Archive for the thoughts Category

World Listening Day

Sunday, 07 July 2010

My wife and I participated, today, in the first World Listening Day.

We purposefully did not listen to any music all day, except as it was playing (sound pollution) from the ceiling speakers at the grocery store, and by other accidental means.

Instead we sat outside for breakfast, and purposefully listened to our surroundings. The highlight of this session came when a woman walked by, singing at full voice, with not a care in the world about what anyone would think about her. We were happy to listen.

As described on the World Listening Project’s website, part of the holiday’s purpose is to listen to field recordings, so we tuned in to several of the recordings hosted here by Radio Aporee for the World Listening Day event.

Later on, my friend Gurdonark notified me (and the rest of his readers) via his Twitter feed about a compilation calling for submissions called “Of Places and Moments“. The concept requires participants to download some field recordings hosted on the website, alter them in some way, and use them in a composition. I found this to be an appropriate activity for the day, and I labored a good amount toward composing a piece for this compilation.

Later still, my wife and I went to Roger’s Grove in Longmont, with the intention of walking around listening. We very much enjoyed listening to leaves rustling, birds chirping, chattering and buzzing… when we encountered a very serendipitous find that I had never seen before even though we’d visited the park many times. A public art piece entitled “Listening Stones” by Robert Tully has as its centerpiece a ten foot tall boulder surrounded by smaller boulders. On the side that faces away from the trail, the large, centerpiece has a parabolic reflector ground into it, with a seat, situated such that your head is at the center of the reflector. The reflector points at a bend in the Saint Vrain river.

(photo from city of Longmont website)

We spent a great deal of time listening to the focus of sound inside the sculpture. The effect is something like stepping into a separate space where quiet sounds become clear and amplified, it’s uncanny.

The sculpture had a mathematical formula etched on its seat: (X2 / 2131) + (Y2 / 67) = 1

We also walked around banging on bridge supports and found objects with our knuckles. It’s too bad I didn’t have a hand-held recorder to bring along.


Sunday, 11 November 2009

If you cannot eliminate an undesired distortion, you can amplify the distortion until it IS a desirable element.

Didn’t Beaudelaire talk about distortion in terms of beauty?

That which is not slightly distorted lacks sensible appeal; from which it follows that irregularity – that is to say, the unexpected, surprise and astonishment, are a essential part and characteristic of beauty

He also said:

Strangeness is the indispensable condiment of all beauty.

I’m pretty sure, given those two quotes, that Beaudelaire must not have been a modern American citizen.

When working on an artwork, sometimes it’s just not possible to repair an imperfection without destroying the only valuable thing in the work. In these cases don’t forget that you have the option to amplify the imperfection.

If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.

Impatiently gathering dust

Sunday, 11 November 2009

Charles Ives’ first symphony was completed in 1898. It was first performed in 1953.

Ellard is dead, long live Ellard

Wednesday, 11 November 2009


The public can only handle a very small period of an artist’s output and once that is in place, the artist is effectively dead to them.

I guess this is a good argument for my strategy (unintended though it may have been) to plod along for decades and never have any public recognition whatsoever. If the public don’t know you’re there, they can’t forget you!

The sound is now

Monday, 09 September 2009

What was the last music you heard that shocked you and made you think “This is the sound of the future!” ?

Drone Fish

Wednesday, 07 July 2009

If you love drones (I thought everyone did!) you should listen to this NPR Morning Edition segment about the midshipman fish:

NPR Morning Edition, midshipman fish

That fish makes some astoundingly beautiful acoustic drones. I could listen to a whole CD of nothing but that. Constant indeed.

Ellard and squoonsch

Sunday, 06 June 2009

Tom Ellard’s latest blog entry picks apart “sound art”.
Very funny piece. I have had opinions exactly like this when listening to performances and recordings of that kind of music. I have even thought about drones as an ‘easy way’ at times, my well documented fondness for them notwithstanding… (ahhh drones, like a warm snuggly blanket!)

Then I’ve also attended some performance festivals where the ‘squoonsch’-y stuff was more entertaining and enjoyable than the scores of kids with laptops making skittering IDM beats ill-paired with simplistic melodies, when droning haze was closer to ‘music’ than the other stuff.

A friend of mine once said “Making music is easy, making good music is ass-hard.”

Then again, I don’t know anything about “sound art”, a term which seems antiseptically academic. I’m just a guy who digs making and listening to weird shit.

More Quotes

Friday, 06 June 2009

I began to get enormously interested in hearing how everybody said the same thing over and over again with infinite variations but over and over again until finally if you listened with great intensity you could hear it rise and fall and tell all that there was inside them, not so much by the actual words they said or the thoughts they had but the movement of their thoughts and words.

–Gertrude Stein

Repetition doesn’t really exist.
As far as your mind is concerned, nothing happens the same twice, even if in every technical sense, the thing is identical. Your perception is constantly shifting. It doesn’t stay in one place.

–Brian Eno


Thursday, 06 June 2009

“With painting or words, you can always confirm what you’ve done, but music returns to nothing. It’s like seeing a part of yourself echoing away into nothingness.”

–Keiji Haino, on being a musician

NQN details, part 11

Monday, 03 March 2009

The final track on ne quid nimis is “in a red time”.

This track was originally recorded as part of an intended collaboration with a guy, a project that did not end up working out.

The song starts off with a very distorted and feedback-laden vocal, courtesy of the Zoom 9002. This gives way to a steady drone which was done by singing a drone into a mic run through pitch shifting, delay and distortion. There’s a guitar part which is pretty stark and spare, and a percussion part, which was made by recording an aluminum soda can wired up with a contact mic. I might have used a pencil or something to strike it, I don’t remember.

I thought at the time I assembled this collection of music that this was the most “ambient” of the tracks on this ‘diary of tentative ambient drafts’. The whole collection was meant as a statement about ambient from the perspective of an eccentric hometaper, and it was probably not by chance that the track I felt was most accessible to a fan of ambient occurred after all kinds of noisy experimentation, including a minute and twenty seconds of distorted noisestuff at the beginning of this track. I never thought things should be easy, and I still don’t.

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