Watch a beautiful meditation on the function of music

As co-host of the American public radio show Radiolab, Jad Nicholas Abumrad is usually in the business of giving you sounds on their own. You provide the mental images. But in a stimulating new film from director Mac Premo, thoughts become images as well as sounds. It’s a fitting conversation. Abumrad (a Lebanese-American, as I am) comes from a background in music composition. Premo, apart from being a filmmaker and commercial director, is an artist. Both live in New York. So what we get is a counterpoint of two imaginations running at once: sonic and visual, musical and optical. And …


Jeff Mills on Audiences, Techno’s “Who Cares If You Listen”

Techno legend Jeff Mills has a beautiful quote making the rounds on social media, responding to the question of audience. He’s still making music for them, he says – but doesn’t want to get pulled into simply giving them what he knows will work. Watch from about 8:30 for the video above, in its original context (a 2010 tugobot piece). It resonates for me with the Milton Babbitt’s “Who Cares if You Listen?” (That’s a title Babbitt claimed he never used; this is a tale so familiar to contemporary music that it has its own Wikipedia entry, for those of …


The Human Drummer Battles Drum Machine, in Poetic Film with Jojo Mayer

Between Zero & One from ApK on Vimeo. What does it mean to be human in a world of drum machines? Not just whether drum machines have soul – how do you define your soul? Drummer Jojo Mayer doesn’t shy away from the deep issues around digitality in the brief film meditation that is Between Zero & One. He reflects on the states of being that the computer and machine represent, and then he does what any great drummer would do. He doesn’t get mad. He gets even. He refines drum technique to play what a drum machine can’t, framed …

Brian Eno, portrait by Ralf Schmerberg.

Watch Artists Talk The Meaning of Life, Musically Speaking, In Free Feature Film [RBMA]

Forget for a moment that Red Bull Music Academy has for a decade and a half assembled some of the world’s greatest-known artists to dish out inspiration. Forget that that’s Brian Eno’s mug staring back at you with cool, blue eyes. Forget that music “careers” can span from finding ranking in Forbes to scraping together extra tips at a bar to own a synth, with a gulf in between that can make people question the value of their work. If you’re reading this, it means that you probably have made music your life. You build music and maybe you build …


Voice as Surface and Artifact, in the Experimental Drone Music of Jelena Glazova [Listen]

Experimental noise art, drone music, and other forms – whatever you might call them – can unquestionably be an acquired taste. Absent the normal landmarks of harmonic and rhythmic structure, they raise questions about just what makes form – and accordingly, as a listener you can be lost in a unpleasantly-formless mass. But in the music of Latvian sound artist and poet Jelena Glazova, as in the experimental sound I find most appealing, the experience is not cerebral so much as sensual. There is a conceptual background, but perhaps that’s what sound does so well: it can execute a concept …

A Cage music walk - or, perhaps, a model for a pro-Cage protest march today - CC-BY Steve Bowbrick

John Cage at 100: A Celebration in Words, Listening, and Prepared Piano iPhones

“I Have Nothing to Say and I Am Saying It,” a John Cage title, might well be the creed of the blogger – doubly so this music technology writer. So, here we go again. The notion of John Cage at 100 is humbling in itself. The idea that Cage is a century old cements the awareness that the radical modern consciousness has a history, that the revolution has arrived and settled in for the winter, repeating itself in cycles of life and death like an endless tape loop. But to say it as concisely as possible, Cage’s legacy in electronic …


Sound With a Dose of Mysticism: Upcoming Sufi Plugs Explore Tonality, Call to Prayer, Drones

Could a piece of software make you think differently about sound? Could it reflect ideas, the culture of listening? The developers of the SUFI series of plug-ins seem to think so. In place of screencasts showing which knob to turn which way, they head with a video crew to Morocco. The “instruction” might be about the value of reflection or call to prayer, about living as much as how to use a tool. You can see the first two examples: a meditation on the idea of daily interruptions in the soundscape coming from God, and a collection of electronic drones …


Mouse on Mars: In the Studio, and Reflecting on Performance, Listening, and Melody

Mouse on Mars’ Parastrophics for Monkeytown has been an early highlight of the year, a record packed with musical ideas in densely-configured arrays of sound. The duo is now taking that music on the road, in ambitious, improvisatory live performances. Perhaps all of this can be summed up in one word: energy. Their studio and its arrangements of objects has an energy, an energy that’s present in the craft in the record. And talking to the artists, you get a sense of energy, of enthusiasm, crackling away like an amped-up oscillator. It was therefore a pleasure to get to hear …


In TED Talk, Augmenting Reality, Storytelling with Magic; Behind-the-Scenes [Kinect, vvvv]

Faith in fiction: our friend, virtual magician Marco Tempest, is back with another must-watch, dazzling effects-laden soliloquy. There’s plenty of sparkling eye candy, but as is often the case with Marco’s work, the content behind the effects delves into the philosophy of what magic, theater, and fiction itself really mean. The message is timely. Rooted perhaps in Enlightenment thinking, we might see a one-dimensional conflict between magic and science. But neurologists, psychologists, and even people in fields more remote like mathematics and physics increasingly look to the ways in which everything we know scientifically speaking is entangled with perception. Recognizing …