There are sharply plucked guitar strings and a combination of echoes — glitchy snaps, high-pitched synthesized tones, occasionally with a touch of Morse code to them, and the guitar itself playing a complementary line. This is the elegant “Sketch for Electric Guitar, Laptop & Electromagnetic Interference” by A Companion of Owls, aka Stephen Stamper of Helsinki, Finland. In a brief accompanying note he explains in slightly greater detail than the track’s title: “Sketch for single coil pickup electric guitar, monophonic pitch tracking sine wave oscillator, three randomly reversible audio buffers and electromagnetic interference.” The real beauty in the piece may be the pauses, the waiting, the time during which something is held before something else appears — it adds drama, intensity, and narrative to sounds that are quite simple unto themselves.
THE DATA OF THE BUDDHA (MP3)
The first edition of the drone box gets a late-model remake.
Early on in “Pure Buddha Data,” a recent piece of music by Stephen Stamper, a four-note riff comes briefly into sonic view. The fourth of the notes is so subdued that it might not even exist. That final note trails off into the lush ringing field that is the majority of the work, a thick lawn amid which the riff occasionally blooms. The brief melody is not dissimilar to the theme from the Steven Spielberg film Close Encounters of the Third Kind, those Morse-like tones with which aliens and humans find a common if rudimentary language by employing math transformed into music. In the movie, the music is harmonically sound, which lends the meeting the air of good will.
The notes in Stamper’s piece will be familiar to anyone who has turned on the first of the Buddha Machines. It is a rare melodic moment from the device, designed by the duo FM3 to emit swaying drones and drone-like effluence until its batteries run out. In the brief note appended to the track, Stamper mentions that the sounds we’re hearing are “A first generation FM3 Buddha Machine left to run through my Pure Data performance patch.” (Pure Data is the name of a graphic programming environment.) That patch appears to be the same software process that he employed in the production of a recent contribution he made to the Disquiet Junto project, when the collective remixed a track off the recent Marcus Fischer album, Collected Dust:
Listening to both tracks is to let the mind slowly reverse engineer what it is, exactly — well, more to the point, inexactly — Stamper’s patch is doing. It isn’t a destructo approach. It’s more of a thickening and quickening agent. It speeds up the material in a manner that it loops back on itself, accruing layers into a sonorous denseness that, somehow, doesn’t fully lose the gentle qualities of the original source material.
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