Posts Tagged ‘Digital’

gk. rec. – 13th August 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

Since taking control of his own release schedule – in addition to various releases via various labels – Gintas K’s output has shifted from rivulets to cascades, with this nature-themed album being just one among countless releases, live performances, exhibitions. soundtrack and compilation appearances so far this year, and, not least of all, Lėti in May, released on venerable experimental label Crónica.

There’s little explanation behind Mountains, runlets, caves & cascades, beyond a selection of quotes from HP Lovecraft and the detail that the album’s six pieces were ‘played, recorded live, at once without any overdub; using computer, midi keyboard & controller’ in 2020, and one suspects Gintas has a hard drive bursting with such recordings just waiting to be edited and mastered to form unified documents of his tireless output.

The first five pieces form the larger work that sits under the album’s overarching title, numbered one to five. They’re sparse, minimal, echo-heavy, like wandering around in a vast cavern while droplets fall into the subterranean lake that occupies the bottom, and who knows how deep it may be, how many tunnels are filled with millions of gallons of water that have run down through the ground and into this naturally-carved warren of rock-lined corridors beneath the ground.

In places, barely perceptible glimmers of sound, like bat sonar, jangle in the upper reaches of the audio spectrum. I’m reminded of the cat repellent device in my back yard, and I wonder if to some, these passages would actually appear as silence – or if for others, like my ten-year-old daughter, they would find the pitch unbearable and have to run from the room covering their ears. Quiet gurgles and trickles are the primary sounds on ‘Mountains, runlets, caves & cascades #3’ and I find myself feeling altogether calmer, picturing myself in a pine woodland with steep banks. I picture in my mind’s eye local scenery like Aysgarth Falls and Ingleton Falls and find myself at ease – but this being Gintas K, there’s disruption afoot, and blips and squelches zap in seemingly at random to remind us that this is digital art, and the fourteen-minute ‘#4’ marks the full transition into digital froth and sluices of laptop-generated foam.

And so it trickles into ‘#5’ which brings more bleeps and blips and jangling and some high-pitched rattling that for some reason makes me think of seeing footage of milk bottling plants in the 80s – back when milk came in glass bottles, and I trip on this trajectory of nostalgic reverie until the arrival oof the unsettling final track, the eight-minute ‘eastern bells’ that’s a slowed-down yawn of sound, metallic reverberations ringing out into the silence, echoing in the dark emptiness in ebbs and flows, like a conglomeration of sounds, drifting in a breeze.

Mountains, runlets, caves & cascades is a supremely abstract work, and while it’s not a huge departure for Gintas K, it does represent one of his softer, gentler, sparser and less frenetic works. It’s by no means an album to mediate to. But it is overall fairly sedate, and it not only allows, but encourages a certain quiet reflection.

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Powdered Hearts – 25th December 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

I vowed not to cover anything Christmas-related, simply because, well, because, and also because fuck it. Christmas releases tend to be mawkish, and / or shitty cash-ins, which I have simply no time for, and even a general distain. Charity fundraisers are laudable, although in a just world there should be no need for them because ultimately the state should be supporting the needy and vulnerable without musicians, most of who make next to nothing from their art, having to donate their small royalty fees to food banks and the like. Christmas sucks on so many levels that it’s an essay or even a book in its own right, but this perhaps isn’t the place to begin expounding any of that.

But here we are, and here I am making an exception, and for what I feel to be the right reasons, with the additional bonus that this is no crappy cash-in, and no motive beyond itself.

The prodigiously prolific Gintas K celebrated Christmas unconventionally with yet another release, this time in the form of a Christmas treat entitled Christmas Till The End. With five tracks in all, which are mostly shorter pieces, apart from the twelve-minute title track, it’s quite a departure from much of his back-catalogue, not least of all some of his experimental digital explosions of recent years which have seen him move from microtonal explorations to squelch-laden sonic chaos delivered by means of some nifty software run though an ancient Lenovo Thinkpad (something I have infinite respect for: so many musos have state of the art hardware, while I’ve discovered for myself that reconditioned corporate laptops even from a decade ago have better specs and are built more sturdily than the majority of consumer-orientated laptops). Whatever the sonic differences, though, he’s maintained the same process, namely recording each track live in a single take with no overdubs.

Christmas Till The End may not be the frenzied digitised froth of recent releases, whereby GK simply blasts out various strains of laptop-generated whirring, blooping, crackling noise, and you couldn’t exactly call it a conventional Christmas album, or a celebration of the festive season, either. It’s more of an assemblage of elements of Christmas collaged, crossed out, crunched together.

If the first track, ‘Bah’, perhaps speaks for itself, ‘Für Elise’ presents a picture that highlights the complexities of Gintas’ work. It features Beethoven’s ‘Bagatelle No. 25 in A Minor’ (aka ‘Für Elise’) and mangles the absolute fuck out of it, because it’s a Gintas K digital mess mash-up. There’s no overt or explicit statement here but trashing the piece feels more like a desecration of the Christmas spirit than a celebration, an act of destruction that feels wonderfully irreverent and more than just a little cathartic in context. It is, also, an ultimately avant-garde act of destruction, in keeping with the principle of destroying the old to build anew. Here, Gintas renders that destruction performative, integral to the form and content.

‘Hymn Lithuania’, at first, does sound overtly Christmassy: a rendition of the Lithuanian national anthem on a glockenspiel, the notes ring out, chiming, bell-like and charming. But after about a minute, it begins to degrade and disintegrate as extraneous noise, feedback and bleeping whistles begin to disrupt the tranquillity, while the delicate piano of ‘vivaLIDL spring’ is ruptured by bomb-like detonations and the clatter and thud of descending rubble. If I’m not mistaken (and I may well be), a corruption of Vivaldi’s ‘Spring’ played at about a quarter pace provides the backdrop to this grim scene; you can almost picture the pianist playing, the film in slow motion, while the building collapses in flame around him. The wordplay is also worth noting – I’m assuming LIDL is bigger in Lithuania than Aldi, as VivALDI would have been the most seamless pun by which to highlight the commercialism of the season.

The title track wraps it all up nicely, and ventures closer to K’s whiplash blizzard off whirrs and bleeps, although in a relatively restrained form, whereby the discombobulating discord whirs and warps over delicately chiming tones. As things slowly disintegrate – both on the album and in the real world, it feels more like Christmas for the end: this is the soundtrack to the decline. May the end come soon.

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The Sublunar Society 053 – 11th May 2018

James Wells

Just as Facebook advertising and Amazon recommendations prove that algorithms can be applied usefully but are no substitute for human input.

Of course, The Rosenberg Algorithmic Music Generator is subject to human input, in that it was created by Mick Sussman himself. A programme is designed to ‘compose’ ‘unique’ music, by ‘making decisions based on a sequence of randomised processes.’ The nineteen compositions collected here seem to suggest a greater leaning toward the random than the musical. There are notes and there are rhythms, but none of them seem to coordinate with one another, and the sounds are trebly synthetic, 80s computer gamey. The cover art has obvious ‘matrix’ connotations, and tells much of the story of what The Rosenberg Algorithmic Music Generator is about. Only, this is the sound of the matrix collapsing, of being stretched and pulled in all directions, twisted and tossed.

Sussman observes in the liner notes that in programming terms, Rosenberg is a primitive piece of coding, but is sufficiently versatile to enable him to vary musical phrasings and tempos – to the extent that one option enables the user to allocate a different tempo to each instrument. Why would anyone do this? Because, I suppose. It’s an indication of Sussman’s adoption of avant-garde principles, to disassemble and reconfigure that which has gone before, to build anew. It may well be that no-one has done this before not because they haven’t thought of it, but because they didn’t want to, but that’s every reason for Sussman to be the first.

The result is a disorientating, bleepy, bloopy clamour of sound, with digital notes flying in all directions in an exercise where the concept is considerably more appealing than the experience of the end product.

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Mick Sussman – The Rosenberg Algorithmic Music Generator

Editions Mego – EMEGO226 – 24th February 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

The latest work from Florian Hecker, A Script for Machine Synthesis is described as ‘an experimental auditory drama and a model of abstraction’. The press release continues, explaining that ‘A Script for Machine Synthesis presents a complex simplicity that spirals in an unending manner as an audio image of the uncanny valley. It is the third chapter in the trilogy of text-sound pieces Hecker has collaborated with the philosopher Reza Negarestani. A resynthesized voice outlines procedure as procedure itself unfolds… The suggestive encounter with a pink ice cube is a conceptual point of departure for a scene in which linguistic chimeras of descriptors are materialized through synthetic trophies, mental props and auditory objects. Exeunt all human actors, A Script for Machine Synthesis is an experiment in putting synthetic emptiness back into synthetic thought.’

I’m reminded of a number of theory-based text works centred around automation and abstraction, ranging from William Burroughs’ cut-ups and Brion Gysin’s permutations, to Philippe Vasset’s 2005 novella, ScriptGenerator©®™, via Stewart Home’s experimental audio piece, ‘Divvy’, which used computer-generated voices to read the two simultaneous narratives. The concept of the removal of the author from the creative process is nothing new, and while a robotic takeover may have been more greatly feared in science fiction works of the 1970s and 1980s, the fact of the matter is that the threat is greater now than ever before – but people are generally too wrapped up in reality TV or killing themselves just to make ends meet and to pay the bills that the technological developments of the last decade or so have gone largely unnoticed: instead of a seismic shift, the takeover has been gradual and insidious.

A Script for Machine Synthesis exists in a strange territory between territories, or, more specifically, times. While drawing heavily on the paranoias – and, by its sound, technologies – of preceding decades, it’s very much a contemporary work in terms of its concept if not so much its rather retro-sounding execution.

A Script For Machine Synthesis is not an album one listens to for its textual content: it is a drab, monotonous work which centres – aside from the introduction and credits – around a single track some fifty-seven and a half minutes in duration. Slightly fuzzy monotone voices narrate the process of the process in the style of technical manuals, and lecturing a highly complex theory in the driest, dullest of styles, while bubbling synths and electronic scratches and bleeps provide distracting incidentals which aren’t quite distracting enough to break the monotony. It’s hardly riveting from a sonic perspective, either. At points, the words become practically inaudible as digital distortion and file corruption disrupt the audio. Skittering, warping interference do more than interfere with the audio flow, but create a certain cognitive dissonance which engenders a sort of subliminal tension: I find myself growing twitchy and jittery, manifesting in increasingly awkward head-scratching, and a difficulty in sitting still. It could just be a unique individual response, ad of course, any experiment will produce different results with different subjects, but sitting by candlelight with a relaxing pint, I can’t readily identify any other factor which may explain my growing discomfort.

This is, of course, the ultimate synthesis of theory and practice, and more than anything, the experience of listening to A Script For Machine Synthesis bears strong parallels to the digitally-generated screeds of text published by Kenji Siratori in the late 90s and early years of the new millennium. That is to say, it’s a concept work which, while far from enjoyable, is undeniably admirable in its audacity and its absolute commitment to explore the concept at its core to its absolute end. This is art.

 

Hecker - Script