Sound work: “The Apartment Piece” on ((Cave)) Recordings

After discovering a review on Animal Psi for my tape on ((Cave Recordings)), I realised I never mentioned the release of this tape here.

So, foremost, a sound work by me, “The Apartment Piece”, has been released on ((Cave)) Recordings as a split with Chapels. This piece was recorded in Chicago using a variety of techniques and methodologies. It’s exemplary of my ideas regarding sound activity and domestic presences: Wherever I may be at a given time, I tend to place a recorder in a location where multiple sounds from multiple directions can be heard and can coalesce to create a singular listening experience. John Cage actually referenced this idea in a late interview, about which Marcel Duchamp evidently wrote. According to Cage, Duchamp began thinking of sound as not a “time art, but a space art”. From this idea, Duchamp created a piece called “Sculpture Musicale”, in which sounds converge at a point (presumably the listener’s) to create something “… lasting ; producing a sculpture, which is sonorous, and which remains”. This is an idea I’ve often thought about long before I heard the Cage interview or heard of Duchamp’s ideas regarding this. For quite some time I’ve been fascinated with the idea of listening simultaneously to a variety of sounds. This is especially applicable in a city apartment (when one has the windows open, of course, which I almost always do), although it can be noticed anywhere. For instance, from one window children can be heard playing in the park, from another the activities of a neighbour, traffic sounds, birds calling, wind blowing, clouds of leaves rustling, crickets chirping, the train passing, so on and so forth. Many times I would emphasise the sound activity by playing softly the Chicago classical station, WFMT, in one room, a quiet record in another, and some tape containing textural sound in a final room. Or some arrangement of the aforementioned and/or things not mentioned.

For “The Apartment Piece”, I started by playing an unidentified Dense Reduction tape (my sound duo with Travis Bird) and a primarily drone-based tape by Benjamin Galens (soon to be released on Notice Recordings). I recorded this with a microcassette recorder. I then recorded that to a 2-track cassette tape. I then played the microcassette back as well as the 2-track tape, in separate rooms, and recorded it once more with the microcassette recorder. Furthermore, I went about my daily domestic activities such as cleaning and doing the dishes. With this final tape, I began the composition. The tape was Channel 1 in my mixer. Channels 2 and 3 were connected to various outputs of the mixer, and thus functioned as no-input channels. Channels 4 and 5 were contact microphones, connected to various objects such as bricks, a metal box, and an old porcelain insulator connected to a brick via an iron spindle. The contact microphones were often used as interference with the microcassette speaker and microphone and the monitor speakers. There was also an open-air microphone introduced at one point or another. This was all recorded to 2-track cassette tape.

The result was, not surprisingly, very insular and self-contained. Elements of atmosphere and “space” remained,  albeit harnessed by unexpected sonic configurations independent from the initial set-up. This was good. This articulates, in a kind of ambiguous way, the mental (internal) and physical (external) atmospheres of the time.

This tape is available from both me and ((Cave)) Recordings.
A completely different piece dealing with similar ideas can be downloaded and read about on the Compost and Height site, here.


An audio piece on Compost and Height

The wonderful sound art/improv/field recording/etc blog Compost and Height has posted an audio piece by me. It can be viewed and downloaded here.

The above photographs are from Chicago, probably taken in the Springtime of 2011.

The piece is justified by this text:

3 February 2012
This recording is a product of a mostly aleatoric process. It functions as a fragmented reflection of my last year in Chicago.
Whenever I load digital recordings from a field recorder onto my computer, I always keep the snippets, mistakes and unintentional short recordings that probably won’t be used for anything. I once found myself going through these brief tracks and thinking about how they could function as elements of a larger composition, even if their existence was not originally intended. I decided to arrange them randomly, using the audio editing program Audacity.
To create this piece, I made an empty sound file in which the tracks were placed. I sorted all my WAV recordings by size, and began randomly choosing small files, placing them—also at random without listening to them prior—in this empty space. I knew I did not want any digital silence, so I selected a few unknown longer pieces that seemed to have mostly consistent waveforms as a kind of “backing” for these sounds. I also randomly chose a few of the tracks and reversed them. Finally, I knew I did not want very loud or abrasive sounds, so I ended up vetoing some tracks.
This piece is an aural reflection of the memories of my last year in Chicago. Because that year was a tumultuous time, their randomness also coincides with how those memories are stored and approached. I lived with my friend in a very beautiful neighbourhood, Ravenswood, and our windows were almost always open. Many of these recordings seem to be of the outside, but recorded from the inside of the apartment. The apartment and that neighbourhood were important to us. Some of the other recordings used in this piece are, evidently, from hydrophone recordings taken in the Chicago River, the resonances of a bridge railing, atmospheric classical music most likely from WFMT FM (which was often playing) and a brief one of my friend Travis tapping his drumsticks in a studio located in Berwyn, IL. One can also often hear the ubiquitous train crossing bell that sounded frequently and could be heard from our window. This recording is therefore an homage to this period in my life.