…then I jumped…

I’ve recently taken on a few more of the Disquiet Junto weekly musical/audio challenges.

Last week’s project used a very technical Oulipian-style constraint.

Disquiet Junto Project 0097: Ford Madox Ford Page 99 Remix
This week’s project takes as its source a comment attributed to the author Ford Madox Ford: “Open the book to page ninety-nine and read, and the quality of the whole will be revealed to you.” We will convert text from page 99 of various books into music.

  • Step 1: Pick up the book you are currently reading, or otherwise the first book you see nearby.
  • Step 2: Turn to page 99. Confirm that the page has enough consecutive text in it to add up to 80 characters.
    Step 2a: If the page is blank or otherwise has no text, turn to page 98. Continue this process of moving backward through the book until your find an appropriate page.
    Step 2b: If you are reading an ebook that lacks page numbers, or a book that happens to lack page numbers, then use the first page of the main body of the book (i.e., not the Library of Congress information or the table of contents) or flip to a random spot/page in the book.
  • Step 3: When you have located 80 consecutive characters, type them into a document on your computer or write the down on a piece of paper.
  • Step 4: You will turn these characters into music by following the following rules:
    Step 4a: The letters A through L will correspond with the notes along the chromatic scale from A to G#. To convert a letter higher than L, simply cycle through the scale again (i.e., L = G#, M = A, etc.). Capital letters should be played slightly louder than lowercase letters.
    Step 4b: Any spaces and any dashes/hyphens will be treated as blank, as a silent moment.
    Step 4c: A comma or semicolon will signify a note one step below the preceding note.
    Step 4d: A period, question mark, or exclamation point will signify a note one step above the preceding note.
    Step 4e: All other punctuation (colon, ampersand, etc.) will be heard as a percussive beat.
  • Step 5: Record the piece of music using a digital or analog instrument.
  • Step 6: Set the pace for the recording to between 160 and 80 beats per minute (BPM). In other words, the track should be between 30 and 60 seconds in length.

In my case, the text was from “If On A Winter’s Night A Traveler” by Italo Calvino (English translation by William Weaver; published by Alfred A. Knopf), which probably fits a bit too literally into the Oulipo theme for this week. My segment of 80 characters from the top of p. 99 reads:

“is an important document; it can’t leave these offices, it’s the corpus delicti,”

I converted the characters to notes in SuperCollider, according to the project rules for this week. I played various versions of the note stream to different instruments (using NI Kontakt), and layered on some psychedelic effects, to give an oneiric, vaguely jazzy quality to the whole thing.

I found this week’s project (#98) particularly interesting. It also used a similar idea of text and constraints. The cacophonous layering of voices is really compelling.

In this project, we were asked to do an “audio biography” of sorts. In particular, we had to write three short texts, each beginning with the same words (the starting phrase was chosen randomly from a list of six options). In my case, the texts begin with: “This morning I had a sense that…” The first text contains 100 words, the second 90, the third 80. They were to be played simultaneously, such that the first (identical) words lined up, and then they diverge.

I recorded myself reading my texts, then did some light editing and added various effects in Reaper.

Disquiet Junto Project 0098: Woven Audiobiography
The steps for this week’s project are as follows:

  • Step A: Choose a number from 1 through 6. You can roll a die or use an online number generator, or come to a decision on your own.
  • Step B: Write a 100-word text beginning with one of the following phrases, depending on the number you selected. Where there are brackets fill them in with the appropriate information.
    “I was born in [ ] and I like …”
    “My name is [ ] and I was thinking …”
    “This morning I had a sense that …”
    “Try as I might, the same thing …”
    “The last book I read was and …”
    “On a Sunday morning I usually …”
  • Step C: Write a 90-word text beginning with the same phrase.
  • Step D: Write an 80-word text beginning with the same phrase.
  • Step E: Record yourself reading the three texts as three separate tracks. Record each at the same pace. Speak slowly and take an extended pause after any period.
  • Step F: Layer the three tracks into one track. They should all begin at the same point and the first few words should, more or less, overlap to the point of being indistinguishable.

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Time War P

This project started from the recording of a clock. I recorded our kitchen clock, but unfortunately it ended up a bit noisier than I’d have liked. There’s some of hiss in there (more obvious once you layer dozens of versions of it!), and there might be the odd muffled street noise. Okay, so I don’t have a silent recording studio. Texture, yeah, that’s what I call it. (-;

I took that single monophonic sample (about 23 seconds long) and then used it as a buffer in SuperCollider, making various drone-like synths, plenty of funky ticking patterns and some weird warping transitions and granular stuff. The opening seconds are pretty much the original sound, albeit layered several times.

I wanted to go for a hypnotic, dream-like effect (yes, you are getting very, very sleeeeeepy) where I could move smoothly between different phases. In some, you’re aware of time being slowed down, in others it flies by, and at other moments you don’t even notice it’s there.

Produced for Disquiet Junto (Project 0056: Matter of Time).

Instructions: This week’s project requires you to make a field recording to serve as the source audio. These are the steps:

Step 1: Locate a clock that has an audible, even if very quiet, tick to its second hand. A watch or other timepiece is also appropriate to the task.

Step 2: Record the sound of the clock for at least 30 seconds, and do so in a manner captures the sound in the greatest detail. A contact mic is highly recommended.

Step 3: Adjust and otherwise filter the recording to reveal the various noises that make up its tick. The goal is to get at the nuance of its internal mechanism.

Step 4: Create an original piece of music employing only layered loops of that sound. These layered loops can individually be transformed in any manner you choose, but at least one unaltered version of the original recording should be included in your piece.

Tintineo refrescante

I recorded myself dropping and shaking ice in a pint glass. Then I used this single sample (of about 7 seconds) to produce all the sounds (percussion, drones, semi-pitched) in this track. Produced entirely in SuperCollider.

Produced for Disquiet Junto project 0053.

Instructions: Please record the sound of an ice cube rattling in a glass, and make something of it.

Background: Longtime participants in, and observers of, the Disquiet Junto series will recognize this single sentence as the very first Disquiet Junto project, the same one that launched the series on the first Thursday of 2012. Revisiting it a year later provides a fitting way to begin the new year. A weekly project series can come to overemphasize novelty, and it’s helpful to revisit old projects as much as it is to engage with new ones. Also, by its very nature, the Disquiet Junto suggests itself as a fast pace: a four-day production window, a weekly habit. It’s beneficial to step back and see things from a longer perspective.