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Posts Tagged ‘experimental music’

Found sounds

March 31, 2012 Leave a comment

I’ve recently been looking in some detail at community radio, this being related to a speculative project I’m planning to do a little later in the year. I’ve become a regular visitor to the coffee bar at my own local community radio, Hermitage FM but thought I’d share this one I’ve just discovered: Resonance FM.  They’re based in London and the community they transmit to is essentially a creative one: their ‘About’ statement indicates it was established in 2002 by the London Musicians Collective, as a ‘radical alternative to the universal formulae of mainstream broadcasting. Resonance 104.4 fm features programmes made by musicians, artists and critics who represent the diversity of London’s arts scenes, with regular weekly contributions from nearly two hundred musicians, artists, thinkers, critics, activists and instigators.’

And it really is music you won’t hear on any commercial station; cutting edge, innovative, experimental, and hugely varied. It gives exposure to bands, individuals, loose collaborations, and plays the kind of stuff that’s only ever ‘published’ as pressings of a hundred or so white-label vinyl records. I’ve yet to hear anything on there I didn’t find stimulating, provocative or inspirational.

Your own milage, or course, will vary – just bear in mind I grew up listening to everything from punk, goth and rave to Stockhausen and Subotnik, and the first and only musical ‘instrument’ I learned how to play was a VCS3 analog synthesizer!

Community radio, by the terms of UK licensing rules, only transmits at 25 watts with a typical range of 5 kilometres from the transmitter, and they’re based in central London. The good thing about the internet, though, is you can get a live feed to your PC and a lot of their stuff is also available as podcasts.

I made this

August 8, 2010 2 comments

I didn’t do my usual sitting-at-the-computer-until-my-eyes-bleed thing yesterday. Instead I built this:

What is it? Answer: a stepped tone generator with in built fuzz/distortion. A self contained noise instrument. Not having played with this stuff much for around 20 years and not having handled a soldering iron for over half a decade I’m pretty pleased with myself – though I have to acknowledge that it didn’t actually work until Stu discovered one of the components in the wrong place and fixed it for me.

It’s the result of going to an electronic music workshop run by Stench, a Leicester-based experimental music outfit. Interesting afternoon, with much conversation about circuit-bending – the ‘creative short-circuiting of electronic devices’, as Wikipedia has it. For the curious reader (you have to be pretty curious type of person to want to know, I suspect) there’s more on the topic at anti-theory.com. Or google it, there’s lots of stuff out there.

This all happened at Fabrika in Leicester, which is going from strength to strength, with fairly off-the-wall things happening. I don’t, for example, know who thought up the idea of workshops on recycling bicycles into other household items of furniture, decoration and utility but it’s a brilliant concept. No, I haven’t been, but just the idea of it is cool – workshops twice a month apparently.

Anyway… the evening was a Stench performance. Stench is a collaborative umbrella for a bunch of people all doing their own thing. So it started with someone whose name I didn’t catch, working with a range of samples. Then there was Steve Auxilec. Ordinarily it wouldn’t be the kind of noise I’d listen to for very long; the improvisation he did was pretty ‘ambient’ with no identifiable rhythm. That said, I zoned out to it and felt strangely refreshed afterwards. Someone commented ‘That looked like you’ve just downloaded the master code and re-set your circuits’. Why, what did I do??

I left about half-way through the next set, by Threep, because I had to get home early for other reasons. But what I heard was excellent. In fact, at the point I was leaving, quite a few people were turning up and the event was running until, I think, around 1am – so I hope everyone had a good time.

Next project: an urban-inspired take on a tribal mask, I think. I’ve got the stuff I need, had the whole project in a box in the shed for about a year and just never got round to it.

Oh, and if anyone with relevant knowledge can explain why a couple of virtual synthesizers I’ve downloaded (for Mac) need some additional sound files – VSTi support, or some such thing – and how I get hold of them, I’d be grateful.

Stench VI

March 12, 2010 Leave a comment

Early in the evening Star Trek: Yoyager was on TV. B’elanna says to Seven something along the lines of ‘You have to watch the warp coil like a hawk, it can be unpredictable’. Seven says it’s only a propulsion device. B’elanna says ‘But it has a mind and personality of its own.’
Cut to later in the evening at The Art Organisation, Leicester. The stage has a couple of laptops and a pile of repurposed circuit boards stripped out from discarded electronic kit. It’s impossible to tell which sounds are sampled, which are generated from scrapped and modified circuitry. It looks like this is indeed a pile of junk that has a mind and personality of its own, and the performers are interacting with that mind and personality as much as controlling it. The overall effect varies from ethereal birdsong to heavy driving industrial beats.
From an audience perspective it looks like chaos theory at work. A performer gently tweaks a knob and whatever input that adds to the mix (which might be a signal controlling another sound) has the effect of a butterfly that beats its wings and whips up a hurricane.
It’s an acquired taste, but if you’ve ever gone to sleep with the radio on and woken up sometime in the middle of the night to find the signal has drifted, there’s a beat created by phasing between two stations and loops of static and interference – and found that it’s weird in an interesting way – you’ll have the idea. It’s almost trancelike, and the music of dreams. My dreams anyway, and presumably those of the respectably large audience.
At the end of the evening, Kanta Horio did some intimate, amusing and fascinating stuff on a very small scale with old computer fans, electromagnets making ball bearings jump about in little boxes, springs used as reverb units and suchlike. This is a style of performance that seems quirky, distinctive, unique.
There seems to be an increasing interest in this kind of music. Perhaps some people have come to it from the contemporary industrial music scene, some from looking back at the origins of it in the more or less experimental work of groups such as Einsturzende Neubauten, and some from the (now rather dated) avant-garde of Stockhausen. Perhaps some have just latched on to the aesthetic of recycling old stuff to make new and interesting stuff, the way that people like Survival Research Labs have done for redundant military equipment that gets re-made into performing robots. But whatever the sources and influences, the effects are remarkable.
Stench appears to be a collective of 30-plus people (though only a handful were involved in last night’s performance). It describes itself as an ‘artist-led forum for innovative performance, experimental music and digital arts … open to anyone who is interested in being involved in creative projects that go beyond the mainstream’. They will be performing again in April and August, and apparently are running workshops over the summer.
Read more at Stench’s pineapster page.

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