Producer Max Cooper, alongside his collaborator Tom Hodge, this week shares an intimate reflection on what motivates him in sound and science.
In the video for Sonos Studio, the Belfast-born musician describes loving when sound “wraps you up in this warm … sea.” But there’s a system that reveals itself, even as the scientific method can unfold the mysteries around us. So if this music sounds personal and secret, perhaps it has a direct analog to Cooper’s past life as a scientist, the “introspective side of science,” as he puts it. That is, ” whether it’s a piece of music or a scientific idea or a natural system, you’re trying to understand this abstract system in your head… to make models of how the parts interact.” I suppose to me it’s not so much a literal connection to biological computation as the fact that Mr. Cooper can be inspired to find those surprising interactions of parts in both worlds.
But what happens in the mind as you make such explorations? Animator Nick Cobby imagines those unseen moving parts in three-dimensional motion. “Painted” in After Effects and Cinema 4D, flights of colorful fancy speculate on mathematical theory and the way in which the brain might process exterior sound:
This video is about the self-contained nature of mind and matter.
The physical processing of sounds by the brain leave remnants in its structure as it learns about the outside world. Eventually the universe and the platonic realm of laws and structures are perceived. But while the natural laws and their resulting universe seem to create and contain the mind, the mind ultimately contains them all.
Out now on Fields:
More on the video:
Nick Cobby explores the human mind in music video for Max Cooper and Tom Hodge [de zeen]
You might find yourself drifting off on a personal sea in music Cooper/Hodge have shared lately, like the eerie “Teotihuacan (Part 2)”:
This track started with a visit to the pyramids of Teotihuacan in Mexico. A beautiful place, but a place where a lot of the original culture and knowledge that created the pyramids has been lost, and replaced with a rebuilt, tourist trap.
So it’s a mix of loss and sadness and beauty with an edge of modern misuse, which I tried to capture in the original strings from which the track was built. I also made some binaural recordings of the sounds there, and a storm which came in, to give a real layer of atmosphere from the actual location. Tom Hodge then played piano to these elements, bringing the whole piece to life.
I loved the piano on it’s own in addition to the strings version, so as well as the Part 2 on the EP, we also created a Part 1 piano solo version with the piano sent into a feedback matrix with lots of randomising to create unusual textures. This part 1 version can be downloaded for free from www.maxcooper.net as part of the Quotient Series.
It’s well worth signing up and downloading that series:
— to hear things like this:
— as well as treating yourself to a copy of the beautiful Artefact (Remixes) EP the pair put out in May.
For more music, find Satirist’s remix of “Remnants” on XLR8R as a free download:
Or see Cobby’s earlier video for the duo:
My music video for Max Cooper's new track, in collaboration with pianist Tom Hodge.
Download at: smarturl.it/FragmentedOne
Words by Max Cooper:
This track and video are about emergence from the combination of polar opposites. Fragments of self from very different places, but part of the same whole. Combining classical and computational elements is something I've been experimenting with for some years, but this attempt to combine the extreme opposites of each was spurred on by some chance DJing experiments, a fortuitous collaboration opportunity, and the amazing work of my friends Olafur Arnalds and Vaetxh (Rob Clouth). I found that I could mix the most beautiful and delicate piano solo of Olafur, with the most hyper-edited and jarring glitch of Vaetxh, and that the result actually worked, well, for me anyway, even if half the people in the club stood confused about how to dance. So when the opportunity arose to work with the pianist and composer Tom Hodge, I wanted to try and create this form of merger of extremes for a release, rather than it being confined to my DJ toolbox (also on the classical meets glitch history from a slightly different angle, check out "Rossz Csillag Alatt Született" from Venetian Snares 2005!). After some discussion of ideas and approach with Tom, he sat and played and made some recordings for me, which I then chopped and build chords and structure around, sent them back to him to play over the top of again, and then back to me to edit and glitch the playing along with the nasty noises. My detailing process was that of finding some interesting sound sources (binaural recordings, drum hit samples, clangs and slams etc) and using some Max for live randomisation chains to generate lots of partially random complexity which I could then edit as audio before repeating the process with additional layers, eventually bringing the recorded piano audio in to the editing too. At completion of the audio I was really happy to find out that Nick Cobby, one of my favourite video artists and long standing collaborator, was available and interested in working on the visual side of the project. He took the combination of seemingly incompatible opposites, and applied it visually with his beautiful generative forms, smooth and organic for the melodic sections, and jagged and abrasive for the percussive sections – big thanks to Nick for his amazing work as always! So, that's probably enough ranting about this track from me, aside from why it is like it is, I hope it's something that you can enjoy irrespective of the conceptual faff.
Video: Nick Cobby
Audio: Max Cooper & Tom Hodge
Solo, Max also has his own audiovisual show:
Hello, my new live show is called Emergence, and it's an audio-visual story of how everything comes from simple natural processes, one built upon the other.
The first shows are as follows, with tickets links shown below:
"One of the most striking live experiences out there" – Mixmag
"The most beautiful and stunning display of talent and technology we've ever hosted" – Decibel Festival
14 Feb – Akvarium, Budapest
Thu 5 Mar – Oval Space, London *
Fri 6 Mar – Um:Laut, Berlin
Sat 14 Mar – MeetFactory, Prague
Fri 27 Mar – Paradiso Nord, Amsterdam **
Sat 28 Mar – Reflektor, Liege
Fri 24 Apr – Yoyo, Paris
* Special guest Tom Hodge
** Special guest The Slow Revolt
How Emergence works: https://vimeo.com/124936375
I worked with lots of different video artists and musicians, plus two mathematicians, putting together content to tell the story I wanted, and a performance system that allows me to control both the music and the visuals simultaneously live. It's been a challenging project, but a lot of fun, and hopefully is something interesting.
There is a lot of background information and structure to the show and it's chapters, but I also wanted it to be enjoyable without the analysis too, on a purely visual and musical level, as I think it's important for people to take what they want from it, rather than the experience being too prescriptive.
The story starts from fundamentals like the structure of numbers (the distribution of the primes) and (hyper)dimensionality, before going into the big bang, universe formation, stars, falling into a black hole, the earth, early life forms, cellular forms and intracellular chaos, plant growth/photosynthesis, and eventually the arrival of humans, the birth of awareness, the capitalist machine, the digital self and post digital age – all as my own interpretation of each topic of course, it's not a lecture, but the messages are there if you want to delve beyond the surface of each section.
I chose this idea because it tied to some of my old video content and work, and also provided me with a huge range of visual ideas to explore and to continue to develop for the show. Because I have live control over the visuals and music, no two shows will be the same, with different narrative content as well as different music and live editing of both the music and visuals each time.
As well as telling the story through each separate chapter, I put a lot of effort into designing synced audio and visual effects that allow me to deconstruct any scene and piece of music into underlying form. So rich scenes get broken down further and further into ever more simple building blocks, and built back up again, as a link to the idea of form underlying reality, and simple natural laws yielding the complex world we live in.
I'm excited to be doing a special version of Emergence with my collaborator and the composer/pianist Tom Hodge for the Berlin show, and to have The Slow Revolt supporting in Amsterdam.
Big thanks to Sam Mardon for filming at BEAF and putting together this video, and Cameron and Matt for filming the premiere at Decibel Festival.
And hopefully see you at one of the shows soon!
Thanks for letting us aboard your ship onto this sea and escape from reality – we always need it now and then.