Occult Classical (new Bandcamp release)

Am pleased to announce my 35th Bandcamp release, Occult Classical.

[Note: embedded players -- which I basically hate -- are replaced with links when they move off the blog front page]

Liner notes for the LP:

"Higher powers command: paint the upper right corner black," quipped Sigmar Polke in a notable artwork title. Such commands might also lurk behind the meandering signal flow of a modular synthesizer patch or the inchoate logic of placing scraps of digitized vinyl within the layered timeline of a digital audio workstation.

This release combines synth tunes (modular and soft-), beatbox beats, and reassembled sounds from the jazz and classical crates. There is less use of MIDI pattern generation to make chords and arpeggios than in the previous few releases; however, quantization is used within the modular to turn random and/or sequenced pitches into conventional chords and scales.

There is also some emphasis on getting novel timbres into clips, and reacting to those within the composition. A recurring device for turning lead into audio gold is Doepfer's A-112 sampler module, used in about half these tunes. Some custom waveforms were made and uploaded via MIDI to the A-112, using PrivatePublic Music's Doepfer A-112 Waves application (www.privatepublic.de/blog/software/a-112-waves/)

If you'd like to support this blog (now in its 19th, ad-free year) buying the occasional Bandcamp song or LP is a great way to do that.



Modular synth patch used in recent track. All this is doing is quantizing random, sample-and-hold voltages ("s/h wave" in the diagram) and using them to control pitches in the synth but it looks complicated. This image will probably be the next LP cover. I have 10 songs finished but some of them are reworked older tunes and some are classical remixes -- am mulling over whether to use them all or just press on with more new material. I kind of like the eclectic state it's in right now.

"Harpsichord Solo (Poulenc Remix)"

"Harpsichord Solo (Poulenc Remix)" [2.9 MB .mp3]

Made these harpsichord samples a few years ago, from a vinyl version of Francis Poulenc's Concert champĂȘtre. This remix includes some passages "straight" except for tempo changes and a middle section where the sampler does its thing. I don't own the rights, fair use, etc. (Poulenc himself was a known "borrower.") This hybrid exists as a thought-experiment-hopefully-with-entertainment-value.

"Moon Joker"

"Moon Joker" [mp3 removed -- please listen on Bandcamp]

My second experiment in converting a lengthy atonal work into a short tonal work. The first cut up maestro was Stockhausen; this one is the original Ahr-nuld (Schoenberg).
I took snippets from a vinyl version of Pierrot Lunaire, op. 21, then looped, layered, and timestretched them onto a 120 bpm timeline/grid.
This is a raw, possible first draft. Normally if something feels missing percussion or reverb would be added. Here the clips were left unenhanced, including all the room tone, artifacts, turntable noise, and hiss from increasing gain on very quiet passages. Hours went into manually de-clicking the loudest pops from the vinyl, but no de-noising or de-crackling software was used (it's expensive!). The remaining noise then becomes part of the piece, in some cases adding rhythmic interest without the need for extraneous percussion.
In his liner notes for the Nonesuch edition of Pierrot Lunaire, Charles Wuorinen describes the work as a culmination of Schoenberg's "contextually atonal" works before the arrival of the composer's 12-tone system. Wuorinen's definition of contextual atonality isn't very clear -- he seems to be saying that each work has its own rules of tonality, as opposed to the Western canon's rules up to that point (1912). He says that Schoenberg made intuitive, ad hoc choices in the arrangement of notes and phrases, causing the music to be unpredictable from minute to minute, while unified by the poetic text and the organization of the work into sections.
Nevertheless, individual runs of notes are quite musical, when de- or re-contextualized. I made 24 clips of varying lengths, and ended up using most of them. Phrases from different sections "stacked" surprisingly well -- that is, shared the same key signature without having to transpose notes.
Why do this? Software makes tonal experiments possible without having to hire musicians. And the noise component adds new timbres and content. Ultimately, though, it's low grade revenge porn.