The live sound and music performance is like no other medium for expression and unpredictability, frequently yielding interesting sonic results, both on, and off stage. Sound checks, sound failures, the misassigned patch, unintended playing outcomes, FX overloads, calibrations and pinnacles of performative exploration can all create sources for eclectic new material.
In this 4th edition of Explorations in Sound, Furthernoise editor and curator Roger Mills, has assembled a voluminous compilation of artists works based on the serendipitous outcomes of live performance. This includes raw audio of tuning up, happy accidents, sound check experiments, improvisations, studio out takes, or any other means in which new source material was generated by performative chance. The fact that the compilation is so large and varied, represents the enormity of performative scenarios and experiences, that performers have when things don't quite go according to plan. Some of the results have already been recognised for their inherent originality and have become source material for new works by the artists, and it is this idea that is the inspiration for the curatorial theme. As John Cage wrote about his aleatory composition Imaginary Landscape No. 4 "A ›mistake‹ is beside the point, for once anything happens it authentically is." - John Cage (1951).
In the following artists statements, the process in which each track was produced is explained, detailing how this shaped their particular contribution. The release is free to download with printed sleeve from the net label page on the site.
1. ChoP - Liangcha Shop Shenzhen 2009
This live act was improvised, with no earlier preparation. As it was our first performance during the China tour 2009, we made some mistakes, and as you can hear didn't adjust the level of the bass drum properly, making it too loud and compressed. It may have been compressed by the internal compressor of the ZOOM H4 recorder but I'm not sure as there were more "toys" connected to the sound system. I was using Gleechlab 3 during the performance, but you can only improvise with it without saving the presets and settings. It is however, very good software for improvised sets. This recording has not been edited apart from cutting it from the longer live set. Website
2. Live Mashup (Excerpt 1) - Robert Ratcliffe
This short extract was sourced from an improvised performance in which several electronic works were integrated and reconfigured to produce new material. The performance was realised using a custom-designed performance environment (constructed within Ableton ‘Live’), which facilitates the creation of live improvised remixes and mashups. Excerpt 1 contains material from Phoenix 3 and Wake up Call by composer, Robert Ratcliffe. Website
3. (no)music arena stream - John Hopkins
I was stream-casting from Trondheim, Norway at NTNU (Norwegian University of Science and Technology) where I was doing a workshop. It was a one-hour stream, and everything tested fine in the hours leading up to my on-air segment, but when I started up, this god-awful scratchy static started too. I did a full restart of the whole system about six minutes into the hour, (mixer, three computers, ipod), but the noise wouldn't go away. It follows the basic amplitude of the initial, getting worse as the volume increases. I imagine it was related to the variable amp in the mixer. I was quite put out that it didn't go as planned, but, as I listened to the stream afterward, in the big scale of sound art, it isn't so bad ... Website
4. "Das geht sich schon aus"- Waldlust
Improvisation with electronic and biological material. Waldlust aka Tobias Schmitt and Lasse-Marc Riek from Frankfurt upon the forest, construct their acoustic mother soil while walking in the hills surrounding Frankfurt and drinking at the promenade of bourgeois Frankfurt. Both are children of experimentation. Archive material from field recordings and (fragments of) scores are formed by means of improvisation. Website
5. Presence of a Syntax Error - Mario Sarramián
I have a relatively short time working with MSX BASIC*, an old dialect of BASIC, exploring the sound instructions of this programming language, which are three: BEEP**, PLAY and SOUND. During a jam session, I thought it would be nice to use a retro sound as a first layer of the sound mass, so I decided to write a short program in MSX-BASIC to generate that kind of material, but I made a mistake and, when run, it sounded a beep that revealed the existence of a syntax error. To fix the program, I had to go through it with the cursor to delete or rewrite some parts of the code, causing some other sounds and, again, beeps revealing the existence of new syntax errors. The thing was that I did not notice that the record button was on while doing these checks. The result is my contribution "Presence of a syntax error". The recording caught my attention because it had a musical rhythm. That means that the operation made to fix programming errors was in itself a musical rhythm of a rather peculiar nature; it sounded as if someone was in the midst of an established sound dialogue with another person, or a machine.
6. A mourir de rire - Antje Vowinckel
A mourir de rire is the result of a happy coincidence. I was driving with a French friend and its 8- year old boy. When the father stopped to buy something in a shop, the boy,who was in my arms and about to fall asleep, started talking. By chance I had my microphone there and as the acoustic inside a car is pretty good, the recording is ok. I mixed the voice with the sound of the harmonium that stood in the house where I stayed in France. - "A mourir de rire" means laughing to death. Website.
7. Eloi Feret and Nathalie - Robert Peterson
I recorded this at the end of the day one day during the From The Trembling Heart residency program at the ROKTOWA art project in downtown Kingston, Jamaica. From The Trembling Heart is an artist's residency program that was produced in order to directly address the needs of Haiti's art community post earthquake. We invited 8 Haitian artists from Port-au-Prince and Jacmel to come to Kingston and produce work for two months. This recording is of Lionel St. Eloi on drums and Nathalie Fanfan, and Feret Charles singing a Haitian work song, as the sun went down over the Palisadoes near Port Royal. St. Eloi is the most venerated Haitian sculptor alive, and a true self taught Haitian Jazz drummer. The warmth of the voices is countered by the animal drumming on a broken drum kit, dug out of a ditch from a scrap heap in Kingston. website
8. Elec – Aiden Deery
Elec is the result of an attempted patch, originally intended to act a source of live manipulation. Experimentation with the patch led to the live source being replaced by a simple oscillator. What resulted was a short sonic gesture that when extended over a longer period of time, created the basis for the track. The textural evolution of the material creates an ethereal listening experience. This, combined with the subtly sibilant undertone, was encouragement enough to keep this ‘happy accident’. While the patch has never seen the light of day (at least in its original form), 'Elec' has manifested itself as a fixed-medium electroacoustic composition. Website.
9. Language Master (soundcheck version) – Ed Osbourn
This is a recording of part of a sound check for a performance I did at the Logos Foundation, Ghent, Beguim, on March 28, 2001. The piece is called "Language Master" and is built around an old tape-based language instruction device of the same name. The setup on that occasion required me to remember to hit the record button before starting the piece. This was no problem during the sound check but of course I forgot at the start of the performance itself. As "Language Master" was the first piece in the set, it didn't get recorded (though the rest made it to tape); my recollection is that it was a better version than the one heard here, but then the ones that got away always are. This is the first few minutes of the piece, towards the end of the selection I let one section extend a bit longer than usual. I think I was spacing out a little bit, or adjusting levels or something. Despite my normal instincts to keep the material progressing at a fast clip, this one sounds ok to me. Must be an artifact of advancing age. Website.
10. Mola-mili Betty Work - Osvaldo Cibils
This track is 3rd in the series of "mola-mili BettyWork" noisexnoise. It was an improvisation with midiplus49, RolloSonic software and cassettes as performance action-home in Rovereto, Italy. 2 march 2010. Website
11. Collision in a Headphone - Anton Mobin
Anton Mobin's shortest performance of year 2010 using exclusively home made instruments. This performance (originally for Placard Headphones festival) plays intensities and new developments in a raw improvisation, between deliberate collision and voluntary accident. Objects collide in the stereo spectrum that is aimed at the intimate experience for artist and audience of listening through headphones. Website
12. Go to 80 (Super dub edit) - Anders Carlsson
Super Dub Edit was made with a Commodore 64 and a delay effect at my home in Lund, Sweden. Starting with a pre-composed song, I recorded a 25-minute improvisation with C64 and delay and edited it down to 5 minutes. The Commodore 64's SID-sound-chip has inherent glitches that causes
unpredictable features, mainly for volume envelopes and filters. I've used an unreleased software called Defmon to suppress or amplify the inherent artifacts of the C64 in real-time. I send instructions to the
basic parameters of the chip (pitch, timbre, filter, ring modulation, etc). I also assign parts of one instrument to the other, which can cause highly unpredictable results, especially when using ring
modulation or oscillator sync. I have made C64-music since 1996, and Defmon has recently inspired me
to explore the C64 as a live tool, stepping away from several dominant ideas about chip-music aesthetics. This is also a topic that is part of my master thesis on chip-music. I am fascinated by how an 8-bit song can be improved with live interaction. To get a perspective on what I'm doing, you can listen to the original C64-song here. Instructions on how to play the file can be found on my research blog: http://chipflip.wordpress.com/how-to. Website
13. Ulate - Phillip White
Ulate was recorded at the Center for Contemporary Music in Oakland, CA live in 2008. This was recorded shortly after I started using a non-linear feedback system consisting of a mixer and several homemade circuits. It was in this performance that I discovered even touching a cable or pressing down on the housing for a circuit could have a huge effect on the behavior of the system. The creative commons license is fine, I always do my work under it.
14. SEVENGUITARS Live@Ipercorpo - 2008 Città di Ebla-Forli' Italy - Francesco “Fuzz” Brasini
Sevenguitars is a project born from the idea of interaction between sound and space. Seven guitars, that are apparently identical but technically studied to obtain distinctive features, are the protagonists of the project: the seven instruments have been designed and hand-built with tonal chambers inside the solid body that, interacting with the string’s harmonic vibrations, create different sonic effects.
Every guitar is connected to a valve-amplifier equipped with distinctive speakers and different power.
The amps are used at the maximum volume and tone, thus creating a feedback effect with the guitars: the strings go in auto-oscillation, generating different harmonics that depend on the instrument and the tuning, reacting with the acoustic features of the performative environment. The musician therefore loses the role of executor, becoming only the creator of a process, open to unpredictable results and closely related to the context of where the performance takes place. Every place, every context, becomes an important variable able to influence the performance's result: sound, therefore, starts to be linked not only to the temporal dimension, but to the spatial dimension as well. Website
15. Endless Column - Richard Lainhart
I recorded it just a few days ago with my Buchla 200e/Haken Continuum system, and it's a real-time studio performance without edits or overdubs, inspired by an event in a recent live performance. Here is how this piece came about: Just two weeks ago, I was in Germany performing at Avant-garde Festival Schiphorst 2010 at the invitation of Jen-Hervé Peron, one of the founding members of Faust and the director of the festival. While there, I performed a solo set of films and music (which you can listen to here: http://soundcloud.com/rlainhart/richard-lainhart-live-avantgarde-festival-schiphorst-2010) and a duo with Theremin player Thomas Zunk, in which we played a couple of improvisations and a transcription of Olivier Messaien's "Oraison". The improvisations were completely free, and in fact Thomas and I had never played together previously. Website.
16. MRI - LUOMOSBILENCO (aka Nicola Bogo)
The composition is the result of processing the audio signal from the output of LCD TV connected to the A / V output of DV camcorder, pointed in the direction of the monitor. This position generates a response (Larsen) modulated by changing the angle of the camera rather than the monitor. The process as well as sound influences the video. (There is also an audiovisual version of the experiment) The experiment was played with two-camera television stations ‘played and processed live’. website
17. Violin Plucked and Bowed - Alan Sondheim
I spoke to a friend of mine who commented he preferred the plucked piece and then I thought of Steve Lacy and his comments about the soprano sax and then took control more or less - more - of the violin - to the extent that - you might want to throw out the other pieces - except for pizzicato - if it's that - hardly a light plucking sound - anyway except for the pizzicato accompanying the rainstorm - which turned into hail as you can plainly hear - like the cannons in the background of Wanda Landowska - anyway - let these replace the others - the work of a mature musician - I'd even say mature thinking - extraordinary thinker with fingers and bow - and then the last piece - it touches my heart - our hearts - pure bird song with noise reduction - red-wing blackbirds, meadowlarks, many others - noise reduction lending its own kind chirping, the marvelous and magical mixture of analog and digital - what beauty there! - and in all the other pieces as well - wonderful themes of parallel fourths and fifths with somewhat minor seconds - my favorites of course. Website
18. What Is The Past But A Dream Of The Future? - Sara Ayers
In November, 2005, I participated in the Edison Groove XChange program, an exploration of music and technology, at the Schenectady Museum, New York. My performance consisted of singing and processing my vocals through a laptop running AudioMulch software. Peter Dilg recorded my performance onto a wax cylinder and this piece is a digital recording of that wax cylinder recording. A gloriously noisy little thing, isn't it? Website. Peter Dilg Website
19. Tape Junk - Daniel Blinkhorn
Tape junk is a short sonic portrait created through using out takes of jazz guitar recordings within the studio environment. The miscellaneous sounds typically discarded within the studio based environment, have been reclaimed and used as composed artifacts. In particular, the artifacts have been assembled to portray a broader aesthetic of peripheral activity, inherently bound to the overall process of recording and structuring, yet disposed of entirely when presenting the subject matter of the recording; the final, mastered composition (in this instance, instrumental recordings of a jazz guitarist). I wanted to present a work that draws heavily on the minutia of sonic miscellany attached to the recording process, hoping to provide an analogy for discarded or peripheral sounds and the role they play in our everyday lives; often deemed undesirable and (physiologically) filtered out yet intrinsic to the activities they accompany. All material by Daniel Blinkhorn, recorded at the ABC studios, Ultimo ‐ Sydney with guitars by Jeremy Sawkins. Website.
20. Iris Detonation - Shannon O'Neill
Detonation 2005-10-26 is from a live performance at the Abercrombie, Sydney . I'd prepared a glitchy piece in AudioMulch, but was surprised when my laptop and sound card decided to contribute their own glitches and dropouts. I couldn't listen to this recording for a long time, but can now appreciate the extra dimension of broken sound. Website.
21. Sannex (extended intro trim) Steve Burnett
For a performance on 13 September of last year, I tested my Theremin responsiveness and antenna range sensitivity before beginning my performance, which I built from the testing phase. I had turned on the recorder just before sound checking, and thought the opening of the piece was interesting.
I would describe this as fitting the "sound check experiment". Website.
22. Other Voices - Jeff Kolar
"Radio: one speaks without hearing and everyone else hears without being able to speak." - Rudolf Arnheim (1933).
Other Voices is an attempt to reintroduce radio to itself; to broadcast its transmissions and imitate its receivers. The voices haunting radio utilize mono-directional broadcasting: the sender distributes a one-way, closed network path. Using a series of networked multi-directional radio broadcasts, Other Voices alleviates the distinction between the sender-listener and instead investigates its direct response. The recording came out of an investigation of radio reception and transmission. Using hand-built radio transmitters, I attempted to simultaneously transmit and receive radio broadcasts on local AM stations. The event was took place at a live performance at a barbecue on America's independence day. I performed the piece using a PA system borrowed from a post-rock band after a last minute failure of my own equipment. The result captured live radio waves and interceptions of ESPN talk radio, discussing the buzz around the trading of American basketball superstar Lebron James. Website.
23. Feedback.mono - Eric Leonardson
While setting up an effects loop in my studio I created by accident, a fierce swell of rich and interesting feedback. Happily I was recording while setting up and captured the event to my 4-track cassette recorder. The occurrence blew one of the woofers on my Klipsch PA speakers. Hence a warning: though quite pleasurable, playing at high volume may risk speaker damage, particularly the last few seconds. Website.
Thanks to all contributing artists, and continued support from Furtherfield.org, the Furthernoise team and Arts Council England.
Curated by Roger Mills
Sleeve image and design Neil Jenkins
All works licensed under Creative Commons license Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 UK: England & Wales.
CAT No. FNCD007
Review by Roger Mills