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Monday, June 26, 2006

Peter Gabriel steps into the fold of Remix Competitions

Wow, Peter Gabriel is jumping on the song Remix Competition bandwagon and doing it with real style by releasing the original parts from "Shock the Monkey"!!
Download 'sample packs' of audio from Real World Records, create remixes using any software you have to hand. Upload finished mixes back to the site for others to listen and comment. Hopefully you'll see your mix climb our 'remix chart'.

In a NEW addition to the three exisitng Real World sample packs we will be launching our first competition on 28/06/06 and it's a corker. You have the chance to download a sample pack from Peter Gabriel's 'Shock The Monkey', remix the track, and win an SSL Duende.

To find out more visit our competition section.

Get on it!

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Edgard Varese - Poeme Electronique

For the 1958 World Fair in Brussels the architect Le Corbusier commissioned composer Edgard Varese to create what would today be called an immersive sound installation for the Philips Pavilion Le Corbusier was creating. Although, most of the actual design work was done by Iannis Xenakis, a greek architect working in Le Corbusier's office at the time. Xenakis is remembered as a pioneering composer of electronic and computer music himself but at the time was not yet well-known. Visitors to the Pavilion were treated to a multimedia performance: 400 loudspeakers moving Varese's composition through 3D space, projections of images, and text by Le Corbusier.

Poeme Electronique, a piece performed on tape, is a realization of a vision Varese had pursued from early in his career using more conventional instruments. Check out the audio excerpts in these program notes. There is a passage from 1925's Integrales, a piece for 11 wind instruments and percussion, followed by a similar segment from 1958's Poeme Electronique. These "illustrate a typical Varese-ian gesture--an accumulation of single tones ending with a great crescendo." Varese used gestures like this in an effort to create an unexpected and extreme musical experience and to simulate the effect of sound moving through space. Taking to heart the dissatisfaction of his age with the music of the past, Varese spoke of composing organized sound:
Varese's declared intention as stated in "the Liberation of Sound" was "Liberation from the arbitrary, paralysing tempered system; the possibility of obtaining any number of cycles, or, if still desired, subdivisions of the octave, and consequently the formation of any desired scale; unsuspected range in low and high registers; new harmonic splendours obtainable from the use of subharmonic combinations now impossible; the possibility of obtaining any differential of timbre, sound-combinations and new dynamics far beyond the present human powered orchestra; a sense of sound projection in space by the emission of sound in any part or in many parts of the hall as may be required by the score; cross rhythms unrelated to each other, treated simultaneously, or to use the old word, 'contrapuntally', since the machine would be able to beat any number of desired notes, any subdivision of them, omission or fraction of them- all these in a given unit of measure of time which is humanly impossible to attain."
With the Philips Pavilion installation, he finally had the means to really organize sound (in 3D space) and the technology to make sounds that went far beyond the timbre, sound-combinations and dynamics available to the "present human powered orchestra." He experimented with tape speeds, editing, splicing, sine wave and white noise. The result admittedly strident, but patterns emerge that make sense if you listen closely. Here is a detail of part of the score:

Unfortunately the Pavilion was torn down after the Fair. I had thought that only a stereo recording of Varese's original Poeme Electronique remained, but according to those program notes, they still have the "original three-channel version created at Philips Labs in Eindhoven" (suggesting that the original is a three-channel work "spatialized through four hundred speakers and an elaborate switching mechanism"). Composer/reconstruction engineer Kees Tazelaar's site has more details:
Since at the Philips Studio there was no multi track recorder suitable for this work (there were 4 track 1 inch machines but without a punch in/out function), Varese composed his music on four separate tapes; three mono and one stereo, that had to be played simultaneously in order to hear the complete work. These five tape channels were then copied to a three track 35 mm perfo tape (the left channel of the stereo tape being mixed with mono tape 2, and the right channel being mixed with tape 3) that was used during the performance in the Pavilion, and were played back and routed through a system of 350 loudspeakers (325 satelites on the walls of the pavilion and 25 sub woofers in the fundaments).
As they say, even without the space it was composed to inhabit, Poeme Electronique stands as one of the earliest masterpieces of electronic music.

Now you can hear the whole thing here, with some engaging visuals from the original (which I believe are from a reconstruction of the installation done for a 2003 festival in The Hague):

(Edgard Varese - Poeme Electronique)

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

The Hottest New Reggae Star: Paris Hilton

You might want to have a puke-bucket nearby just in case:

(Paris Hilton - Stars Are Blind)

Glad to see she sings as well as she acts.

Ace of Base called, they want their crappy music back.

Paris truly is a national treasure.

BREAKING UPDATE - Took me half a moment to dig it out of the dusty box of cassette tapes I call a memory, but yes, there is a reason this melody sounds so familiar... Ripping off UB40, that's just... there's nothing I can say about that. Someone made a (truly terrible) "mash-up" to illustrate this similarity:

(Paris Hilton - Kingston Town)

Monday, June 12, 2006

R.I.P. Gyorgy Ligeti

Avant-garde composer Gyorgy Ligeti passed away today in Vienna. He was one of the best known composers of the 20th century. Like many people, I was first exposed to his work while watching Stanley Kubrick's 2001, which features several pieces by Ligeti in what has to be some of the finest matchings of image to sound in all of cinema.

You can hear clips from the 2001 soundtrack at Amazon. The one that stands out in my memory is Lux Aeterna (Realaudio, Windows Media), which plays during the film as the astronauts stand on the moon, gazing in awe at the monolith they've discovered there. Also, there is a full mp3 of the Kyrie from his Requiem (another piece featured in 2001) available at Ochblog.

The works of Ligeti that I love are masterpieces of textural subtlety. He concentrated on tone clusters, generally abandoning conventional notions of rhythm, melody, and harmony in favor of an emphasis on the timbre of the sound produced (although starting in the 70s he began to concentrate on complex rhythms, unfortunately I am less familiar with those later pieces). Ligeti called his technique micropolophony:
"The complex polyphony of the individual parts is embodied in a harmonic-musical flow, in which the harmonies do not change suddenly, but merge into one another; one clearly discernible interval combination is gradually blurred, and from this cloudiness it is possible to discern a new interval combination taking shape."
Ligeti's work has been incredibly influential in "art music" circles, but also in the world of film music and even industrial/experimental music. His compositions will put you on edge, but in a lulling sort of way. Someday I hope to hear some of them performed live, which I imagine will be an even more visceral experience than that viewing of a 70mm print of 2001 I was lucky enough to attend several years ago...

UPDATE - There is an excellent post over at Do The Math listing ten reasons why Ligeti's work is so important. Also check out The Rambler to see the first page of the score for Lux Aeterna - even if you can't read music, you can still appreciate the visual effect of each line twisting gently up and down.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

spirit of libre

I just got back from a European tour of sorts, so now I am digesting all of the things that I encountered while travelling around. It was something of a free software tour, starting with 3 weeks of giving workshops related to free software in Madrid[1] and Zürich[2][3], then some evangelism while traveling in Treviso, Italy[4], and Barcelona[5], and three weeks of coding in Amsterdam [6]. One of my biggest impressions from the past two monthes is the free culture and free software movements in Spain. Cultura libre, software libre, hacklabs, and more, even manifestos, the whole hip subculture seems to be dominated with these ideas of free as in freedom. In this spirit, I was referred to some Spanish netlabels, and I thought I would spread the word.

The first one I listened to is called A mano y a máquina (by hand and by machine) Los Subwoofus. Ok, this is at the heart pretty straightforward dance music. Driving four-by-four, techno build-ups, etc. (I am not a techno insider, so I am sure I am missing some jargon). The songs generally start pretty simple, and even a bit cliche. At first, I began to tune out, then I stopped and listened a bit. Take "Atomik", for example, the second track on this album. The first track is a one minute intro that sets things up nicely. They start with the basics and build up to some pretty rocking tunes, with a dash of eurotrash in the right ways. They a bit of bizarre leaps in, and things go crazy in all the right ways. Well worth a listen:

Download A mano y a máquina

musical matrix... of fire!


It looks like they originally started this project as an LED-style matrix display using fire. But the creator is so happy he breaks out into little raver vignettes and shakes his booty with the firey beats:

Thursday, June 08, 2006

303 Madness

In case you missed out and didn't buy a real TB-303 in the late 70's when they were essentially dumped as a failed mainstream product, you know, before they became this ultimate "it" synth to own and now sell for in excess of $1000... well, you can now rectify your stunning lack of forsight and recreate the experience by building your own custom 303:

x0xb0x Your one-stop acid bassline shop

Also, here is an excellent short video documentary about this history of the 303, must see:

Bassline Baseline, 2005

Monday, June 05, 2006

For African Music: Benn Loxo du Taccu

I really dig African music, but I know far too little about it. So I was happy to discover Benn Loxo du Taccu, which I've just added to our blogroll. The music there has been really strong lately, with plenty of variety. Here are some recommended some recent posts.

I've featured quite a bit of hip-hop from Senegal, South African and Nigeria over the past couple years. It's been a while, so why not listen to some more. Today we'll hear some contemporary hip-hop and drum'n'bass sounds from Tanzania.
Some more traditional sounds:
Nuru Kane grew-up in the Medina, the main "quartier populaire" in central Dakar. He mixes Moroccan Gnawa which he plays with the three-stringed, bass-lute hybrid instrument, the guimbri, with his native Senegalese styles, plus some splashes from the West. The band he plays with, Bayefall Gnawa, pretty much sums this all up in their name.
I love highlife, definitely some of my favorite music:
I have to be in the right kind of mood to listen to highlife. Drunk on palm wine? Yeah, bring it on. Earphones in, on a beach, sipping a coconut? Absolutely. Slightly hung-over late Sunday afternoon with a glass of Chablis after some modern ballet? Fuck yeah.
They do the blues right in Mali:
Lobi Traore is a Malian who plays that style of Malian blues that I've always liked. There's something about the Bambara language and rhythms that mixes so well with electric guitar and that driving blues sound. The repetitive nature of Bambara music with slight changes in melody over time, scattered snare/calabash hits and occasional talking sections mid-song are all musical elements familiar to the ears of the blues listener.

Friday, June 02, 2006

simple yet effective

The monome 40h is a new interface that is made in super SF style, they profess love of free software, the bike, they tell you to recycle the packaging, etc. They say they will release the source to the firmware, hopefully they do. (this might be the source).

I must say that when I first saw the device, I was very skeptical of its use as an instrument. Its just a bunch of buttons. And the most obvious use is to control a step sequencer, so it would be a really simple step sequencer in hardware, not so exciting. But they actually have some nice demos of it that make it a lot more interesting in the context of something like Ableton Live:

Here's Daedalus playing it:

I think it does show that sampling/laptop performance does become a lot more interesting when it actually looks like the performer is doing something other than checking email.