Sounding Circuits: Audible Histories

Featuring a state-of-the art immersive multi-channel audio system surrounded by rare objects, artifacts, and recordings from the early history of electronic music, Sounding Circuits: Audible Histories explores the networks of composers and engineers – as well as the groundbreaking facilities and revolutionary technologies – that played a crucial role in the expansion of electronic sound from the 1950s to the present.  Drawing together primary source materials, including personal correspondence, historical recordings, technical documentation, and musical sketches and scores, from across the Library for the Performing Arts’ rich archival collections, this exhibition highlights the significant contributions of pioneering electronic and computer music composers Otto Luening, Pauline Oliveros, Edgar Varèse, and Charles Dodge.  Alongside original electronic sound processing equipment, oscillators, early mixing consoles, a full scale photographic reproduction of the Columbia-Princeton Electronic Music Center’s RCA Mark II synthesizer, and additional documentation and artifacts drawn from the archives at Nokia Bell Labs, these materials highlight the substantial technological innovations that contributed to and resulted from their forward-thinking experimentation and the multi-institutional, cross-disciplinary collaborations that often supported their work.

Curated by Seth Cluett, current artist-in-residence at Nokia Bell Labs and Acting Director of the Computer Music Center at Columbia University, Sounding Circuits is presented in collaboration with the Department of Music at Columbia University and Nokia Bell Labs Experiments in Art and Technology. Throughout the exhibition, a rotating playlist of archival recordings will be woven together with a series of 360-degree audio works commissioned and created by Cluett during his four-month research residency with NYPL’s Music and Recorded Sound Divisions.

Open now. Ends March 23rd, 2019.

New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Center, Shelby Cullom Davis Museum, Vincent Astor Gallery


Found Sounds in Musical Composition

I’ve worked with found sounds (field recordings, samples) as a musician for many years.  I think what has mainly interested me has been the ability to achieve a complex counterpoint by layering a sample in a composition. I’ve personally dubbed this intrinsic quality to layering samples with written music “organic counterpoint.”  Of course there are applications where the form is all samples, such as 90’s hip hop.  While that genre is mostly void of harmonic polyphony, unless included in a sample, it is almost always rhythmically complex, particularly if you remove the drum loop that generally serves as an anchor.  In modern production, almost every digital recording application has tools (pitch shift, rhythm quantization) specifically tailored for working with samples, which illustrates just how common samples are in music today. To a large extent, however, the more the sample gets mangled and processed, the less opportunity for counterpoint it provides. At a certain point of processing it loses its unique complexity, which makes it easier to work with a lot of samples of course, but diminishes what it can offer an audience of deep listeners.

Sonic experiences

These past few weeks I have been struggling with mental health issues and trying some sonic meditations and deep listening practices have produced interesting results.  I tried surrounding myself in very busy places to drown out some of the internal monologue that’s been running through my head.  I walked around midtown and the cacophony of sounds was dizzying, but strangely comforting at this time.  Surrounded by so much sonic stimulus I could choose what to focus on and attempt to hone my focal listening skills.  I sat outside a jazz club on 44th street and attempted to parse through sounds and recognize individual instruments and the breath of the instruments being played.  At times I would just let traffic sounds wash over me.  I also tried to generate the sounds of jazz through vocalizing.  I make a mean mouth trumpet if I may say so myself!

Deep Listening Spotify playlist

I hope everyone is having a nice, relaxing Sunday afternoon/early evening (even if it is cold and cloudy outside).

I want to share my Deep Listening Spotify playlist with you all. I find that it is pleasant to listen to on dark days such as this, when I am trying to get some work done, or when I’m simply trying to relax and meditate. I am obsessed with this one song in particular titled Informant. The artist, Kara-Lis Coverdale, is a Canadian composer, musician and producer based in Montreal. If you’re into, I highly recommend listening to the entire album. All of her music is just so beautiful.

Furthermore, I am also currently obsessed with this new mix my friend Simona (DJ Cremosa) put out on Soundcloud for Valentines Day: Soft Serve Vol. 1.

I’m gonna start working on my own Deep Listening/club mix to share with all of you soon.


Field Recording 4:33

I’m not sure how to download my recording from the 4’33” app, but I uploaded it onto the John Cage website.  I did a recording called toxic breathing 1.  During the listening while recording I was able to foreground certain specific sounds I heard, and focus on each one individually.  I was captivated by the different textures of shoes on the pavement and the rumble and roar of cars passing by, sounding quite jarring.  At times I focussed on passing conversation and the sounds of my own breathing.

There was so much I wasn’t attune to in the recording!  I completely missed the jazz like music floating in the background in the second movement, and was amazing by the likeness to waves that the rumble of traffic produces.  I had been able to hear the similarity in other of my deep listening experiences at night, but was not able to hear that without the recording’s help this time around, even when trying to focus on the resemblance.

I tried doing a field recording at a coffee shop as well, but was annoyed at how prominently the chewing of the guy sitting next to me was featured, eating his salad, I could hear every ruffle between leaves of green and every single chew.  Whereas when I was listening live, I focussed more on conversations happening all around me, in the recording I was only able to focus of the masticating happening so close by.  I took this as an trial run and decided to do another recording outside of the confined space of the coffee shop.