Archive for October, 2008
The .microsound community recently embarked on a new project to honor the life of writer David Foster Wallace, known widely for his intelligently sprawling novel Infinite Jest.
Instructions were to take one of the films attributed to the protagonist’s father and create a soundtrack. I was attracted to the surrealism in the description of Baby Pictures of Famous Dictators and almost immediately had an image of what the film would be like.
Not having read this novel yet, the source of my inspiration was the description itself:
“Baby Pictures Of Famous Dictators” – Year of the Tucks Medicated Pad. Poor Yorick Entertainment Unlimited. Documentary or uncredited cast w/ narrator P.A. Heaven; 16 mm; 45 minutes; black and white; sound. Children and adolescents play a nearly incomprehnsible nuclear strategy game with tennis equipment against a real or holographic (?) backdrop of sabotaged ATHSCME 1900 atmospheric displacement towers exploding and toppling during the New New England Chemical Emergency of Y.W. CELLULOID (UNRELEASED)
I took 45 minutes as my guiding point and imagined the film was a tableau, a “moving still life” of sorts. It’s a 45 minute long game, a slow motion still life of a disaster reflected in the childsplay of fooling around with physics.
We see a setting that never changes, of innocent children (we assume the same as in the pictures referenced by the title) against a backdrop that is ever changing, sharing an appetite for control. They become the embodiment of the Famous Dictators, playing games, like children, with adult toys of power and war.
A chemical emergency could imply this is related to nuclear power or physics. Are the children playing a game that caused the emergency? Are they blissfully unaware? Or are they working to solve the problem by a series of complex nuclear games? It’s unclear if we will ever know.
The soundtrack is not a reflection of the action seen onscreen, but rather the literal voice of each proper name. As their structures compost, weaving as they play the game, new forms are illuminated.
These nine names were used to drive various parameters specific to each person’s voice, guiding things like frequency, filters, delay effects and envelope (in each case, the longest, most familiar version of the English proper name was used):
- Adolf Hitler
- Iosif Vissarionovich Stalin
- Benito Amilcare Andrea Mussolini
- Mao Zedong
- Ho Chi Minh
- Francisco Franco Bahamonde
- Fidel Alejandro Castro Ruz
- Saddam Hussein
- Tojo Hideki
When I started the piece was a lot less “bright” than it ultimately became, but in a strange way I feel like it took on its own character, and mourns both the tragedy of these dictators and the loss of DFW.
The player on the project page is a great way to listen to the soundtracks everyone has done, and allows for direct downloads of the works.
I’ve done some updates to the Audio Software page, including three new categories: “Looping and Performance”, “Free Players and Visualizers” and “Programming Languages”.
I’m very happy to announce the release of a project I did this summer called Tekuchesti (a transliteration of текучести, which is a Russian word meaning “fluidity”), a piece in shuffle time for listeners and improvisers.
Download the entire work, and remember to listen on shuffle. Weird request you say? Read the liner notes below for more detail…
Please also visit the release page at Constanta and check out the other artists on this new boutique netlabel, which features some unique approaches to the microsound/glitch/experimental/drone genres; beauty through subtlety and simplicity. I personally enjoy op.cit.’s and To4ka.Dna’s most recent releases.
Here is my description and instructions for performance (these notes are also available in Russian through Constanta):
In tectonics, slices of the earth can be reduced bit by bit to their constituents, all in motion consistent with the plate. Below these fractured mantle pieces is a thick world of geology: elemental chemical reactions, intense temperature changes, varying strata of materials. There may be violent upheaval or capitulation of forces, or just still and silent veins of metal. If we could travel as a massless beings through the earth to the antipodal, each layer of Hell opens not a Dantean dream, but a surreal tour of random pockets describing the origin of the solar system.
Tekuchesti represents “fluidity” in physics, describing instability or fluid states. The piece consists of constructions mostly taken from free electro-acoustic improvisations, first recorded to create large elemental plates of experience, and secondly edited and combined into subdivisions of space. There were no structural or material limitations placed on the recording or editing of the improvisations, they simply happened.
Just as there are myriad structures and surprise events, there are the lack of these events, represented by the isochrons; dating scatterplots of history, constructions made from the lack of material to represent that which has passed on. The sonic architecture of each isochron in this piece is taken from relationships found in the five Platonic (or “perfect”) solids, found everywhere in nature, above and below the crust.
This piece is meant to be played in random order, where the slices intermingle anew each time to create an emergent form. Playing it in order will reveal some of the underlying structure, and is a perfectly acceptable way of listening – the shapes of the plates become much more clear, but it is an altogether different listening experience. Improvisers are encouraged to play along as well, but if done in a live context, it must be played on shuffle, as this will give the improvisers less expectation of what sounds will appear.
The work also ties in an immediate tectonic experience: I live only 10 miles from the epicenter of the 5.4 magnitude earthquake which hit the LA area on July 29, just shortly before the album was finalized. It also represents the “solid ground” – both as shared vision and literal Earth – between me and the constanta-label.ru headquarters in Perm, Russia.
Constanta on the web: http://constanta-label.ru
Constanta on myspace: http://www.myspace.com/constantalabel
All five tracks are both streamable and downloadable, I figured I’d do them all since the original is still available for purchase on vinyl and it’s got some dope tracks!
And I don’t know how many of my fans actually read this, but here’s the first hint that you can expect several new releases coming up in the coming months. At least three different labels will be hosting new Craque albums, so keep yer ears open!