Modular Diary – 094

Jerobeam Fenderson’s oscilloscope music, or the works described in the article on the Digital Harmony of Sound and Light that I looked at yesterday, aim at building an art form based on direct correspondences between sound and vision. I got to thinking Strange Continuity: Why our brains don’t explode at film cuts, an Aeon video that takes a look at why out brains process film cuts so easily, despite their recent appearance on the timescale of human evolutionary history. The argument is that film cuts work because they exploit the ways our visual systems have evolved to work – the filtering already in place to deal with the constant blinking and saccades that apparently render us functionally blind for a third of our waking lives without disturbing our sense of a continuous visual experience.

I was thinking of how the continuity of sound provides a complementary sense to help glue all those visual cuts together – and indeed that is often how film soundtracks work, the Aeon video included. Conversely film cuts opened up our acceptance for abrupt musical juxtapositions – Stravinsky for example. The similarity of film and tape and their modern digital (DAW) counterparts in contrast to modular patches that don’t typically include abrupt transitions. In his talk at Basic Electricity in Berlin Rob Hordijk contrasts the tradition of Musique Concrete with the large electronic studios of the 50s – the studios that can be seen as the starting point of modular synthesis.

101 Words – 055

I was listening to some Ryuichi Sakamoto today. Comica and the soundtrack from one of my favourite films – Tony Takitani, and thinking about Sakamoto’s very particular piano sound. I once read something, I can’t remember where, about the way Japanese piano recordings sound so incredibly close and clear – almost as if the sound is in your head.

There’s a fascinating ‘making of’ that comes with the DVD of the Takitani film showing how the whole thing was filmed outdoors on a kind of stage set, bringing details of the minimalistic vignettes alive with the subtle breezes that were moving through them.

101 Words – 054

@Fantasticdrfox, that’s composer Christopher Fox, pointed to a “leisurely portrait of the perennially youthful Christian Wolff” in a tweet last week.

That got me thinking back on the Cage/Feldman Radio Happenings I was listening to a few weeks ago, and how struck I was by their confidence in Christian Wolff as a pivotal figure. Feldman: “I’m convinced that Christian will have the place of Webern in terms of the mind.”

I’ve always found Christian Wolff to be the kind of composer capable of awakening a feeling of wanting to create something oneself. Perhaps that’s exactly what we need right now.

101 Words – 012

Many years ago, while living in The Hague, I would walk across the roof of my apartment to visit my neighbour Mendel Hardeman. Mendel began by studying music but ended up making films. Together with his partner Susanne Dick he spent seven years making The Sea of Pilgrim Antonio. It’s a documentary telling the story of a utopian community in a remote drought-ridden region of Brazil – its founder, and his followers, killed by the Brazilian army, leaving a prophecy that the dry wilderness of the Sertão would one day become a sea – a prophecy that showed itself to be true.