Category Archives: commission

Shorts #31: 1416343620 (2014)

[play]Shorts #31: 1416343620 (2014)

Commissioned and titled by David Jensenius, who says the title is the unix timestamp of when he received the commission.

This is an acoustic piece, recorded with a zoom and mixed in Ardour. The source sounds are my radiator, my kettle boiling, shoving a running recorder into a plastic bag and finally feedback from when I accidentally told Ardour to do monitoring of the internal microphone to the internal speakers. The feedback timbre is modified by putting my thumbs over the speaker grates. This does not have as much subtlety as the kind of speaker cupping that PowerBooks UnPlugged does with macs and feedback, but it still works.

The plastic bag portion of the sound is influenced by the Fluxus composition Micro 1 by Takehisa Kosugi, “Wrap a live microphone with a very large sheet of paper. Make a tight bundle. Keep the microphone alive for another five minutes”. I highly encourage people to try that out, as it’s surprisingly wonderful.

If you would like to commission a one minute piece, check out my online shop.


Shorts #30: A lazy afternoon in the shade of the cliff (2014)

[play]Shorts #30: A lazy afternoon in the shade
of the cliff

Commissioned and titled by Dan Stowell.

This piece was created with a MOTM synthesiser and a Gravity Well fracRack module by Circuit Abbey. It was mixed in Ardour. It was my first use of the Gravity Well module, which does emulation of orbital paths. I need to read the help files a lot more to figure out exactly what is going on, but it seems to do wave shaping to emulate the position of satellites or other orbiting bodies. Appropriately enough, I was recording this during the comet landing, checking for updates between every track.

After mixing it, I did a final listen via only the internal speakers on my laptop and found that the last part was too low for the speakers to play any sound at all! In the mean time, I listened to the recording of the ‘singing comet’, and emulated it in a patch and put that over the second half.

If you would like to commission a one minute piece, check out my online shop.


Shorts: #29 Raining Up

[play] Shorts: #29 Raining Up (2009)

Commissioned and titled by Autumn Looijen

This piece was created using a MOTM Synthesizer and mixed in Ardour. There were several false starts. I had been doing field recordings of storms and for a while, every artificial sound I made seemed to also sound like weather. The title Autumn chose seems to indicate that I didn’t quite get away from weather-related sounds.

I have started accepting commissions of one minute pieces again, and I’ve dropped the price since the last round. If you’d like to commission me, check out my online shop thing. Order now to beat the holiday rush!


Shorts #28: Untitled

[play] Shorts: #28 Untitled (2008)

Commissioned and (un)titled by Cecile Moochnek

I wasn’t looking for a commission when I walked into the Cecile Moochnek Gallery on 4th Street in Berkeley. I was looking to do Christmas shopping. But I got talking to the gallery owner about art and music and she asked me to write her a short piece. This was in December of 2007. I wrote the piece in 2008, but didn’t hear back about a title and got busy with other things. Until today when inquiring about a title for a new commission, I realized this one had never been posted.

I made this piece with a Evenfall MiniModular Synthesizer. This was a all-in-one box modular synthesizer from the 1990’s. It’s a great little synth.


Shorts #27: Gil Thorp

Commissioned and titled by Josh Fruhlinger. (2007)

Josh gave me the title before I started the piece. Gil Thorp is the name of a surreal American newspaper comic which is supposed to be about high school sports. Josh runs a blog discussing newspaper comics, called the Comics Curmudgeon.

I recorded (British) football from my TV, which included my housemate clapping after a goal. Then, I decided to use white noise, because it’s very similar to crowd sounds. I filtered it a lot to make sort of screetchy sounds. The football announcers didn’t exactly have the accent that I would expect Marty Moon to have, so I kept them in the background. My girlfriend said that it struck her as very Mark Trail-like, so I raised the volume of the background at the end, to make the sports connection clearer.

Bird-like sounds remind me of high school sports, but that’s probably because my high school had a terrible seagull infestation.

I suspect this particular piece might get especially high traffic, so I made a little YouTube video to go with it, but feel free to grab the mp3 if you prefer.

[play] Shorts #27: Gil Thorp (2007)


Shorts #25: Untitled

[play] Shorts: #25 Untitled (2007)

Commissioned and (un)titled by Scott Wilson

I talked today about whether or not he wanted to give me a title, and Scott noted that the piece has a “flatuent quality,” but it would be better to resist referencing that in a title.

To make this piece, I recorded myself playing a bovine signaling horn and a didjeridu, both of which I ran through a Sherman filterbank to use as FX. There’s also a little bit of feedback, especially the very last sounds. Processing a didgeridu turns out to be much more straightforward and easy than processing a cow horn. Something to keep in mind.


Shorts #26 Ecstatic Rivulet

[play] Shorts: #26 Ecstatic Rivulet (2007)

Commissioned and titled by Clyde Niesen

For this piece, I wanted to use a field recording that I made while camping over the summer. Visually, the campground looked like it would make a suitable set for a horror movie. The animals were correspondingly loud and screetchy at night and so I made a recording with my cell phone.

I listened to the recording a few times and it made me think of GrainPic, a project that I had intended to abandon. Everything I do with this always sounds kind of rough and unpolished, which is why I stopped working with it. But it seems to fit well with my memory of that campground.


Shorts: #24 College Promo

[play] Shorts: #24 For College Promo (2007)

Commissioned and titled by Jean Sirius, who is using it for a video sound track.

I wanted to something that started out collegiate, but got more playful further in. The opening is square waves, which are pulse-width modulated and slightly frequency modulated. While I was recording them, my dog was sleeping nearby. She started barking in her sleep. The almost never barks when she’s awake, but when she’s asleep, she barks quiet, air, high pitched barks which cause her snout to slightly inflate, since she doesn’t open her mouth. I think she’s having nightmares when she does it, but nevertheless, it’s really cute. Maybe she’s actually dreaming of chasing pigeons? The sleep-barking sounded really great with the music! I couldn’t record my dog without accidentally waking her, so instead I tried to mimic the sound with a sherman filterbank. I failed miserably, but I like the sounds that I got. Everytime I use this instrument, I have a little more fun with it and like it a little bit more. It’s frustrating at first, but the effort is paying off.


Shorts: #22 For Benjamin Britten

[play] Shorts: #22 For Benjamin Britten (2007)

Commissioned and titled by Michael Strickland (aka sfmike)

Mike gave me the title before I wrote the piece. I spent a lot of time thinking about what to do with this. This last year, I learned that the Phillips Corporation had intended to get Britten to do the music for their pavilion in the 1958 Brussels World’s Fair.. They first went to their preferred architect, Le Corbusier, and he insisted that they use the music of Edgard Varèse. instead and Philips agreed. Their reason for initially wanting Britten was due to the popular success of his orchestral piece, The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra. It’s a piece with an optional vocal part which explains what instruments are playing as the musical themes pass through the different sections. They thought he could do something with a Young Person’s Guide to Electronic Music.

This came up in my classes because the studio that Philips built for Varèse eventually become the Sonology course, in which I am now enrolled. We have a large portrait of Varèse working on his composition on one wall. But what if they had not given into Corbusier’s demands and had just picked a different architect? I purchased a copy of the Young Person’s Guide and listened to it a few times, trying to imagine what Britten might have done with the Phillips Pavilion. It was boring! So I listened a few times to his much preferable War Requiem. Testcase suggested that I do something with the poetry of Wilfred Owen, since Britten used his work. I decided to combine both approaches.

After Varèse, Koenig started a course in electronic music, which also helped form Sonology. I got a copy of the instructions on how to realize Koenig’s Terminus. His instructions were more or less state-of-the art at the time, and thus would be related to what Britten would have done. I focussed on attacks and synchronization, synchronizing to the middle of every note except for the last few notes. I used some voltage control to change attack shapes – something that couldn’t be done at that time, but is labor-saving. The attack shapes are two different kinds of triangles, sines, sawtooth going up, sawtooth going down and square. Most of the sounds are tuned sines, but I added some variation later by using triangle waves and FM modulation, the later of which was definitely not available, but there were way more complicated techniques at the time that lead to similar sonic results.

The poem is Anthem for Doomed Youth, read by me. It’s stereoized by putting the right and left slightly out of synch, and is quiet. However, this doesn’t make it sound far away, because it sounds so close miced. This is the only non-mono part. The Philips Pavilion was all about spatialization, but this is an alternate universe where Philips refused Corbusier’s demands and got a different architect. Xenakis never wrote Metastasis. Curtis Roads never wrote his book on microsounds. River Runs was never written. Computer music takes a drastically different direction. And we all wear silver clothes and have flying cars.