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12/12 - 1 - july '12 - seth cooke
  • _ch__ch_
    Posts: 1,899
    with nice packages received, let us discuss mr cooke's thing....
  • Got mine yesterday.

    The artwork is nice, has a clarity to it and a sense of purpose. Nice to have a little insert & process description in there as well. Felt the greyness could have been alleiviated slightly by either higher contrast or colour, but I sorta also felt that it wasn't the point.

    Musically, it starts off very gentle. In fact I'm not sure anything happens for 3 and a half minutes, which is kinda disconcerting, especially when sat down and paying attention for the act of "listening". The slow accumulation of detail is pleasant, almost satisfying in the process, despite the sounds themselves having a hollow touch, dispassionate or alien. The feedback is never too harsh or aggressive, as feedback pieces can be, although it does have that 'disconnected, removed, catatonic' nature that these kind of things often fall into (not a criticism). The amount of detail is constantly fascinating and it brings back to mind that scrabble to take in information I get from a Lynch film, where there's this constant uncertainty of what I should or shouldn't notice from each scene/sound. The increasing distortion is great in that it never wields to the softening amplification sound and keeps up the clinical panic within the piece, especially in the way as soon as you feel you've got your head around it, "this is growing" it sorta subsides without giving in.

    The title is well chosen also, as you do rather fall/get pulled into this.


    On another note, I mentioned in the 20/20 discussions that the quality of work etc had been rather challanging and I'm kinda annoyed that Seth has set the bar so high in month number 1.
  • joinedbywirejoinedbywire
    Posts: 159
    This is really really beautiful, once it gets going ;-)
    I really want to stick the enclosed sticker in my sketchbook, but then I won't have the complete release, what should I do? Nice Futura use as well.
  • expexp
    Posts: 2,632
    Holding off my responses until more people have had a chance to post, but there is one thing I wanted to slip in:

    Felt the greyness could have been alleiviated slightly by either higher contrast or colour, but I sorta also felt that it wasn't the point.

    The art is in colour - it just isn't easily perceptible at that scale, or possibly unprintable at that size. In July, when I blog the CD, there'll be a full size version that looks fairly rainbowish in places.
  • BBBloodBBBlood
    Posts: 56
    Just finished listening to Seth Cooke's - Gravity Well disc moments ago and really enjoyed it. After an initial sticking it into a laptop whilst watching a bit of the England vs someone game and getting a little bit confused by spoiling the ending for myself I thought I'd wait till the weekend to give the release a proper full concentrated listen.

    First off it starts with silence that went on for quite a while, I kept on cranking up the volume on my remote control but I was sitting in my front room with the blinds closed and it was very dark, so I couldn't see what was going on. Was slightly getting annoyed with myself as I was thinking either A) I broke/scratched the cd by accident when I droped it when I was drunk the other night or B) It's a blank CD and I'm off my tree.

    But my patience was rewarded when the initial feedback sounds started to creep in. It took a while to get going but once it did you can tell Seth was really in control with the feedback, maybe a bit too quite at the start but it didn't stop me from enjoying it, I enjoyed the (looped?) feedback and it was quite soothing in a way.

    The sound builds up and builds up until a drone is introduced what I really enjoyed. This drone plays for a while and then some disturbance / interfearance something that sounded like a mobile phone receiving a call in a way crept in, again Seth shows that he's totally in control with these sounds and I thought the interfearance was my favourite part. In a way it felt quite minimal would sound really good live in a large room, especially if the feedback was coming from all angles.

    Packaging I liked a lot, has given me a few ideas for when I start to put my 12-12 release together.

    In all very relaxing and enjoyable introduction to the 12 - 12. Thanks again!

    Paul / BBB

  • SandorKrasnaSandorKrasna
    Posts: 870
    Listened through earlier on headphones, sat in my garden with a glass of mediocre rose #bourgeois

    I liked it a lot. The kind of sounds used are not terribly to my taste - digital aliasing noise isn't a sound I enjoy generally. Not at all a criticism - just a personal tic. But it didn't take long for me to get past that - I think possibly because you were *playing* that sound rather than using it as an effect - it found its place.

    Because I know the sort of thing you're into at the mo' - process, conceptual consistency etc. - I could easily have overlooked the fact that it seems to be played very carefully. I was listening, thinking in terms of how all the elements - title, artwork, means of production - fitted together and suddenly realised that there appeared to be a lot more control and even expressiveness in the performances than I'd expected. Whether by accident or by design the pitch envelopes of the feedback are even kind of lyrical at times - at least in the context of this kind of material and the very restricted parameters. You could play it on a violin. (That might actually be an interesting project.)

    Weirdly, given the source material it reminded me a bit of traditional meditative musics like throat singing - maybe the limited pitch material and the parts circling back around.

    I know you like process determined pieces, and previously you've formed pieces by just lining up the ends of your source materials - so between knowing that and bearing in mind the way this piece builds to an accumulative climax, I'd guess you've done that again here?
    Either way The process or structuring decision you took combined with the other aspects of the process - overlaying of variations of the same material, give it some surprisingly trad compositional aspects - repetition and imitation between "parts" with variation, which kept my ear interested.

    Also in common with other things I've known you do (and much as you're performing the sounds here rather than just capturing them) there's a feeling of the sounds being left to be what they are - you're not (seemingly) fighting against what the feedback will do or trying to get it to obey a particular design, you're working within the very circumscribed zone of what these sounds will comfortably do. I think that's a lot of the strength of the piece.

    I have to be honest and say that I don't think the long intro silence added much - though there might be reasons for that that I'm not grasping though.

    Some questions:
    Why the long intro silence? Is it digital silence or were you recording? Might be the shitty preamp on my laptop - pretty high noise floor which hissed over the first bit, but it felt like there were barely perceptable breath sounds in the middle of the silence. Could've been modulated laptop hiss.

    any other "compositional" decisions beyond the process? Was there looping as someone else said, how did you align the sound files. How did you choose the sample rates, how was the stereo spacing decided (sounded static to my ears on the whole, but there were bits where sounds seemed to move - could've been similar pitches rising and fading in different tracks which gave the impression of them moving). Were those things done intuitively or were they part of the process?

    I'm assuming that like other things you've done, there's a kind of conceptual consistency between the parts of the package. What's the connection between "Gravity Well" , the images, the distortion of the image, and the process/sounds? I thought that distortion of space-time in a gravity well might link to interference processes and to the distorted cover image. And I thought might connect to the accumulation of material towards the end of the piece? Probably there's a lot I'm missing. I couldn't work out a connection to the photograph.

  • _ch__ch_
    Posts: 1,899
    SandorKrasna said: Why the long intro silence?


    i really love it.
    for whatever reason (and it probably isn't a good one) my brain wanders away and "forgets" its playing - or at least doesn't play clinical attention.
    so when the ghostly tendrils start to creep out of my speakers, its a really beautiful thing; that dancing along the edge of audibility.
    i am a great fan of extreme dynamics, or rather, to be precise, very quiet sounds; and the early stages of gravity well uses them wonderfully.

    the control and restraint shown in some of the passages was fantastic - regardless of whether this was the result of performance or mixing.

    loved loved loved the simple, whistled scales/notes.
    as well as being pleasurable; they're also a notably "human" sound which stands out - they also seem to possess a "gravity" and sense of "time" (simply "rhythm"?), that the more flowing, less tangible drones etc. lacked (NOT to their detriment, i should add). i mean that the whistling seemed to stand still and mark out a space, against the constant shifting and movement of the electronic elements. all good. :-)

    in the latter stages, the thick organ type tones created are very nice indeed.

    and the packaging is great. the "essentially" (i've read above) monochrome look gives it an academic feel, which is furthered by the text. i'm not always the greatest fan of liner notes which "explain" the release; but here they seemed to add to the mystery! they also gave my listening a "serious" context; which the recording deserved.


    TheZeroMap said: On another note, I mentioned in the 20/20 discussions that the quality of work etc had been rather challanging and I'm kinda annoyed that Seth has set the bar so high in month number 1.


    agreed.
    and if you'll allow me to rump-kiss for a second: for someone who's often concentrated more on real-time performance than recording, i have to say that every recording project i've heard from seth has been superb.
















    so anyway, seth: this is mobile phones, isn't it? ;-)

    (i win a prize, right? :-D )
  • SandorKrasnaSandorKrasna
    Posts: 870
    loved loved loved the simple, whistled scales/notes.
    as well as being pleasurable; they're also a notably "human" sound which stands out - they also seem to possess a "gravity" and sense of "time" (simply "rhythm"?), that the more flowing, less tangible drones etc. lacked (NOT to their detriment, i should add). i mean that the whistling seemed to stand still and mark out a space, against the constant shifting and movement of the electronic elements. all good. :-)


    Very nicely put, and I'm completely in agreement.
    "time" meaning not only rhythm, but the "in time/out of time". Eternal;nonhuman;non-agent vs momentary;passing;human;agency quality too.
    I thought there was mouth-whistling (as well as feedback "whistling") in there. I like that it's very close to the other sounds used and I questioned myself.


    for someone who's often concentrated more on real-time performance than recording, i have to say that every recording project i've heard from seth has been superb
    Also very true.
  • expexp
    Posts: 2,632
    Thanks for being such a lovely bunch of feedback-givers. Hopefully I’ll pick up on most people’s thoughts/questions… shout if I’ve missed ‘owt. By the way, just because I’m telling you how I made mine, doesn’t follow that you have to tell us how you made yours. Be as open or private as you like.

    All of the creative choices in Gravity Well arose because of the material rather than being forced into shape as a result of any pre-existing ideas on my part. Saying that, I do have some very definite pre-existing ideas – Sandor outlines some of them pretty well – but I tend to be material-led.

    I had two recordings that seemed like they might work well together. One involved an improvisation with my two house phones, set to intercom and speakerphone, feeding back into each other (and occasionally articulated by whistling, which was directed into the phones - well spotted!) while the headphone output of the recorder was feeding back via my studio speakers (recorded in stereo, which accounts for some of the mild panning effects). The other involved seeing the variety of interference I could get by moving my mobile phone around my recorder (turns out a surprising amount of variety – differences in volume, tone and stereo panning and some subtler differences in texture and timbre). So the sound sources in this piece are about as pedestrian/obvious as you can get. I imagine everyone has played about with them at some point.

    The interference naturally had a lot of digital silence, given that nothing was being recorded by the mics, whereas the feedback recording was made in my bedroom and recorded with stereo mics. Gating the room sound out of the feedback recording seemed an obvious choice to make the two sound more congruent, and as a result both ended up with a lot of moments of digital silence. Gating out the room sound was no great loss, there was nothing compelling about it.

    The sample rate variance was the result of an accident (or ignorance, whichever you prefer). Last year I had huge problems synching external audio to video because I was importing 48k audio recordings into a 41k project without realising. Total dumbass N00B thing to do, but I was tearing my hair out for about six months trying to figure it out. Then, like an utter tit, I did exactly the same thing with this composition when exporting the gated feedback audio with a view to reimporting it to make it easier to work with. I noticed it straight away; the file was visibly longer than the original. I played the two files at once and the harmony sounded lovely to my ear. So I exported the imported audio and reimported it again, this time deliberately, and the triple layered feedback sounded even better. I did the same thing with the interference recording (same logic – I liked the congruence better). Sandor: I assume, by the digital aliasing noise, that you’re talking about the difference in sample rates? If so I’m surprised you can hear this… my ear can’t detect any difference in quality between the three versions. But anyway, this part of the process makes Gravity Well quite a personal piece for me, because it goes some way to redeeming six months' worth of ignorant frustration.

    Sandor’s guess about structure is spot on – the six resulting files were lined up so they finished at the same time, with staggered starts. The material seemed to present that as the most natural choice; the longest, loudest feedback was at the end of that recording, so it made sense to make that section the most harmonically rich to increase the sense of climax; and the huge dynamic range of the interference was loudest at the end so that naturally climaxed too. No looping was used. So the material itself suggested that the piece should become louder and more harmonically rich as it progressed, with the sample rate variance causing the triplicate tracks to slowly converge so that the sound events became almost simultaneous in the closing seconds.

    The silence at the beginning is digital, and is there for a number of reasons. As the staggered layers build up, the total digital silence that is a feature of the original and gated recordings becomes increasingly lost. The more layers, the less space – but you’d be forgiven for thinking otherwise, due to the wide dynamic range of the interference recording. For most of the piece, the level is extremely quiet. I thought a good portion of silence, plus a slow fade in, would help tune the ear to those quieter sounds that are present but barely audible throughout most of the track. The length of the silence is also equivalent to some pop songs; it’s an after-the-fact rationalisation, but given current pop’s obsession with overcompression and the total lack of compression used here I thought that seemed fairly appropriate. Then there's the knowledge that I was making the piece for 12/12 - because of the way the project is framed, this is about as close to a dead cert for a small, attentive audience as you could wish for. I figured that I could expect a level of listener patience and curiosity here that I might not get elsewhere. The final reason is that the track has recurring use of the number three – three sample rates, three feedback systems (if you include me), so I felt a little compelled to make it thirty minutes long.

    The cover image is a colour photo of a particularly grim building in Stoke, taken when I drove Neil, Rob, Mel, Phil and Paul down for a show there a few weeks back (Rob took a similar shot). I’m not interested in the content of the photo – like the phones and the feedback, a concrete building is a pretty pedestrian/obvious image. But like the virtually inaudible interference, the colour is virtually imperceptible without an extremely close examination. Like the gating adding digital silence, large gaps of blank space have been introduced to the image. Most of that is obvious from looking at the image; most of the process behind the music is obvious to the ear. The insert and rear image show the original picture; the text on the inside openly discloses the process. So it’s more a comment on structure and process than it is on content.

    There were a few reasons for the title. As Karl says above, the centre of gravity is at the end of the track, with the six elements falling towards one single point of collision. It’s also a reference to Michael Pisaro, who incorporates a lot of quiet sounds and silence into his composition (who owns the Gravity Wave label). Plus I can never resist a reference to Gunbuster (before it is properly identified, one of the beings encountered in Gunbuster II is referred to as the Variable Gravity Well because of its ability to alter its own mass).
  • expexp
    Posts: 2,632
    One more thing - the feedback/phone/whistling recording was the second of two improvisations. The first featured a lot more whistling, was much more melodic (it resembled a spaghetti western theme), had more incidental sound and no speaker feedback. This one was chosen because the sounds felt substantially less forced into some kind of conventionally musical shape - as Sandor observes, they're allowed to be what they are, without too much imposition.
  • Apologies for dragging my heels on bringing in my voice. As there have been some more critically reflexive pieces, I'll keep it relatively concise and free from the words that I'm using elsewhere for other purposes altogether.

    The pacing of the piece, I thought, was excellent. The value of the silence at the opening, in my experience of it, became more apparent as the piece progressed. There was no grand rupture, but a gentle unfolding, which eventually sprawls into a sonic volcano with pulses and what not bleeding over itself. I think this is something that works well as the sound doesn't appear to be forced along in a particular trajectory, but rather reacts along a path, and the liner notes bore this explanation out (I read them after I had listened to it, as I didn't want preconceptions or spoilers, just a personal thing, not a negative criticism as one can always read the after.)

    I suffer from the same affliction as Clive in the mind-wandering area, although I only do this when the sound captures me in a way that means I'm not poking my ears in to a speaker, waiting for (or more likely wanting) x to happen, or if something is bugging me, and that doesn't happen on this recording. Continuing with the volcano metaphor, the journey the sounds take seems earnest and topographically organic that I'm not critically evaluating the route the piece goes on. That is probably a credit to the mixing too.

    On repeat listens, the quality of the sounds, or rather their mixed fidelities, became evident. This is something that I, in general terms, like. As such, I was surprised that it took wandering around Greenhead Park first thing in the morning to be registered.

    And yeah, nice one Seth, you've gone and set the bar a bit too high, you selfish toad. Think about us bumbling bafoons huddled over a metal table opening the doors and thinking "is that sound worth using?"
  • Ignacio
    Posts: 32
    Hello dear colleagues

    I am writing to let you know that despite the fact that I have finished my contribution to 12-12 a few days ago, I am expecting a short delay. I was assisted by a friend to do the artwork, and now we are having some difficulties adapting what we did to the templates that we are required to follow for printing of CDs. I was told that will be sorted out by Friday, when I will be able to have the CDs printed, which usually takes about a week. There is a chance that I might be able to have the material reaching you before August 2nd, but just in case you don't get anything you know it is on its way.

    These are thoughts I had when listening to Gravity Well.

    I found the piece very refreshing in the way in which it departs from the usual aesthetic assumptions that surround the use of its sound material. The most frequent approaches have more or less in common an underlying and pervasive ‘assumption of abstractionism’. These sounds are perceived as ‘experimental’, and the brand ‘experimental’ articulates the way those sounds are used.
    In this context, electronic sounds are frequently still conceived as a natural extension of a musical vocabulary wishes to distance itself from familiar and culturally mediated musical constituents such as modes, harmonic structures, homophonic layouts and idiomatic approaches to instrumental practice. In other words, the non-electronic context of electronic sounds is still frequently assumed to be dominated by atonalism, clusters, ‘extended techniques’, aleatoric collages (using electronics to ‘colour’ or denaturalise tonal/modal materials) and irregular rhythmic configurations.

    As I listened to Gravity Well I considered how its narrative and expressivity reflect a change that has been happening over the last decades in the ways the sound of interference and feedback is perceived. It also reflects a lack of ‘20th century baggage’. There is a richer awareness of how the interpretations of those sounds are culturally mediated in the broad sense, rather than them being a specific element for experimental music making. We have become so used to those sounds and the variety of contexts in which they happen that a number of new associations have emerged. They are part of our past, our memories, and nuance or define our perception of places, states, people and moods.

    The sound of interference does not necessarily evoke things like ‘modernity’ or ‘technology’ any more but, as we associate it with old radios, they evoke the past, our grandfathers’ radios, a clouded sky, a swarm of wires over a city at sunset, big machines, distance, ‘moving away’, etc.

    They are not, any more (if they ever were), a recognisable way to counteract the referential nature and connotative meanings usually associated with Western tonal harmonic/melodic language, as a ‘natural’ derivation of the aesthetics of serialist pointillism which aimed, in its re-interpretation of Webernian aesthetics, to rid Western music of its ‘classic’ expressive rhetoric.

    The constant presence of those sounds as a part of our daily lives as well as the way they are used in fictional contexts over and over again, used to describe or colour a situation or action, have gradually turned them into multifaceted icons of sounded meaning that articulate and are articulated within our personal experience.

    This doesn’t only mean that we are going to listen to old electronic music that uses feedback-like noises or interference with new ears, but also that we are very likely to have a much more flexible and encompassing palette of possibilities when it comes to how we use them in music making, given the huge amount of connotations and references they can create.

    This difference in approach is not just potentially perceptible in the specialised listener, but also among those who have more strict, mainstream education-culture infused ideas, of what music should be, and will find the idea of ‘listening to’ rather than just simply ‘hearing’ feedback and interference, quite challenging.

    I found Seth’s piece touching and quite melancholic, because it did, to me, exploit the expressive power that those sounds have accumulated through time via their presence in my everyday life as well as the works of my memory and social imagination. The piece does not just simply ‘unfold’ from silence to layered sound, it tells as story, it paints a landscape, and, most importantly, it creates the space for psycho-aural association where associated sounds become more and more audible to the mind’s ear. At many times they sounded to me like birds, voices, giggles, clouds, sleepiness, or the view through my father’s car windscreen on a rainy morning.

    It could be argued that what I am saying is to a large extent an outcome of my own approach to listening, and it is not necessarily associated to the piece. I would argue that it requires the right piece of music to make me listen in that way. And even though I can fuck with my mind in order to find a listener’s mindspace that would make me enjoy regrettable musical enterprises - such as Deep Forest, late Boulez, Cage’s randomisation of Thoreau, Coldplay, or Fanshawe’s ‘African Sanctus’ - I can tell when I have to consciously and forcefully stretch my perception and contextualising frames or reference, with a self-disgust aftermath, and when a piece of music is more spontaneously, or sympathetically, making me want to explore new areas of perception. In other words, the self-absorbed adaptive all purpose-neurosis as opposed to a two-part sharing persuasiveness.

    I feel that a lot of musicians working with electronic music are still quite married to the old abstractionist ways of listening and feeling, probably because it relates them to a ‘glorious past’ of big Western names of which they fantasize being a part.

    To me the best quality of Gravity Well is that it found a strong expressive force by using sounds in a way more informed by an honest reflection of associated emotions and narratives rather than a technical pursuit of aesthetic/methodological renovation. That is, in itself, aesthetically/methodologically refreshing.

    Ig
  • KNICKERS
    Posts: 1,231
    KNICKERS said:

    Just finished my first listen - very good indeed. Will offer some more thorough feedbackings soonish.



    And by 'soonish', I obviously meant 'about 2 months in the future'.

    So I finally got around to listening to this on a stereo the other day, rather than through headphones. I was holding off on commenting until I'd done so. See?

    The headphone experience: I tend to listen to music at work, but due to the nature of things, I don't really get more than 5-10 minutes without being interrupted. So I didn't get a 'complete' run. I also have the problem that the left speaker is fucked, meaning I have office noise interfering with ear-sound. It's an interesting way to be, and it's meant that I can find very little music that's particularly gratifying. There's an office move soon so I should be a bit more isolated, though I can't see the dialogical element being removed - ie, I'm obliged to talk to people more than I am allowed my own music-hole.

    I know these might seem like irrelevant details but I also know that Seth is a pretty assiduous noticer of contexts beyond the normative.

    Anyway - whenever I tried to listen to it, I kept finding that I couldn't find a volume to play it at. I think it's really rude to listen to music to the point where colleagues talking to me is more of an effort than talking at a normal volume. The piece goes from silence to moderately louder - though it didn't feel like volume was particularly part of the narrative arc. Played through half headphones which are fucked in the first place, I kept finding Tartini tones - which I'm pretty susceptible to. I perhaps didn't pay enough attention to see if they were consistent - the point being that listening to it in imperfect conditions, with my mind half-elsewhere (a permanent state at work), it either drifted into non-conscious attention or made me a little bit disoriented by the general hubbub of a central-Brighton office by a busy road.

    One of the things it did do was make the office a pretty intimidating environment. There's a couple of records I've listened to which do this thing to my ears where, while I don't pay a great deal of attention to the record while it's playing, it disappears into not being noticed while tuning the environment. Haco's Bugscape is one of my favourites for that, as is a la Monte Young piece which I can't remember the name of - it's something like 7 or 8 fraction tones in the space of a semi-tone, tones which are too close to be audibly different but, at a reasonable volume, articulate the room in which they're played. This was a bit more discrete than that. But it had a similar effect - I didn't really 'listen' listen but suddenly found that printers, keyboard tapping, engine hum, servers etc sounded too loud. So... that kind of meant I didn't really want to listen to it at work. My job's ok, the people are alright but as soon as the environment is allowed to be itself (or brought to consciousness) I find it pretty draining. I don't know how many of you have spent any amount of time in server rooms, but I've always found them the absolute worst places to be if you're paying too much attention to the sound. Plus, they're cold as fuck. I'm not really an outsidey sort either, but that's not really the point - the point is that offices are not the asceptic, identity-less environments they strain to be. Maybe my point is that the record made me want the office to be a place I could appreciate as a sonic environment, rather than a place I'm obliged to do whatever it is I do to keep myself happy.

    Seth's piece at Supernormal - the Michael Pisaro piece - was amazing. Hungover, smelly, lying back with my eyes closed, I completely failed to care which notes Seth was producing and which ones were the sonic environment. Also, the audience was small and exceptionally respectful - really important to me. The upshot is that it felt substantially less like 'a piece of music' and more like something that was tuning my ears in a very gentle way (the la Monte Young piece I mentioned does the same, but far more aggressively). I mention this because I'm thinking about it now - the SN piece had much the same effect as the 12/12 in the office, but at SN I was comfortable (albeit smelly) and amongst people I respect without any effort on my part. [I respect the people in the office, but I find it less of an effort to speak to musos because I don't have to feel like speaking geek is obnoxious or anything].

    This has turned into a tl;dr post about myself. Back of the net.

    So listening to it at home while I took a long bath, was a very different thing. I find these sorts of things very difficult to think about on any tonal level, and I quickly disappeared into listening quite intently. For quite a while, thinking that it was amazing how it had sunk into the environment, and how three minutes of silence is surprisingly long, and by God there's a load of sounds in there that I hadn't heard before. Beautiful.

    I had, of course, failed to hit play, and was just listening to the house.

    I know some people would say that Seth didn't do anything, but they're wrong. If I didn't consciously think I was listening to something, I wouldn't have enjoyed the first 10 minutes of my bath listening to the environment.

    Anyway. I got out of the bath, hit play, turned the volume up, and drifted into bath-relaxing mode. And again, the environment sounded all sprinkly. Then, as is characteristic of me, I forgot I was listening to it, got out of the bath, and dried myself in my room. Kind of half dithering about wondering whether it was worth getting dressed. The throb in the living room finally piqued my curiosity, and I wandered up and down the hallway figuring out what the sound was doing to the frame of the house.

    Uh... so yeah. The tonal thing - I did find this record very difficult to listen to on my normal level, thinking about tones and structure and rhythm and such. The whistles were a bit too distended to think about in any way other than as affect, and the arc was a bit to large for me to appreciate. It's definitely an interesting work, but I sort of struggled to 'like' like it except as something that did a good job of framing, articulating whatever environment I listened to it in. I'm not sure how much of that is by design - it's definitely a good record but, the nature of my listening is so dreadful that I don't know when I'll get a chance to listen to it again. I worry mostly that there's something about this record that'll make me feel dreadfully sad, especially as I realise that I just don't have time for listening like I used to, or have the environment to listen to things like this properly.






  • expexp
    Posts: 2,632
    something that did a good job of framing, articulating whatever environment I listened to it in. I'm not sure how much of that is by design

    Definitely by design, and I'm happy that you got that from it even if you weren't in love with it on the whole. Achieving that effect was one of the main reasons for carving so much space into it.
  • I love the fact that knowing it started with 3 minutes of near silence, you inadvertently didn't listen to it for about 10 minutes but enjoyed it.

    I find joy in the idea of their being a psychological quantum state whereby the record isn't on, but you are enjoying listening to it.
  • expexp
    Posts: 2,632
    There are many, many records that I enjoy more when they're not on.
  • Firstly, sorry for not getting around to this earlier - just handed in an MA and was a little busy/brain-fried.
    I found this work very difficult to write about, and as such almost didn't.
    Essentially, I don't like the piece, and was torn as to wether I should a) lie; b) not contribute my thoughts; or c) be as critical as i feel.
    I went with the last option - given the nature of the project, I felt its probably ok to not like each others work all the time, and healthy to pass on our opinions regardless. Sorry if I should have just kept quiet, but you'll be able to lay the heck into my work shortly enough.
    Right then.

    I found the use of silence a little baffling - the music, when it arrived, did so too abruptly for it to propagate any sense of "has it / hasn't it started yet?" - and I was left feeling its purpose was instead simply to check its audience was listening properly - something that could be interpreted as being a little patronising.

    The sounds themselves, once arrived, I also found problematic. I found them to be fairly generic in terms of their sonic characters, especially those lower in pitch - I probably couldn't guess their sources if I tried, but neither was I inspired to do so by their qualities. That said, I did enjoy the spacing of the sounds, especially in minutes 4 - 8 - I was reminded of a number of early electro-acoustic works, and could have listened to this section on repeat for a good half an hour without tiring.

    This effect however, was ruined for my by the addition of the longer, lower tones. I found these utterly unable to peak my interest, and to dominate (largely via their volume) the other sounds that I had previously been enjoying. While not opposed to my experience being ruined in some artistic manner, I found this disturbance not only unpleasant, but also trite.

    I don't know wether my next point is a criticism or commendation - potentially both. Because I found the sounds so uninteresting, It was my fourth or fifth listen to the piece before i began to explore the rhythmic relationships between them. I liked the fact that it took me this long to engage with such a prominent element of the piece - however I worry my reticence to engage earlier was born of the fact that I simply didn't care enough about the individual sounds to explore such relationships.

    Given that I found the sounds a little obvious, I found it difficult to enjoy the narrative arc of the piece - starting quiet, gradually getting louder. While Narrative arcs tend to be fairly formalised affairs and rarely surprise, a more unusual narrative might have saved the piece for me - placing all of the sound in a more decadent or mysterious field of play.

    I am aware I may be being harsh - and would end by making clear one of my own short falls. I am not very good at uncovering the nuances of sonic materials for which i hold no love - by way of example, the whole genre of "noise" music is a mystery to me because I have no access to it - I simply cannot engage with its elements in any critical fashion. I fear that a similar thing may be going on here - I don't feel exposed to the nuances of this work in any meaningful sense, and am sure a more subjective distaste for it is clouding my ability to view its merits in an objective fashion. For this, I apologize - I hope I haven't offended you, and that you find my criticisms useful (or at least largely harmless).
  • I think we'd all say that there's no problem with criticising so long as there's engagement with the music and it's constructive. So I can't see a problem with most of what you wrote. Certainly don't think everybody should love everything and far better to have a developed criticism than a lack of engagement.

    A couple of points of clarity though to make the criticism useful, on points where you possibly tip over into something other than constructive, engaged criticism:

    The low sounds were "trite". I don't really know what that means here. Seems a judgement which rests on a perception of Seth's intention with the piece - but you don't tell us what you think that intention is. Also triteness seems to be a judgement about effect rather than material, and you don't tell us what you think the effect of the material is - the effect that becomes trite. Because you're late to the table you ahve the advantage of seeing what Seth's stated intentions for the piece were. Did you think they were trite?

    Also you say the sounds were obvious but you couldn't work out what they were. So they were obvious in another sense than their provenance. Do you mean there wasn't much timbral development maybe, or that it was too monochromatic? Or something else?

    So no problem with criticism, but I think if your perceptions are negative and you want to communicate them there's a duty to be careful and precise in your language.
  • Sorry for the linguistic confusion. I probably should have prefaced by saying I deliberately have not read any responses or explanations of the work (for better or worse), and that my response is just that - my response. I'm not so much interested in second-guessing what a composer did or meant to do with a work, as to relate my very personal experience of that work.

    By "Trite" I was referring to the sentence that preceded it - the notion that a musical disturbance formed of a loud sound dominating pre-existing quieter sounds is a reasonably common way to enact a disturbance (again, not presumption of Seth's intent, only my experience of it) and thus potentially not very interesting. This effect is that which I, personally, find trite.

    Stating that I found the sounds obvious but could not place their source is not particularly contentious to my mind - we have a fairly long history of acousmatic sound art at this point, so it is very possible for a type of sonic object to be overused, without thoughts of its source really entering into it.

    I hope that makes my thoughts a little more clear.

    D x
  • Sure, agree there's no need to be able to place source of sounds in order to be able to feel they're obvious - I was just using that point to help make the distinction and to help clarify in what sense these sounds were obvious. Generic? Familiar? Less developed than they could be?

    Avoiding context point is interesting.
    For example I wasn't that certain about the silent intro either to be honest. I think discussion brought me around to it, a bit more at least - the effect is obviously dependent on the expectations you bring to the table and the breadth of your experience. If you don't know much about the contemporary strand of art music in which framing silence is quite common - and the ideas behind that - then your judgement will differ.

    I think patronising is a strong judgement there though, especially when an explanation is available to clear up your bafflement.
    But this is your commitment to acousmatic context-free listening and the decision not to read the discussion which I suppose comes from that.

    An argument (one of them) I have with acousmatic ideas is that by avoiding context you can end up bringing your own context (read predjudices) to the table without being aware of them. It can be a way of just isolating and protecting your own context.
    But I suppose that's a different discussion.
  • Yes, generic is a much better word, thank you. They are not sounds I wouldn't expect to hear in music such as this. However, that, for someone else, may be a good thing - i appreciate the role standardised elements plays in illuminating composition, it just doesn't work for me here.

    It is difficult - I could have read the discussion about the piece and it may have changed my thoughts - but surely we cannot expect our work to always be accompanied (and consumed alongside) long caveats and explanations. I personally, felt it would be more useful to present a reaction based on the primary (and for anyone with the cd but not the website, singular) stimuli presented.
    Context - especially reactive context such as a post-listening discussion - may well serve to provide suitable illumination so as to nullify the individuals prejudice - however, it may also provide the individual with a host of further prejudices that, unlike his or her own short-coming which may be well known and accounted for, cannot be factored into the experiential whole.
    A different and exciting discussion in its own right.

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