found myself doing exactly what it was that made me pursue creating this outlet in the first place.
Recently I had a coffee meeting with a friend and soon collaborator. We were geeking out over music and asking to see what stuff the other had done in the past, going back a couple years or so – a really good time although somewhat embarrassing. I found that interesting. Each of us are postgraduate, new professionals and in many ways are still looking at our past music with uncertainty and caution, maybe even a little disdain in my case. All of what we were looking at were your very typical academic pieces, the stuff written for masters degrees and all the baggage that went with it. But soon we made it to very recent stuff, which for me has become investigating two approaches that are very different from my academic output – a more diatonic based language within post-minimalist textures and on the very opposite side, experimental music using electronic instruments and improvisation.
I gave her a solo improvisation from a few months ago; she spent some time checking it out before she said, “How do you do this? I want to see how this is done…” and then she said what possibly has been the best comment anyone has ever given me regarding my music… “I have no idea how you make sounds like that, it’s like Black Magic.”
Black Magic? I take that as a compliment.
The comment was not the basis for what I wanted out of a blog but it was the situation itself, it went on for hours and divulged in and out of topics about new music and the directions it can go with an underlying core that there was a need for direction to begin in our local community. I wanted a digital place for the same activity that happens over coffee with like-minded people. A place where we can turn each other on through discovering more about what people around us are doing. And so here it is, unfit for human consumption.
The Front Page will function as a blog/forum and at this point the Listen Page is a working portfolio for the collective. There should be more here but I am still waiting to get material from a few people.
Take your time and poke around if you can. There are still some holes here and there that will slowly be filled in as this thing develops.