Archive for the ‘sound’ Category

Robert Dow – “Precipitation within sight” & “White Water (airflow)”

August 20, 2008

Often, I receive promotional copies of an artist’s work that are not intended for general distribution: live sets dubbed as a single track on CDR, pre-mastered works in-progess, or compilations of selected works that could be broadcast but are not necessarily to be considered a proper album.

A while back, I was sent such a compilation by Robert Dow, director of the Soundings... festival of electroacoustic music and a researcher in the area of electroacoustic composition and performance with the University of Edinburgh. Although Dow’s knowledge of electroacoustic works far exceeds my own, I still thought it would be nice to write about one of the pieces for you– consider it half introduction, and half review.

“Precipitation within sight” is an interesting composition; generally, due to Dow’s willingness to allow natural sounds to remain unobscured by processing; and personally, as it ties closely with Miya Masaoka’s “For Birds, Planes, & Cello” which I have been enjoying recently.

Like Masaoka, Dow chooses natural sounds as both a focal point and a springboard for studio performance, constructing complimentary percussive sounds which often conjure the spacial properties of this work’s center– Smoo Cave in Durness, Scotland. Generous field recordings taken at Smoo Cave feature throughout, with indoor and outside events in evidence. Of particular beauty are Dow’s recordings of splashing water and children, appearing just prior to a bursting noise of some sort, rather like stones thrown upon a metal surface. I’m not sure what to make of the electronic whinnying that proceeds thereafter, underscored by a low rushing sound, and gradually taking aural focus… perhaps Dow is suggesting the feel of coming to the surface of water?

In his program notes, Dow states that he is interested in the “strong associative pull of such real world sounds and their tendency to create specific contexts,” which seems to be thought of as a problem among many electroacoustic artists in their rush to manipulate and obscure every source recording. Taken in this light, a reading of “Precipitation within sight” might include themes of motion as both physical movement and de/constructive energy, many of the associated emotions conjured by a journey through water, and possibly even our lingering human connection to formative natural spaces such as caves. There’s a lot to consider, so I won’t attempt to offer a conclusive summation here. Rather, I intend to whet your appetite– Dow has a release pending on the fine Russian label, Electroshock, so this might be a good time to become more acquainted with the composer.

More Videos Friday

August 15, 2008

Another installment of More Video Friday– let’s see if WordPress lets me add the vids this time around, since it always screws up for some reason. Our first video is the weirdest thing I’ve seen all week, and that’s saying something. I have no clue what’s going on here, and if I attempt to explain it, things will be worse:

Next up is an Eric Glick Rieman solo work, “Snail Score 3”. It looks a lot nicer than the video I shot during the show, which I’ll share with you soon.

I ran the idea of getting WDBX involved in the Chicago Calling Arts Festival with my station manager, who was concerned about the questionable fidelity of a phone-to-phone linkup. Guess I should have showed him this:

Hong Chulki – “Without Cartridge, With Cartridge”

August 10, 2008

Fantastic turntable work from the Balloon & Needle label boss Hong Chulki, who has lately joined my personal pantheon of favorite turntable improvisors. One of these days; he can join Otomo Yoshihide, Christian Marclay, and Martin Tétreault for a box set and I can die happy.

Until that day, there’s “Without Cartridge, With Cartridge,” which surely goes about as far as one can with a turntable. Packaged uniquely on either side of a cardboard disc, this double 3″ CDR keeps the “haves” and “have-nots” separated– very nice for those of us who like to contrast the two.

Starting “Without Cartridge,” Hong still manages to generate a surprising variety of sound. As Hong’s full approach for both discs is to play without records, I’m assuming these are all produced from dragging the tonearm remains across the turntable itself in some fashion… though in the end, I’m unable to fully understand how many of these sounds arise. Regardless, it is a much more full sound than I would have guessed– in some ways, even more interesting than the “With Cartridge” half!

Track two goes a long way toward explaining why– these electronic shrieking noises are incredible! Filled out with ringing tones, like bowed glass at high volume, this is a torturous ride. The third track is equally absurd; at some point, listeners just have to sit back and let Hong skullfuck both earholes.

For the “With Cartridge” disc, a more usual gamut of possible sounds are explored– needle drops, slipmat scrapes, fingers against the needle, even electrical problems become “opportunities!” There’s also a good range of more unexpected noises– the intense blasts of screeching metal-on-metal sounds near the end of the second track, for instance. At times, I wonder if Hong is employing anything but the tonearm itself, as the circular looping nature of the turntable seems to vanish. Perhaps Hong has liberated it for play on other surfaces?

“Without Cartridge, With Cartridge” is a surprisingly vital set, not only due to Hong’s instrumental prowess, but for the quality of the improvisation itself. What could have been a cold documentation of the technical limits of the turntable-as-sound-source is instead a well-structured work in its own right, and worthy of more than listeners’ simple curiosity.

“Without Cartridge, With Cartridge” is available from Balloon & Needle as release bnn18.

Liveblogging! Commentary for “ITDE” 8/9/08

August 9, 2008

As Kleeer would say, “tonight’s the night.” Or the morning– whatever. Daniel Godston and Eric Glick Rieman are scheduled for a live set on the show, live from the Hi-Life Room. I’m pretty excited about this, and just hope it all goes well without any technical issues. I got into the studio a bit early, so I’m kicking off a three-and-a-half hour broadcast. Live sets are great, but I like playing albums too!

A hanger-on from Sweet Action had a very hard time believing Hong Chulki’s contribution to this show wasn’t the result of “porcelain.” Not sure what that means, exactly…

Still getting my end of the equipment set up. Three mics available, hopefully this will suffice. I’ve got to find some tape, so I can mark their channels now. It gets confusing! Here’s something from the Zelphabet series, off the “B” volume.

Dan Godston and Eric Glick Rieman have arrived– got lost a bit, and drove into Marion! They’re setting up now… there’s going to be a lot for me to reset around here after they pack up! No biggie, I’m more interested in the deconstructed Rhodes, which is VERY strange-looking.

WOW. Rieman and Godston have got one hell of a sound. We had a couple of avian guests arrive to fly around Godston’s head… I guess that covers their stated goal of working with “non-human animals,” eh? I ended up shooing them out with the help of some couch pillows, and they both made it safely back outdoors. Hope the photos turn out! We have an odd monitoring situation here at the station. They’re essentially forced to use a couple radios for monitors, and somewhat rely on the drift of sound outward from master control to help Godston know what Rieman is doing.

BTW, I learned I’ve been pronouncing his name wrong– Rieman is said “Ray-Man,” which I would have never guessed.

I have video, photos, and (hopefully) a decent audio recording of this session. I’ll be sharing all of this later on, but give me a couple days to relax before I tear into the various files. Until then, enjoy the next couple reviews– the secret is scheduling them ahead of time, haha.

Hong Chulki — Turntable, Without Cartridge 1
Hong Chulki — Turntable, Without Cartridge 2
Hong Chulki — Turntable, Without Cartridge 3
Ophibre — Music for .aiff & Magnetic Tape
Bob Bellerue — Fridge Tower
Dalaba, Frith, Glick Rieman, Kihlstedt — How Light, A Potato Chip
Dalaba, Frith, Glick Rieman, Kihlstedt — The Distance That Separates Dreams
Dalaba, Frith, Glick Rieman, Kihlstedt — Spicule Maneuver
Dalaba, Frith, Glick Rieman, Kihlstedt — Worm Anvils
Dalaba, Frith, Glick Rieman, Kihlstedt — Shallow Weather
Dalaba, Frith, Glick Rieman, Kihlstedt — Lucy Has a New Pet Kitty
Dalaba, Frith, Glick Rieman, Kihlstedt — Ant Farm Morning
Thanos Chrysakis, Dario Bernal Villegas, Oli Mayne — Terse Symmetry
Daniel Godston, Eric Glick Rieman — LIVE @ “IT’S TOO DAMN EARLY”, WDBX-FM

The Master Retarder

July 7, 2008

I got a cheap giggle during a visit to Galesburg’s annual Railroad Days. At the non-stop urging of my three-year-old train fanatic, I was coerced into boarding an hour-long bus tour of the rail yard and surrounding area. It ended up being much more interesting than I would have guessed– but then again, if you combine my rampant curiousity with some sort of massive object, I will usually find it interesting.

Original photography by DaveX

There was a lot of nice graffiti, but this was my favorite.

It was also more than a little curious to find myself once again on a schoolbus, retracing a large portion of my old high-school bus route. Bizarre!

But I digress. You want to know about my aforementioned “cheap giggle.” Well, picture me on a schoolbus, with my knees jammed up against the seat in front of me– and then the tour guide says something like: “over there is the master retard”!


Sure, I knew he was talking about the giant air brake that slows trains being humped (heh heh, humped) in the yard. It prevents rail cars from smacking into one another at inappropriate speeds. It also makes a great noise, which I’ve heard many times before– just never up close. Here’s some video, so you can dig the good sounds as well. Enjoy!

And hey, check this out while you’re at it– more train stuff, and more sound art as well. Not the usual combination!

New music beef, haha

July 3, 2008

Here’s something unexpected– a new music rap that shout-outs to “The Rest Is Noise,” threatens Bang on a Can with a beatdown, and uh… uses the word “Bizabbit.”

Yeah, you heard me. Snoop just yakked a little in his mouth.

You’ll want the lyrics and the full story on the group, Hybrid Groove Project, which is why you’ll want to click their link.

Auto-percussion fun!

June 24, 2008

I just saw this a few moments ago– what a great idea! Check out more of RP Collier’s sound videos here.

Imaginary software fanfic!

June 19, 2008

The other day, I was imagining an mp3 player of sorts, something that would allow the user to manipulate a variety of data about a virtual listener to generate playlists reflecting their age, location, and time. It’s basically the reverse of something like LastFM– instead of running into people and discovering them through their music, users of this program (which I’m calling “Malty”) would discover the music through virtual persons of their own design.

I decided that it would be a fun project to create a couple mock-ups of Malty– not only do I have no coding experience to create a program, but such an idea seems rather far-fetched anyways! Still, it’s been fun… something like software fanfic, if you think about it. Stephen King’s “Word Processor of the Gods” might fit the genre, too.

To create the mock-ups, I imported various screen caps into Photoshop, mostly of Photoshop and EAC preference windows. A little bit of cutting and pasting work, and voila! I present Malty 1.0, fanfic for the most extreme version of vaporware ever. Feel free to register your copy of Malty by leaving a comment!


As you can see, Malty allows users to select the age and gender of the virtual listener. A “race weighting” feature allows users to generate playlists for virtual listeners ranging from extremely sheltered to cosmopolitan in outlook. The “religion shaping” tool can add realistic flourishes, using Malty’s patent-pending Pezee-Myers algorithm. The “odd formats” option introduces otherwise out-of-date formats into the mix; for example, a teen in the 1980’s could theoretically select from 78 RPM recordings.

Where Malty 1.0 is particularly exceptional, however, is in the pioneering field of realistic external sound generation. As no music is experienced in a vacuum, users can toggle the external sound playback function to generate lifelike incidental noises heard alongside the standard playback feature. Virtual listener profiles created within city environments will produce typical urban sounds appropriate to their day, all heard through the lens of your listener’s selected environment. Registered users can also import everyday sounds using the HarS plugin.

Social support is a given. Malty is iTunes-enabled, with auto-downloading of any playback recordings to user-defined libraries, or share playback lists across LastFM. Integrated Skypecasting allows virtual listeners to host “listening parties,” with 100% virtual listener control available– your virtual listener will interact with other created listeners worldwide, with temporal and cultural mashups providing hours of entertainment.

The time settings section allows Malty users to precisely select the time and duration of the playback span. Dates spanning approximately 4,000 years are available, however, years preceding the known history of recorded music will generate modern reproductions of historical and hypothetical music– e.g, Bach played by the New York Philharmonic, or interpolations of how a Hurrian hymn may have sounded.

Venue compensation lets Malty weight playback selections to account for listener profiles exposed to popular music via live settings; such as concert halls, discoteques, vaudeville, dive bars, or even coffee shops. A wide variety of settings are being developed by users everyday, utilizing Malty’s open-source code and venue-generator tool. The “parent” button can be toggled on and off during playback to simulate mom or dad returning home– try it during playback involving explicit lyrics!

Various playback methods are also included, with appropriate historical players available within the listener profile. Finally, users can browse the “situation library” to accurately frame the playback list– the same listener profile will generate different possible lists based on this information. Choose nearly any situation from cross-country roadtrip to quiet basement flat, pre-suicide to post-coital!

Future versions of Malty will allow situation “gradients,” for example, moving from over time from “drunken spree” into “slumber party.” Millions of combinations!

Who wants a new book?

March 27, 2008

The last book trade went so well, I’m doing it again! This time around, I have a copy of “Worlds of Music,” in its third edition. This is a hardcover copy in good condition outside of a missing dust jacket. But hey, who cares about dust jackets, right?

There’s contributions from David Locke, Mark Slobin, Linda Fujie, and others– with chapters on many places around the world, and is a pretty terrific text for anyone interested in learning more about ethnomusicology. There’s even diagrams for building diddley bows, a slide veena, and panpipes. “Worlds of Music” is over 500 pages long, and originally came with a CD. I got my copy used, so I don’t have the disc… but I have seen it on Soulseek, etc. New copies of the book sell for $75, but apparently used copies go for as low as a penny on Amazon, so it seems you can send me anything you think is a fair trade!

Regardless, the same rules as last time apply. I’ll hold a decision on whose trade wins the book for 10 days, with preference going to music-related books and items. I don’t want anything to do with the following books:

1) Anything with GLBF Star Trek characters using the holodeck to create Orion slave boys.

2) Anything by John Grisham, Dan Brown, L. Ron Hubbard, or any of Frank W. Dixon’s additional pen names.

3) Fan-fic! (Unless it is John Cage fan-fic.)

4) Anything that changed your life, and made you buy 25 copies that you now give away to complete strangers.

5) Books designed more for displaying on coffee tables than for actually being read. 

Good luck!

Startling Moniker’s Top 12 Best Happy Neat-O List of 2007!

December 31, 2007

At this time last year, I was worried that I’d mistake a 2005 release for something from 2006. This year, I find myself wishing for such a mistake, as I’ve been unable to winnow down my list of top releases from 14 to 12. In the same spirit that has left me unable to open a checking account for the rest of my life, I’ve decided to fudge my numerical shortcomings, and present my Top 12 Best Happy Neat-O List of 2007 anyway.

In no particular order:

1) Al Margolis/If, Bwana — “An Innocent, Abroad” — With all the ability of producers to realistically render digital unreality, I’m still a little surprised I’m so taken with this disc. It’s not a brand new idea to combine unrelated elements into a working whole… but Al Margolis makes me think it is, putting “An Innocent, Abroad” into my top albums of the year.

2) Sabrina Siegel — “Grace/Precarious” — Yeah, I became Sabrina Siegel’s number one fan this year, sue me. Siegel’s ‘situationist’ approach to recording results in hyper-personal work where setting, physicality, thought, and personality interact as equals. It’s a stunning disc, and you’d be a big dope to miss it.

3) Circle Six — “Night in Kansas” — Talk about a missed opportunity! C6 releases one of the best albums of the year, in an edition of 30… for trade only. Compounding the unlikely scenario that a noise album about Kansas could kick so much ass, my good friends at Roil Noise Offensive actually have a remix album of it in the works. What’s next? A crow-themed double-disc drone set?!

4) Various — “Crows of the World, vol.1” — GET OUT OF MY HEAD!!! But seriously, this is a terrific set. Last Visible Dog, well-known for last years 6-disc outer-limits drone Invisible Pyramid set, once again manages to curate an essential collection of drone wooziness guaranteed to fuel your next excursion to the place between “pleasantly stoned” and “fugue state”.
5) Tom Nunn — “Identity” — Things just keep getting weirder and weirder. Tom Nunn plays moth-shaped instruments (of his own design) with combs, masters the knitting-needle-spring combo, and generally leaves my jaw on the floor the whole time. I could have easily added a few more Edgetone Records releases to this list, but this is the best of the bunch, hands down.

6) The Transhumans — “Into the Maelstrom” — Cursed with a somewhat dorky-looking cover, this disc still provided one of my best listening experiences of 2007. Post-listen, I was physically exhausted; a full believer in The Transhumans unique dynamic utilizing drums, electronics, and more electronics. Don’t worry, nothing remotely techno occurs.

7) Thanos Chrysakis — “Klage” — The folks at Aural Terrains sure know how to kick off a label! With “Klage,” Chrysakis has created a crystal-perfect world of electroacoustic sound with a high level of physicality still present… not an easy thing to do, if the sterile and disembodied releases so often claiming the “EA” title are any indication. As a fun fact, “Klage” has also gotten more people to call in to “It’s Too Damn Early” than any album this year.
8 ) Jeff Rehnlund — “Our Thin Mercy of Error” — Hymns released a ton of killer recordings this year, but for me, Rehnlund’s disc was one of the real high points. Taking the “anything goes” found sound aesthetic of the label, but also combining it with a narrative feeling resulted in a disc not only strikingly open to influence but also notably human.

9) Mike Tamburo — “Language of the Birds and Other Fantasies” — This one is kind of a no-brainer. Seven discs of Mike Tamburo’s exploratory free-folk improvisations and compositions, an 80+ page booklet, hand-made artwork, and a DVD of his film experiments to boot. Last I knew, these were still under $50— if there’s any left.

10) My Fun — “Sonorine” — One of two returning artists from last years list, Justin Hardison continues to send full-color maps and supplies for those interested in exploring the land promised by home recording and CDRs. This album is like the North Star, people! Seriously, I can’t say enough good things about it.

11) Phil Hargreaves, Glenn Weyant — “Friday Morning Everywhere” — Here’s one you can even download for free. I’ll admit, I didn’t really take into account netlabel releases in this list– if they’re free, you should just be checking them all out, right? Lucky for you, “Friday Morning Everywhere” squeaked in when Phil Hargreaves mailed me a copy. I guess he knew my printer was out of ink, cause I got the full pdf-cover workup and everything. Both Hargreaves and Weyant have joined my short list of incredible musicians this year (Hargreaves work with Caroline Kraabel on “Where We Were,” and Weyant’s “Sonic Anta” series are essential listening) so having them both on one disc is fantastic. While you’re ordering the other 13 releases here, why don’t you put on your new download of this?

12) Shelf Life — “Ductworks” — Judging from Public Eyesore’s release page for this disc, I was one of the only people who gave “Ductworks” a good review. You know by now that this means they were all wrong, and I was right. Otherwise, how could it be on a Top 12 list of best albums?! (See what I did there?) But seriously, I’m super-impressed. Collectively, Shelf Life resist the tendency to make something familiar of their sounds, and instead remain wholly focused on wringing every conceivable sound from their respective instruments, whatever they are. The level to which this quartet manages to fully blend their sounds is amazing, pointing away from the call-and-response improv model to something completely new.

13) Robert Ashley — “Now Eleanor’s Idea”— Robert Ashley is the second of the returning artists to my top albums list. Surely assisted by my near-fanatical devotion to Joan LaBarbara’s work, “Now Eleanor’s Idea” fascinates me for many of the same reasons as Ashley’s “Foreign Experiences;” the ordinary human impulses followed to fantastic conclusions, the ability of the performers, and the restrained elegance of Ashley’s music.

14) Various — “Untitled” — A three-label, three-disc untitled noise collection from the Public Guilt, Epicene Sound Systems, and Underadar labels. Everyone seems to have their own unique path to noise music, so it’s hard to recommend an entry point– but as a survey of the impossibly wide-spread noise “scene,” this is probably as close as it gets. Extra bonus points for keeping this release reasonably priced, and in an edition greater than 25– a freakin’ rarity these days, it seems.

It’s Too Damn Startling #5!

December 23, 2007

I’ve just uploaded the 5th edition of “It’s Too Damn Startling,” my regular contribution to Tony Youngblood’s ~ORE~ Theatre Intangible radio show. You’ll definitely want to grab this one!

Going into my fifth edition, I decided that I really didn’t want to work with a lot of materials. I’d had a conversation with fellow WDBX-FM deejay Nick last night regarding my microsound leanings, and of my own temptations about working ever deeper within the waveform.

Of course, I’ve also been doing a fair amount of thinking about Stockhausen, as I have been taking a more active approach to hear many of his works of which I am unfamiliar. I decided to take a very small sample of one of Stockhausen’s works, and use it as the basis of a larger piece.

Following this rather vague plan, I ended up using a little less than two one-hundredths of a second of Stockhausen’s “Helikopter Streichquartett” as the sound source for a 3′ 33″ work of pulsing, chattering sound evolution. I’m quite pleased with it, and hope you will be as well.

You can hear “It’s Too Damn Startling #5” when today’s broadcast airs live from 2-4 AM, this December 23 on WRVU-FM. However, if you have plans to be handcuffed and left for dead during this time, you may download It’s Too Damn Startling #5 at your convenience upon rescue.


What would you miss?

December 10, 2007

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about taking a vacation, just tossing around a variety of ideas with my family. In the front-runner position is taking a cruise; it’s pretty laid back, the weather is nice, and having a warm beach to fall asleep on sounds particularly nice.

An interesting sound-related thought occurred to me today, though– what would it sound like? Specifically, what sounds would be missing?

Original photography by DaveX

I realized that I am quite accustomed to paying attention to new sounds when I travel, but the opportunity to spend a significant portion of my life off land made me realize that there is a very real possibility some sounds I regularly hear will be entirely absent.My first thought was that probably wouldn’t hear cars. I’d be on the water, right? Still, I don’t always hear automobiles now. For some of my childhood, I grew up in a rural setting; the sound of a car was uncommon enough to be more cause for concern than to be any sort of normal background noise. Hearing a car usually meant someone was lost, or that family was returning home.

Clearly, the loss of automobile-related sounds wouldn’t be too interesting.

Any cruise ship will obviously be full of people, bringing with them all the associated sound-baggage. From what I understand, birds are well-represented, with pelicans doing their usual bit of beggary.

Wondering if I might find reprieve from an otherwise-omnipresent sound was such a compelling conceit that I was growing disappointed that I was unable to figure out what such a sound could be.

Finally, the answer occurred to me– insects! Unless I’m mistaken, there shouldn’t be a significant insect population on the open waters of the ocean. For at least a couple nights out to sea, the perpetual companionship of insect call will fade from my life.

In my experience, insect sounds are part of the “silence” John Cage experienced in his famous anechoic chamber. Whether I choose to recognize them or not, insects are always present. Scientific estimates of the sheer number of insects are staggering– with an estimate of eight quintillion (1018) individuals in existence at any given time! Surely, there can be no escape from their sound on land… and maybe not even on the ocean.

Regardless, it’s an interesting concept. In the places you’ve been, what sounds did you miss?

Liveblogging! Commentary for “ITDE” 11/24/07

November 24, 2007

Update: This broadcast is now available for download. As always, I ask that you do not use this as a substitute for the actual recordings– instead, I encourage you to seek out the artists and labels linked throughout this commentary and playlist. Thanks for listening! –DaveX

I started today’s broadcast about 15 minutes early. With three hours of sleep, I’m actually feeling better than you’d think– of course, I did little yesterday except eat leftover tofurky and watch “The Office”…

I kicked everything off with Hong Chulki’s “Turntable” double 3″ set from Seoul-based label Balloon & Needle. I played from the “no cartridge” disc last week, so I aired the “with cartridge” disc this time around. I have a tremendous soft spot for experimental turntable work, and Chulki’s generous and straightforward recordings certainly fit the bill. Currently, I’m playing from “Hum and Rattle,” featuring more of Chulki’s turntable, as well as Choi Joonyong’s work with manipulated CD player.

Like Otomo Yoshihide‘s turntable recordings, these are both noisy without being “noise” recordings, and are seemingly quite interested in many of the smaller sounds able to be generated with such sources as well as the more obvious louder ones. As a side note, I’m also really impressed with the design of both releases– “Turntable” features a subtle set of triangles to help listeners match the otherwise-featureless discs to their respective sides; “Hum and Rattle” is displayed nicely in a bit of folding cardstock that cleverly grasps the disc on both sides.

How’s this for a cool release? Uton and Valerio Cosi! I’m playing from their Fire Museum Records release “Kaarmeenkaantopiiri,” which I have no hope of pronouncing correctly on-air. This disc isn’t nearly as mysterious as previous Uton recordings I have encountered, with a much stronger musical bond between the two musicians than I would have guessed. This ends up sounding quite a bit like a more dramatically-layered My Cat is an Alien, very cool!

Moving to the Last Visible Dog release “Hum Hum Hum” from Vapaa… the track “Varjoista,” so we’ll have some time to get into Keijo Virtanen and company’s mindset– not always the easiest thing to do on radio.

It’s been a while since I last played an Ernesto Diaz-Infante/Chris Forsyth collaboratition– “Wires and Wooden Boxes” is actually among the first I heard from either artist, so I’m happy to be able to play from this one, “(As Is Stated… Before Known)” on Pax Recordings and Evolving Ear. I’m planning to do some new reviews this coming week, so look for some more information about this disc in upcoming blog entries.

Also new this week from Pax is another album from The Abstractions! Truthfully, this is a split-label effort, with help from Edgetone Records as well… so it’s a real pastiche of Bay-area improvisers and sound artists– Ernesto Diaz-Infante, Rent Romus, Bob Marsh, Marjorie Sturm, Matt Davignon… you see where I’m going with this!

There’s a lot of left-wing political lyrics here, which sort of turns me off– not that I don’t agree that Bush is a complete moron, I just don’t like mixing politics and music… it’s like putting dirt in a grilled cheese or something. On the other hand, for those of you who don’t mind a bit more fearsome gnashing at the bit of straight society, (and dig strange flavorings of music) The Abstractions’ “Novo Navigatio” might be just the thing for you.

I ended up playing a lot more of Frank Rothkamm’s “LAX” disc than I thought I would have– this is a real infectious release, and I’ll definitely have more of it for you next week. Don’t be surprised if some Rothkamm makes its way into my “It’s Too Damn Startling!” contribution to tonight’s broadcast of WRVU-FM’s “~Ore Theatre Intangible”

“Hey! You got Rothkamm in my podcast!” Sorry, I had to do it.

I also played a long selection from Gianluca Becuzzi and Fabio Orsi’s “Wildflowers Under the Sofa,” which is available through Last Visible Dog Records. This is a really enjoyable disc– a great blend of the drone and avant-garde elements LVD is known for.

Hong Chulki — With Cartridge 1
Hong Chulki — With Cartridge 2
Hong Chulki, Choi Joonyong — hr
Hong Chulki, Choi Joonyong — ua
Uton, Valerio Cosi — Silmaympyrakolmio
Vapaa — Varjoista
Ernesto Diaz-Infante, Chris Forsyth — The Sun is Shining
Ernesto Diaz-Infante, Chris Forsyth — How Little Observed… Half a Mile Distant
Ernesto Diaz-Infante, Chris Forsyth — Tomorrow
Ernesto Diaz-Infante, Chris Forsyth — Some Years Since (The Moon, Supposing It To Be Uninhabited)
The Abstractions — Lament the Fallen
The Abstractions — Take Off Leave Now Never Come Back
The Abstractions — Christian Bush
The Abstractions — Take Yourself Seriously
Frank Rothkamm — Temporarily Unavailable OR Descent into LAX
Frank Rothkamm — Los Angeles OR LATV
Frank Rothkamm — Beehive OR Focal Point of Masonic Meditation
Frank Rothkamm — Digital Signal Processor OR Earthquake
Frank Rothkamm — Still Random OR Burial of Music
Frank Rothkamm — Digital Feedback OR Highland
Gianluca Becuzzi, Fabio Orsi — No Flower
Gianluca Becuzzi, Fabio Orsi — Last Flower

Alien music

November 13, 2007

So I’ve been constructing little creatures out of Nickelodeon “Tangles” this evening, just putzing around, basically. These toys are pretty damn ugly– like a bastard offspring of an K’nex and an 80’s Kraft Mac ‘n Cheese commercial– UGLY.


Anyways, having made two such creatures, linked by a fluorescent orange umbilicus, I began dancing them about on the floor. Music being a necessity for these creatures to dance, I made up some alien music…

burr burr burr pop splot burble burble grr pah pah grum burr splot

Or something like that. Apparently, in my mind, alien music sounds a lot like a pitched-down clothes dryer attempting to wrinkle-release a giant tampon. This being vitally important information, I figured I’d share this story with you.

If you have first-hand knowledge of what alien music really sounds like, or own a CD where someone actually put giant tampons in a clothes dryer; feel free to leave a comment.


November 11, 2007

It’s funny how time sneaks up on us. Here I am, badgered with every conceivable variation of people’s endless fascination with it being 11/11 today, and I almost failed to realize that in just over three days it will be STARTLING MONIKER’s one-year anniversary.


Yeah, I know. I can hardly believe I’ve managed to stick with this for a year either. Like many of my projects, STARTLING MONIKER exists in the kind of push-pull relationship– usually caught between guilt and duty; but every so often, ambition and resignation.

Before I properly began writing this blog, I had the vague idea that I would enjoy sharing some of the sound-related ideas that seem to pop in my head each day. At the time I had been thinking a lot about my formative listening experiences, both recorded and natural. In my mental picture of the blog, I envisioned me writing mainly about these topics.

As all creative projects are wont to do, though, STARTLING MONIKER took on its own life– less a personal diary of sound musings, and more of a tightly-integrated facet of my radio broadcasts and my own musical work. I was surprised to see this happening, and am still surprised that many of the stories I fully expected to share within the first week of writing are still untold.Why I continue to hold these back, I cannot fully understand.

I’m fairly sure that one good reason is simply that such stories are difficult to tell. The vaporous nature of memory leaves too many gaps, especially in the area of sound. I know what it felt like to hear The Dixie Cups’ version of “Iko Iko;” with its alien lyric, oddly moaned “oh-oh” backgrounds, primitive percussion, and handclaps. What I can’t seem to describe is how it made me feel– confused, excited, swept up in something impenetrable?

My listening habits were equally strange. “Iko Iko” was in heavy rotation alongside the radio edit of Iron Butterfly’s “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida,” following my instant obsession with this song after hearing it on local radio one evening in the family car. I remember my dad calling my grandfather, who was by then a long-time record collector, to inquire about the name of the band who did this song. Of course, I soon learned an 18-minute version existed, though I wouldn’t own a copy of this unwieldy beast until high school.

You kids growing up with p2p have it SO easy.

For me, exposure to music arrived piecemeal, and often without context. To my elementary-school mind, The Surfaris’ “Wipeout” existed in the same time frame as Young MC’s “Bust-a-Move,” a tape I once borrowed from a friend, now deceased. My naivety about the origins and histories of these songs (and others) worked to my advantage– the unexamined connections, proto-mashups, and mental associations have led to all sorts of neat conclusions– and indirectly, to my enjoyment of experimental and difficult music.

It’s expectation and assumption that keeps us from greater ideas, and new paths, whether we’re blogging or listening to music. Hopefully, there will be a lot more wonderfully unexpected things to come in our next trip around the sun! –DaveX

More free things for you to hear!

November 5, 2007

I am neatly side-stepping my previously self-made trap of numbering the free things I want to share with you. Last time, three turned into six, and six was nine… and there’s my half-assed attempt to lead into a Jimi pun!

Anyways, let’s kick off the free things with a video, how about it? Sabrina Siegel, one of my new favorite artists, has shared a “making of” short on YouTube. The video shows some of her work constructing “Yom Kippur,” an outstanding track on her recent Pax Recordings release “Grace/Precarious.” I’ll only embed it here if you promise to bop over to her profile and leave a nice comment. Nobody likes sharing their videos and not seeing a friendly comment!

Here’s a cool one for you– Mike Hallenbeck’s must-hear “Tactile: Improvisations” at Addenda. Crumpling paper or leaves around a stereo microphone, dragging the poor thing out of bed early in the morning, or just plain massaging it with his hands; Hallenbeck wrestles an amazing variety of sounds from simple interactions. It’s one of the most physical recordings I’ve heard, and naturally goes great with Siegel’s work above. Any chance I can convince you two to collaborate on a series of long-form recordings involving contact mics, itchy sweaters, and dried pasta? Somehow, I think this would work.

Next stop on this journey is netlabel Digitalbiotope, to download yourself a copy of Kuz.B’s piece “Wenesday By Bus.” The tracks, which were presented as part of the October 8, 2006 portion of that year’s 97-day-long streaming audio festival Le Placard. Speaking of which, I need to sign up for this year’s broadcasts! It’s been too long since I contributed, eek.

While you’re still at Digitalbiotope, you might also want to check out Italian improvisational trio Clan’s release of “Venerdi 17 Improvisation.” This will give you ample opportunity to get acquainted with this outfit– important, because their newest release is the subject of the next paragraph!

To cut straight to it, you can find Clan’s newest set of improvisations, Dur d’ona oregia” at Polish netlabel AudioTong. If your right-click is still strong, be sure to snag LeeDVD’s pop oddity lenajgiwittuju” as well. It’s super-weird, but a fun listen. I may find a place on my jukebox for this one, actually.

Now it’s time to wrap this up. I’m tired, and more or less ready for bed. I’ve got one more for you, though, so let’s be quick– netlabel Zeromoon’s release “Static Attack,” from Ken Yates solo project Caustic Castle. Featuring processed no-input mixing board work, it easily earns the “caustic” portion of the name in the first few moments of the recording. I don’t know a lot about Yates, but I imagine he’d be interesting to catch in a live setting. If anyone has more information about his recordings, be sure to leave me a comment!

Enjoy! –DaveX

John Cage, a charlatan!?

August 28, 2007

Yesterday, I finally decided to register at the “i hate music” forums. Blame it on the combination of a Sachiko M thread and the fact that there are very few people I can talk to about such music locally. I’m also hoping that some of the better writers might take a look at my reviews– it’s no secret that I’d appreciate some constructive criticism in regards to my music writing.

Having been primed by the interesting discussions going on at “ihm,” I was in a receptive mood to click on a link in the comments section at Pharyngula that described a blog with the topic of “matters musical and high-cultural.” It turns out I should have paid more attention to that term “high-cultural”…

John Cage, on the game show

Anyhow, the link took me to the blog “Sounds & Fury,” where a New Yorker writes aptly and passionately about “classical” music, opera, and the myriad of fascinating events surrounding these works.

Admittedly, I have much to learn about so-called “classical” music. Like many areas of sound, it is daunting in its own way; full of new artists, terms, and unfamiliar history that takes some time to work into before the pieces begin to fit. Jazz used to be much the same way for me– a perplexing, amorphous mess filled with endless liner notes detailing the contributions of faceless names and mysterious places.

Despite my rather ridiculous start, (my first jazz purchase being John Coltrane’s “Meditations,” of all things!) I dug in, struggled through those liner notes, listened to the recordings until they started making sense, and picked up book after book to absorb the history and ideas driving the music. Unsurprisingly, it worked. Ten years later, I’m comfortable discussing and listening to jazz music– and while I still have a lot to learn and hear, I’m no longer bewildered while browsing the bins at a good record store.

Eventually, I’ll feel the same way about “classical” music. That’s why I read sites like Sounds & Fury; I want to dig into these accumulations of knowledge and make the pieces begin to fit together. That’s why I was particularly surprised to find that Sounds & Fury is written by a closed-minded caveman.

Go check out the Sounds & Fury main page, and see what you notice– yes, that’s it… up in the top right corner: “A Very Brief Thought On New Music.” I can’t believe I didn’t see it right away, but it went unnoticed while I browsed the archives. Then I saw it. “Hooray!”; I thought. “This guy writes about new music too!”

And then I saw it:

“Of that so-called New Music of which I’ve direct experience, almost all of it not recognized immediately as blatantly and tiresomely derivative tripe requires at some level, and to greater or lesser degree, the active participation of the intellect in order to appreciate or, in some cases, even begin to comprehend. That, to my way of thinking, is the very definition of non-music — more, and much worse, a veritable perverse contradiction of just what it means to be music. In short, anti-music, much of it concerned with sound per se rather than with purely musical ideas, and much of that traceable to the influence of the charlatan John Cage.”

And he goes on:

“Which is not to say such can’t (or shouldn’t) be enjoyed, even relished, at some other level. But at the level of music — that condition to which all art aspires — it fails utterly and abjectly. And that’s principally why, not much time left me for music listening as the human span goes, I’ve little or no time for it. There’s simply too much music — genuine music — I’ve either not yet experienced, or not experienced or understood to the deepest level of which I’m capable, to spend valuable time sussing out the ostensible musical value of such presumptive music which, on initial hearing, I find to be no music at all.”

You know me. I couldn’t let this go unexamined. I love experimental music, and must surely be counted as among the most passionate and enthusiastic of its listeners. I can’t begin to fathom the magnitude of influence Cage’s ideas and works have had on the recordings and performances I so enjoy… To see an otherwise-knowledgeable listener write than he was a charlatan was unthinkable. I fired off an e-mail:

“…the John Cage = charlatan bit compelled me to write, the purpose being to ask you to give any decent reason why you’d say such a thing. He may not be your cup of tea, but damn, the man is definitely a composer. He may be one of the most important composers of the 20th century; I’m amazed any thoughtful person could find otherwise.”

To which I received:

“Oh? And just what, exactly, makes Cage “definitely a composer,” and “one of the most important composers of the 20th century,” other than his influence on those looking for an easy way out of sounding in their compositions like pale and effete copies of those musical giants who preceded them?”

So the guy has some balls, no doubt. Still, I wasn’t letting him off the hook. I asked my question first, and rightly claimed that he should defend his “charlatan” accusation before I’d address my own statements. He replied:

“I’ve already stated my reasoning. It’s contained directly in my statement about the charlatan Cage. To repeat: “In short, anti-music, much of it concerned with sound per se rather than with purely musical ideas….””

That’s it? This was the big defense? Mr. Sounds & Fury says it’s not music, so John Cage isn’t a composer. Well! One wonders what he was doing on the Pharyngula website in the first place– championing that omnipresent creationist “the bible says so” argument?

I wrote back, giving concrete examples of some of Cage’s compositions ranging from the highly-detailed (such as Etudes Borealis) to those allowing for much greater influence of chance (such as HPSCHD, which let players shuffle the score). I also discussed some of the main ideas Cage demonstrated and worked with, to show his enormous importance in 20th century music:

“John Cage gives us the following startling notions about music: 1) That there can be no true silence, only unexamined sound. 2) That the border between “noise” and “music” is far less real than previously imagined, and very well may not exist. 3) That rhythm is the basic structural element of all music, being that duration is the only common element of sound and silence. These are huge ideas, and it is difficult at best to fail to notice the time and effort at understanding them taken since Cage’s introduction of these concepts. While you may disagree with the various aesthetics wrought by their birth, I can hardly see how you could claim John Cage is NOT one of the most important composers of the 20th century. Who indeed would you put in his stead?”

I figured I had this guy hemmed in. I mean, seriously, I can’t take a step into new music without running into one of Cage’s ideas. But I underestimated Sound & Fury’s slipperiness, and apparent ability to self-medicate:

“In his stead? He has no “stead”. He’s a nobody as a composer. A total cipher. As I’ve said: a charlatan.”

I don’t know what I expected from someone who recommends using Internet Explorer for viewing his website! I asked him to back up his statements, or I was using him for blog fodder. Obviously, that’s what happened.

At the heart of S&F’s miniature “defense” is this strange notion that somehow, the sounds that emanate from an easily-recognized musical instrument are “music,” but that other things are “just” sound. Or something like that– frankly, it’s hard to tell what this guy thinks. Tossing around lightweight phrases like “purely music” is simple, but S&F seems to lack the mental effort necessary to catch up with his rampaging chutzpah.

In the closing paragraph of his “Brief Thought on New Music” section, Sounds & Fury poses the question, “Is all this the musical equivalent of what it means to be a Luddite, or, worse, a woodenheaded philistine?”

To which I reply: “Yes, all of the above.”

Liveblogging! Commentary for “ITDE” 8/4/07

August 4, 2007

I’m starting this week’s broadcast with the “Dinner: Local Sidereal Stomp” portion of “27 New York Antisonnets,” which I reviewed earlier this week. I’m not really sure where I want to take this week’s show, so I guess this will give me a bit more time to figure it out, huh?

Whoops. Here’s the dangers of blogging while mentally adrift– mistaking the “post password” field for the “post slug” field… I went to view my post, and found that I had pass-protected it! Took me a minute to realize what I had done. Not yet 4:30 a.m., and I’m already useless, haha.

Photography courtesy of Miss Information

Okay, now I am playing from Edgetone Records’ generously-titled “Two Rooms of Uranium Inside 83 Markers: Conducted Improvisations Vol.II,” a disc of improv orchestral works featuring Moe! Staiano’s “Moe!kestra,” the only improv orchestra I know with punctuation within its name. Moe!, you’re killing my spell-checker, just thought I’d let you know. For all you lovely , do have some fun with the stereo field on this recording– one room’s orchestra is featured in the right speaker, the other is in the left. As my hometown ice cream shop used to say: “try one or two or both!”Luckily for you, this is not Moe!’s attempt at combining butterscotch and mint flavors, yuck.

Today’s show is shaping up to be one of those broadcasts where I play six long cuts, it seems. I guess I’m just in the mood for longer works, and less transitions– I’ve got everything falling more or less neatly on the half-hour marks.

Yep, I’m definitely in long-form land– spent 20 minutes with the Lona Records release of Alok’s disc “C,” and now seriously considering an hour’s worth of The Transhumans. It’s really the least I can do, seeing as how I forgot the “Into the Maelstrom” disc last week. I’ve about 45 minutes to go with it yet, looks like the plan for now. I really want you to hear this disc! Of course, this only takes us through parts one and two– I’ll leave part three between you and pfMentum’s staff of highly trained, crushed velvet-uniformed sales enthusiasts. (At least this is how I imagine it could be.)

I’m going to finish off with at least a couple cuts from an early Roil Noise release, the first Roil Noise Offensive sampler. Rubbish definitely has his own ‘take’ on noise– raw, brutal, and immediate. Although he and label co-captain Noah (Rabbit Girls) have collaborated together, its separately that they do the most damage– Rubbish with the trash-can percussion, Rabbit Girls on spastic digital cut-ups– a bit like the noise version of the Odd Couple, really!

Photography courtesy of Miss Information

I’m going to try to get this broadcast available for download today, but if I spaz out, please check back soon– it will be here! Thanks for listening, I hope you enjoyed the show. –DaveX

Update: I got some sleep, though it was somewhat marred by a nightmare where a white octopus/snake/frog creature came out of my curtains and attacked me. Nevertheless, I have managed to get today’s episode available for download. As always, I encourage you to seek out and support the labels and artists played on “ITDE”. If you don’t, I’ll send the octo-snake-frog to get you. Also, ignore the fact that I got the month wrong in the file name– I didn’t get that much sleep.

Little Ricky’s House of Chankletas — Pricondita Armonia
Little Ricky’s House of Chankletas — Catastrophe in Aisle Four
Little Ricky’s House of Chankletas — A Decision is Required!
Little Ricky’s House of Chankletas — The Lobster Waltz
Little Ricky’s House of Chankletas — Crustacean Death
Little Ricky’s House of Chankletas — Not So Super Theme Song
Little Ricky’s House of Chankletas — Funeral for a Lobster
Little Ricky’s House of Chankletas — A Trip Down Alzheimer’s Lane
Little Ricky’s House of Chankletas — Tasty Crust
Little Ricky’s House of Chankletas — Neal and Bob ver.32.2.1
Little Ricky’s House of Chankletas — Walker Tales
Little Ricky’s House of Chankletas — Isn’t This Annoying?
Little Ricky’s House of Chankletas — Studio Chips
Moe! Staiano’s Moe!kestra — Conducted Improvisation Piece no.11: Two Orchestras in Separate Rooms
Alok — C (for Schubert)
The Transhumans — Adrift: Loss
The Transhumans — Adrift: Redemption
The Transhumans — Descent: Approach
The Transhumans — Descent: Passage
The Transhumans — Descent
The Transhumans — Descent: Forgotten Memories
Rubbish — Back Stabbing Masker
Rubbish — In the Company of Primates

Liveblogging! Commentary for “ITDE” 7/7/07

July 7, 2007

Well, we’re nearing up on Free Slurpee Day, and once again I’m nowhere near a 7-11. Luckily, I can still broadcast, or I’d go completely mad. As usually seems to happen these days, I’ve started the show one half-hour early… letting this new rst disc “Axes” from Last Visible Dog Records have a little long-form action. And yes, I spelled that right– rst– and all lower case, too! It’s like a Google nightmare. I’m happy to finally be hearing this disc in a stationary position; all my previous listening sessions had been while driving. Let me just say that “Axes” is full of those little droning sounds that start making you think your car is falling apart, starting with some obscure belt. Cool stuff, but hard on paranoid car owners, haha.

Original digital photography by DaveX (more…)

DaveX gets interviewed!

June 25, 2007

HTXMR! O RLY?Hollow Tree Experimental Music Report has posted a loooong interview with me today. It is the second part in a series of cross-interviews with Zeno Izen, the first of which I posted last week.

Topics include how I choose music for my broadcasts, the state of modern radio, and the nature of experimental music. It’s all straight from this horse’s mouth! I hope you’ll take the time to read and respond to both.

Finally, I want to ask all my readers to please keep my new horse in your thoughts. As you can see here, he seems happy, but for some reason, he won’t eat. I am sick of eating sugar cubes to demonstrate how “yummy” they are. If this situation doesn’t approve, I may have to send him to meet Barbaro.