cellfeeds

- tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE
- March 7, 2017E.V.

Sometime in the last two years I was invited to attend &/or participate in a noise house show. I wanted to go because it was at a friend’s place that I’d never seen. I haven’t really considered my audio to be ‘noise’ since, maybe, 1983, if not even earlier, & I find ‘noise’ to be an annoying default term when it’s used across-the-board to refer to anything that’s dense & outside LCD (Lowest Common Denominator) ideas of what constitutes ‘music’. Still, there’s often hope to me that something at a noise show will be fresh — if only because people who’re thinking outside-the-box are more likely to be welcome in this context than elsewhere.

Planning to go to this got me to thinking about both what I could do that would be different from what’ve become the clichés of ‘noise’ & about what I could do without carrying my usual heavy plethora of gear. Since this was also a brunch I knew that food prep would be happening when I got there so I started thinking about how to incorporate that. I imagined myself taking 2 cell-phones, or, as I prefer, “iJoneses” (as in “Keeping up with the iJoneses”) & using them as my ‘instruments’ — & I don’t mean using electronic music apps to generate faux analog bleeps & bloops, blah, blah..

I’ve always been more inclined to the broader sound palette of Musique Concrete / Electroacoustic Music as opposed to the more ‘purist’ Electronic Music. Therefore, my idea for the noise brunch was to shoot footage with iJones 1, let’s say over a frying pan, & to then replay that footage at a different food prep location, let’s say a chopping board, at the same time that I’d shoot footage incorporating both the live action & the playback using iJones 2. From there I might playback the double-layered footage shot with iJones 2 to a seated audience member who might feel inclined to add something of their own. This, of course, would be videoed using iJones 1 — creating three layers. From there I might playback the 2nd short video (or, as I prefer, “vaudio”) with its 3 layers in front of a refrigerator as someone gets something out of it — shooting, of course, with iJones 2 in such a way that iJones 1’s 2nd vaudio would show in the same shot as the refrigerator.

This process was imagined as going on indefinitely with individuals or small groups getting progressively more involved as they got treated to small-scale shows of various stages of accumulation & the ‘inevitable’ deterioration of the successive layers. I went to the noise brunch but wasn’t inspired to try out this idea & didn’t stay long enough to either eat or witness anyone’s performance. Such is the life of a fidgety person.

Still, the idea stayed in the back of my mind as something I wanted to realize eventually. Then my friend, Ryan Broughman, visited from Richmond in the 1st two weeks of August, 2016, & it seemed like the perfect time to finally try this project. Ryan & I each had two iJones camcorders to work with. Since there was no (v)audience, we were both centered around just playing with the available resources in my crowded “(M)Usic Rm” & around incorporating what each other was doing into our own shots.

My crowded “(M)Usic Rm”

Given that we both had two cameras, the resultant vaudeo documentation is mostly split-screen. One of the things that interests me about this process is the way that the documenting becomes a complication or a handicap to creating what’s to be documented. Multi-tasking becomes both an end in itself & self-sabotage.

Perhaps the most interesting moment in this duet is when both players are centered around the same instrument, an electric guitar, & both of us start using our phones as slides: https://youtu.be/sQLig-7ZfRw?t=7m35s. Here the camcorder becomes both the documenter & part of the playing process, a cross-over of sorts occurs. Given the limitations of the instruments, a reverse cross-over, in which the guitar becomes a camcorder, was unable to occur. The astute observer will notice that the two side-by-side shots are not from the same scene, as they would have been if synchronicity of documentation were occurring.

Various problems made “cellfeed 01” slightly unsatisfactory. One was that we were often confused & didn’t always switch between cameras as the instructions called for. Also, Ryan had brought four 12-minute loop tapes to Pittsburgh because he wanted to make a publication with them. Using my available equipment, I recorded a brief sound on one of the 12-minute loops & played it through to time exactly how long the loop was — since tapes are usually longer than their advertised length. This test yielded a measurment of 15:13, which seemed likely to be wrong &/or indicative of my tape recorder’s speed being dramatically off. However, since the tape recorder was battery-run & since the batteries might’ve been losing power I decided to edit the “cellfeed 01” vaudeo to be exactly 15:13 so that its outputted sound would hypothetically match the loop tape’s length when recorded on the same tape recorder. This was done in a hurry because we were trying to get the publication done in time for “mm 69: Special Packaging”:

We did get the tape done in time & you, dear reader, can witness the documentation of mm 69’s host Ben Opie receiving one & trying to play it here: https://youtu.be/aQmdIJ_bBOw?t=16m49s . Unfortunately, you’ll also notice that the tape broke immediately, as did another one — thusly reducing the initial edition of four to two. The 15:13 loop measurement was also wrong so part of the audio was cut off.

All in all, I was satisfied with “cellfeed 01” but I numbered it “01” rather than just naming it “cellfeed”, & treating it as a closed project, because I knew I’d want to try it again under different circumstances. SO, in early 2017, I realized it as a solo. This time I used one of my favorite audio recording techniques to capture sound only (in addition to using two iJoneses): binaural mics attached on either side of my head to empty glasses frames & plugged into a mini-disc recorder.

photo of tENT courtesy of Gwen Sedlar

This method enables a wonderful evocation of movement through space. I particularly like the mini-disc recorder, too, because of its ability to shuffle-play hundreds of tracks with no pause between them — something I find useful in performance. I audio-recorded “cellfeed 02” in real-time this way while the iJoneses were used as they had been before: alternating between recording & replay. The audio-recording was then edited into 3 versions:

1. The 31:57 version called “cellfeed 02a” that only has its beginning & end trimmed but otherwise represents the full tedious process of moving through the (M)Usic Rm & setting up the iJoneses & the instruments for playing as well as the actual playing. The beeps of the cellphone ‘buttons’ being activated can be heard as well as my breathing & the moving of objects in my way, etc.. Such a recording is only likely to appeal to people who enjoy ‘ephemeral’ sounds, as I do. For me, it’s like a movement between islands of sound. With my usual perverse disregard for the probable interests of potential audiences, I posted this to my SoundCloud site here: https://soundcloud.com/user-200009324/cellfeed-02a . It has, somewhat astonishingly, gotten a like from “Monty Cantsin” in the few days that’ve lapsed since its posting.

2. A considerably shorter audio version was then made that edited out the extraneous material between the parts done with the iJoneses. This was 12:12.

I then edited the vaudeo footage in a way intended to show the full “cellfeed 02” process minus the ‘ephemera’. The result was 12:14 long. This was posted unlisted to my onesownthoughts YouTube channel — unlisted because it’s meant more for consumption in the context of this explanation than as something independent.

3. A 4:41 audio edit of ‘highlights’ was created for a hypothetical CD of mine tENTATIVELY entitled “Buncha”. That’s “hypothetical” because I may never be able to afford to publish it & I don’t know of anyone else who’d be interested in doing so.

One of the things that I like about this realization is the way I get to ‘sneak in’ the beginnings of 3 different Music Box pieces of mine that’re conventionally composed to be melodic: “Expansion/Contraction” (May 8, 2016), “Expanded Contract” (May 14, 2016), & “Dubious Progress” (May 14, 2016).

All three of these were fed through the special music box I constructed that’s currently capable of playing five rolls simultaneously or intermittently. They weren’t played simultaneously in this context.

As I explain in my notes re “cellfeed 02” on SoundCloud & YouTube:

“cellfeed” is, of course, a pun off of “selfie” &/or “selfied” (as in “I just selfied myself”).

While the instructions are simple, there’s still the complicating factor of how to handle 2 cameras AND perform an action to be videoed — in this case with an emphasis on producing sound from the instruments used. As such, the instrument playing tends to be very primitive. Playing the “autozither” (my preferred name for the “autoharp”), eg, ‘suffers’ because what’s ordinarily a 2-handed process becomes one-handed here. That impediment is embraced as something that helps determine the aesthetic.

Instruments used in the order of their appearance are: keyboard, glass marimba, frog rasps, music boxes, organ, piano, tuning forks, natural horn, vibraphone, autozither (my preferred name for “autoharp”), metronome, percussion 1 (drums, cymbal, cowbell, ratchet), percussion 2 (chime-tree, sonambient sound sculpture, cymbals), sampler, super duper light sensitive doomsday device, flex-a-tone.