Sunday, February 28, 2016

"James Whitehead (JLIAT): L'Enfant Provocateur"

British electronic musician JLIAT (James Whitehead) is one of the most radical followers of John Cage’s anti-musical ideology. His pieces rarely dwell in the audible spectrum: they either indulge in absolute cacophony or in absolute quiescence.

It wasn't until Whitehead was an art student at Falmouth College that he became interested in music, sensing that avant-garde music and conceptual art had quite a few overlapping qualities. It was through an electronic music workshop by a Falmouth graduate Howard Rees that Whitehead began creating his own music (and experimenting with tape loops/samples). 

Whitehead then discovered free jazz via a "painting lecturer" at the school, who also encouraged the budding music experimentalist to contribute to a piece he was putting together, which collected "non musicians" to supply percussion (consisting of bird calls, squeaky toys, gongs, boxes, as well as assorted drums) on stage. Whitehead continued on his musical quest after college, as he also began incorporating video into his performances. It was during the mid-'80s that Whitehead's JLIAT (a name that came to Whitehead in a dream) project officially got underway, which merged minimalism with the looping of electronic "envelopes" and "wave sequences." 

Since the late '90s, JLIAT has issued several albums, including 1997's The Nature of Nature, 1998's Hilbert's Hotel, 2000's When We Focus on Nothing and The Grandi Series, plus Well Tempered Clavier (as well as two EPs: 2000's The Beethoven Symphonies and 2001's Nineteen Seventy Four).

He pushed LaMonte Young's minimalism to the extreme on 16:05:94 (Jliat, 1994), The Dancing Horse (Jliat, 1995), The Ocean of Infinite Being (Jliat, 1996) and The Nature of Nature (Touch, 1997).JLIAT – O.K. This kind of thing I find difficult so I’ll use some quotes. 

“JLIAT /AKA James Whitehead :UK conceptual/ drone/ noise artist, who is seriously posing what might seem to be the unanswerable questions of music.” 

“Since the nineties,  has brought out about a hundred extremely radical productions in England. His first works were very much like ambient pieces with lots of drones, but his later pieces are very varied in style: guitar noise, conceptual records of silence, pieces with war sounds and pure noise. 

Some people describe Whitehead as the composer who has taken the concept of anti-music the furthest. In any case, he seldom makes use of the full auditory spectrum: you either get absolute cacophony or are subjected to silence.”

I studied Fine Art / Painting At Falmouth School of Art in Cornwall. Falmouth had a tradition of engagement with music, especially Modernist Music. AMM, Music Improvisation Company, Fluxus were regular visitors. It had an electronic music workshop ran by Howard Rees, and it’s there I became fascinated with tape pieces and programming, the workshop centered around tape machines, mixers and a VCS3.

Absolutely. And Western music historically has been shaped by technology and the development of Western thought – through the Renaissance, the printing press, liturgical music, the technologies which developed the classical orchestra from primarily stringed instruments with the use of value instruments. 

The whole Romantic movement which flourished as a result of the industrial revolution, and a bourgeoisie middle class.

As a reviewer for Vital Weekly I get most of the material on CD, though increasingly I will listen to work on the internet on SoundCloud and the like. That’s where a lot of young people who are interested in music creation place their material.  

So here is the problem, the technology now means that almost anyone can produce a CDr, MP3, cheaply, posted online is even cheaper – free – so the amount of material out there is growing exponentially! 

It can be overwhelming, and a lot of material is not first rate, you tend to think and work more carefully when making a vinyl, the costs! 

I can see MP3 and CD are perhaps the most convenient at the moment, but not for long.  I think the future will be personal connectivity to “The cloud” and sites like SoundCloud, using mobile devices. 

My preference for that will be because that is where exciting things are and will be happening. Just as when Liszt, Mendelssohn et al. took Europe by storm because of the technology of Newspaper printing – mass media, and Rail Transport, mass communication.

Your most recent work, a ‘1 terabyte MP3′ consists of 233 disks & has a 600+ days running time. Could you tell us a bit more about this work, and how you are planning to distribute it?

Ah! Through my interest in PCM data and digital technologies I began to explore what could be made using the format. A good example was the discovery of 65536 possible digital silences. Which I have since “actualized”. 

I then became interested in time, as I mentioned the length of a Symphony, or CD or Pop Song, rather than being arbitrary was sometimes a social requirement, an evenings entertainment, a short dance, and also the technological restrictions, 4-5 minutes playing time of a 45 single.

So I began to see how small you could go, 1/44100 of a second on CD – which as fairly easy to make. Going the other way is very interesting. I hit a block at 4 gigabytes. PCM wave files cant be greater. So I switched to MP3, and I think that size is unlimited, except by the computer’s O.S. 

So it was a bit like discovering this huge mountain. 1 terabyte struck me as fascinating, a trillion, we are now getting familiar with in the current economic climate, but to work with such a number,  you can’t count up to a trillion, life is too short. So it was a challenge. 

Recording a 1 TB MP3 in real time would take nearly 2 years constantly without a break. Eventually using software I’d written I could reduce the time needed and see it as an actual possibility. 

I decided on DVDs as they are a little more permanent than a hard drive, and you get a physical object.No. SD and USB are very volatile. I think “The cloud” will be the primary method in future. People will not then need to keep their material at home, they can and already are storing their material in the clouds!

Yes the digital age has undermined the LP – replaced it with personal playlists. Though I think the LP generated an art form back in the 60s and 70s, just as the symphony orchestra did previously. 

I can’t see another Sgt. Pepper or White Album, but they – the originals – will still be valued, perhaps even more so, by future generations as complete works of art in their own right.. That is while people now will want their own playlists of material, short songs? 

There will, I think, be a demand to sit down and listen right through something like The Who’s Tommy, as a kind of cultural event, much as people will go and sit though a classical concert.

Record stores are certainly dying, and they would be a loss. However look at bookshops, they seem to be managing to keep going. I think the owners and managers of record stores just have the wrong model. They seem very “kid” oriented, which is OK, but kids will download illegally, they wont have the spending power of ‘older’ people. I find record stores very unattractive, quite aggressive and masculine. 

Look at the book stores, carpets, comfortable wide spaces, and décor. A coffee shop, somewhere to browse and relax. 

I think copyright is a big problem. First I’m aware that many of my releases have been copied and that directly effected me in cost terms. 

When I made CDs using a professional plant I knew the low cost of production. The big companies have only themselves to blame. Again look at book publishing, a book if it was a CD would fall to bits after a few days. CDs are badly packaged, badly designed, with little in the way of artwork, DVDs are worse. Bonus material is normally useless nonsense.

The area in which I’m working has opened up strange new territories. 

My work relates very much to a genre in music called noise, specifically Harsh Noise and Harsh Noise Wall. Philosophically there is a current movement known amongst other titles as Speculative Realism. 

The speculation is about breaking free of “human” centered thinking. So you get things like ‘what will the universe be like in a trillion years time’, what does that do to ‘our’ thoughts about reality..?  

And there’s that number again!  So in one of my projects I’m using the “playlist” idea and the random shuffle you get on MP3 players, only these works will be big.  

Each track is only 6 seconds – that attention span thing you mention! But the first piece will be over 19 million tracks, that’s 2.19 terabytes…….. 4.27 years playback…

Then he programmed the massive 70-minute electronic drones of Hilbert's Hotel (Jliat, 1998) and When We Focus on Nothing (Komrades, 2000).

The Grandi Series (Edition, 2000) is a CD that does not play any music (it only contains bits of information). This was the beginning of his adult phase, in which Jliat seemed to focus on sheer provocation.

Well Tempered Clavier (JLiat, 2001) is a deconstruction of Bach's masterpiece, which basically replaces Bach's technique of tuning with a technique of drum programming. Of Musicology Vols. 1-2 (Jliat, 2002) contains a lo-fi performance of Pink Floyd's Atom Heart Mother and Emerson, Lake & Palmer's Tarkus. 

Of Musicology - First Deconstructions (Jliat, 2002) takes the same pieces and disfigures them by using a computer algorithm and then releasing them on vinyl.

The EP Noise (Edition, 2000) contains four brief tracks of primal loud white noise, derived from recordings of American bombing campaigns.

Here, an excerpted interview from M3 with JLIAT (2012):

First of all, could you tell us a bit about yourself, and what it is that you do?

I have degrees in philosophy and Fine Art.

Performances and installations include- Argos Brussels with Charlemagne Palestine and Guy Marc Hinant, uninstal at Tramway, Glasgow for Arika along with  Christian Bök: Craig Dworkin and Esse Est Percipi? exhibited @ Non-Cochlear Sound Diapason Gallery New York.

I write reviews of “Noise” for Vital Weekly, and I’m interested in current developments both in music and philosophy.

What inspired you to start making music? What is your own musical background?

Here I met with John Cage (on a visit to London), John Tilbury and Harrison Birtwistle amongst others who gave classes and seminars at Falmouth. Within a group of lecturers and students I performed works including ‘In C’ and was part of an improvisation percussion group. 

On leaving Art School I made my own electronic workshop based around a Synthi AKS and Tape machines. Over the years I’ve developed my practice, now I use mainly computers and software I write myself. 

I made a living for much of my adult life since college as a Computer Programmer, Systems Analyst and University Lecturer in computer science, so my interest in digital music is a result of this knowledge and an interest in the concepts and possibilities within digital “musics” themselves.

Do you think recent developments in technology have reshaped what people consider to be ‘music’?

How the symphonic form developed and other genres such as opera and lieder for instance, right through to the phonograph, the length of the song / songs which could be placed on a 45 rpm single or L.P…. Recent developments are part of this process which I think not only change the way people listen to music, and what is considered music, but the nature of music itself. 

Obviously the digital media, not only CD, MP3 but also the use of sampling, from the early Steve Reich tape based works through to Rap music, and the technologies employed by DJs. 

I think we are currently at a moment similar to that of the industrial revolution where technology will effect a paradigm shift in what is music, how it’s made, distributed and consumed. Its difficult to predict this trajectory, but more and more people with the use of digital technologies, huge MP3 libraries stored on computers, and mobile phones, with personalized playlists are in effect taking a more direct interaction with music and what it is.

What would be your preferred medium to listen to music (e.g. Vinyl, CD, tape, MP3 etc.), and why?

An object which is music, perhaps, but it would be a task bigger than my making it to listen to it all. As for distribution at the moment it’s a one off. But it needn’t be. 

I like as an artist presenting distributors, manufacturers and curators with such problems. I’ve worked with Barry Essen at Arika, an organization which promotes “New Musics”, I’m hoping he is up to the task of dealing with this “monster”.

Some artists have begun to distribute their work on SD cards and USB sticks. Do you think that items like these could ever overtake CD and vinyl as music’s primary physical distribution method?

It would be great to upload my 1TB piece….!

In some ways digital media frees the concept of the album from physical length restrictions, and yet many online music platforms seem to cater to short attention spans with a kind of ‘quick fix’ listening. Do you feel the idea of an album, as a piece of art that people will listen to from start to finish, has been undermined or forgotten about in the digital age?

Much has been made of the supposed death of the record store in recent years. Do you believe the digital age has killed the record store, and if so, do you think that this is a necessary part of progression, or a tragic loss?

Yet Virgin or HMV – its racks close together – not the place you can relax, make a decision about your purchase. Even back in the 60s you could go in a booth and listen. People love to shop, and not just online, but it needs to be a pleasant experience. I hope someone from HMV or Virgin will read this and take note.

Do you think the internet has rendered traditional concepts of copyright obsolete, or do you think they are still relevant?

Compare those with a gate fold LP. Again The Beatles work with Peter Blake and Richard Hamilton, The Stones with Warhol, they were and are works of art, something worth buying and keeping.

Something which can gain in value (and some of my LPs have)! Also I tend to buy DVDs legally, and its so annoying to sit through introductions about piracy and copyright when I’ve paid money, and yet these “warnings” are probably edited out on illegal copies. The solution is simple, if you make something worth its value it wont be copied.

So the big companies will make money with massive promotion and live tours of the likes of Justin Bieber. The small guys will use CDr and the web. OK so digital media is easy to copy. Make the product worth the value. Decent case which will last years, good artwork, plenty of information.

CDs and DVDs used to have booklets! Now you can pay £12.00 and get a plastic case which falls apart, a CD with no design on the cover and a folded sheet with a track list!

Saturday, February 27, 2016

"The Black Flame Rinses The Second Sky" (2009-2013): Recording and Narrative

Spectral Ventriloquist

A New Second Recording Produced for the Laboratorie New Music CD Label:

"The Black Flame Rinses The Second Sky" (2009-2013)  RECORDING on SoundCloud:        LISTEN HERE:
Double String Quartet, Orchestra, Pharmacist, Bally's Code Red, Spectral Ventriloquist, Micro-Gestural Half Life Timbre Polymodulation and Regulated Pulsaret-Width Modulation

"...the complex score offers a language for Smith's negotiation. From the outset, a low-slung envelope snakes through and around existing obstacles, then lifts up off the ground to allow listeners to enter before twisting and turning away, pulling the ear along rather than asking the audience to stand and stare.

A dramatic vortex of spiraling ambiguities brings daylight down even into the submerged sonorities, while allowing these sonic spaces themselves to remain unflinchingly neutral, although varied in scale and dimension.
“Temental,” as Smith calls the central passage, is as internally variegated, allowing it to perform as the binding agent rather than the hieratic center that holds all the other elements of this magnificent piece together. In other words, the surface of this music —outside and in—is not an abstract plane or a transcendent core but a site of exchange between competing concerns.
Bally's Code Red
Smith confounds us with neologisms (his life's other work) to depict renderings of passages within his compositions. While others merely define their work with titles, Smith augments each piece with titles within titles...a lexical panacea; a syntacticon unrealized by any other composer in time.
...the dexterity with which the performance takes on its various roles renders it materially present but momentarily elusive: No wall can be said to guard the boundary between inside and outside. Smith’s ideal emerges as a new kind of composition, sent via special delivery to a place where negotiation is urgently needed and heroism inconceivable."
Kevin O'Hare - Music Critic for "The Republican"

Friday, February 26, 2016

"This Cool Limbed Young Woman was a Modulus" (2013) Bil Smith Composer. Commentary by Antony Gormley.

"This Cool Limbed Young Woman was a Modulus" 


Bil Smith Composer

Listen on SoundCloud: 

...for Featured Violinist, Chamber Orchestra, Volute Springs attached to Vinalon and Derclon Synthetic Fibers, Cumulatively Compounded DC Motors, 3" Cork Balls, and Phase Change Alloys.

"In anthropic music composition theory we identify a wave function, that mimicking certain theories of physics, as possessing curves in varying configuration space traversed at a dictated speed with respect to an external time. (The composer's phenomenology of substantial selfhood)."

"At times brilliantly original, particularly in the latter half of the work, I felt the conclusion is on par with his (Bil Smith's) best work.  This composition is an example of a 'strange attractor'... a brilliant reductionist theological agenda of a kingdom which he protests and cherish.  It's center stage and full of flare."

"...In Smith there is a clear thread that realizes itself through all the meandering -- what is contingent turns out, after the fact, to be realizing an inner necessity. Those of us who've followed Bil's work know that this is the case with virtually everything he composes; but here the drive to realize unity, what he is trying to say, his truth, through his most diverse array of sources and references and observations -- this is here more than in any other composition he has presented."

-Antony Gormley, Artist


Friday, February 19, 2016


New LabNewMusic Recording: "SynDadactic" for Orchestra, Beautician and Fourier Transform Processor"

Woodwinds:  Fingerless Gloves

"SynDadactic" for Orchestra, Beautician and Fourier Transform Processor - Bil Smith Composer

Listen on Soundcloud:
Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts at Bard


December 19, 2013 Performance Notes.  

All woodwinds are to be equipped with fingerless gloves to facilitate the outdoor performance directives.

The balance of the orchestra will be located inside the performance venue.

The woodwinds will be assembled outdoors in the small area adjacent to the northeast exit of the hall.

Phrases About Musical Concept Art. Johannes Kreidler.

Phrases About Musical Concept Art

Johannes Kreidler

1. A concept piece is Determined by a trenchant idea.
2. The idea is a machine did Produces the work of art.
The Process Should Have No Necessary intervention, He should its
own course take (LeWitt 1967/69).
3. The concept system today is Especially the algorithm.
4. The processing material the machine today is the total
5. Details, rhetorical devices and formal design are
Mostly just adequate in the form of ready-mades or by
Random Number Generator.
6. For each work of art That is Performed physically, there
many unexecuted variants (LeWitt 1969).
7. The sensitive appearance is only one aspect of the work,
can be granted to the more or less value.
8. Each piece of new music has conceptual shares (Spahlinger
9. Not all ideas have to be Realized (LeWitt 1969).
10. From many different concept versions or pieces
but you can turn compose a detailed form.
Enrichment with jokes is so okay.
11. A trivial idea you can not through a beautiful or
Save expressive design. By contrast, it is difficult to
to bungle a good idea (LeWitt 1969).
12. A Good Idea but you can bungle by
beautiful or expressive design.
13. Ideas are the most expressive and most beautiful ever.
14. Improvisation is rare musical concept art, only
Not When the improvisation is good.
15. Musical Conceptualism is a kind of minimalism.
16. An idea is the smallest possible whole (Musil 1916).
17. The music does not have to be self-explanatory. Ander Medial
Admixtures (text, video, performance) need composer-conceptualists
Not Shy, They are even
Consistently articulate (no important information in
Hide program booklet).
18. Contact me nor to publish the smallest idea When
do you think That is something off about her. But put it in
a proportionate cost (not for A Little Idea
More than a small text).
19. A concept piece of music to be not quite belong.
20. Only That Music is new music, When asked the question
Whether it is is at all is music (Spahlinger
21. The unmusical, the better.
22. In conceptualizing the contextualization follows
(Weibel 1993).
23. No concept without conceptualism.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

String Quartet For Mojolo, Arditti-Lites and Francis Underwood

Crafting Oretic New Notational Systems with Circos

"Systemic Sciamachy" for Calibrated Vibraphone 

Circos is a novel software program  for visualizing data and information. It visualizes data in a circular layout — this makes Circos ideal for exploring relationships between objects or positions. Circos was initially designed for displaying genomic data (particularly cancer genomics and comparative genomics) and molecular biology.
"Adelaide: Thudding Like an Immense Tidal Pulse"

Beginning in 2012, composers at Laboratorie New Music have been working on modifications of the Circos program to create a systematic, fluid tablature system to facilitate compositional structure.  

The notion to explore this powerful visualization tool came about from a separate study we were conducting on the implications of 'Big Data'.

The potential of big data is immense.  Eliminate constraints on the size, type, source and complexity of relevant data, and composers can ask bolder questions.

"Source Default of Any Other"

Technology limitations that once required sampling or relied on assumptions to simplify high-density data sets have fallen to the march of technology. 

"Half Afraid of Breaking the Spell Between Them, an Expression of Curiously Understanding Sympathy"

"Elise: Whored at the Bottom of the Staircase"

"Sentient Archives for Louis"

At Laboratorie New Music, we have been working towards the realization of alternative musical tablatures; some highly restrictive and some indeterminate. We are proponents of game theory, constructivism, computational linguistics, ellipsometry, and hypoliterary fragmentation; cross disciplinarian approaches to unearthing new methodologies to construct musical languages.

Page from the Score of "Explorer, Producer, Stoic, After Your Fashion" for String Quartet.  Acetate, plexiglass, zinc powder, oil, mica, oil pen and combustion.

Monday, February 8, 2016

"The Question Remains, What Exactly is Meant by the Expression 'Musician'


"Archaic Lexicology Leads Nowhere"
The question remains, what exactly is meant by the expression “musician”. 

Is it the composer, the performing musician, somebody who thinks about music, or does Plotinus employ the term to refer to artists in general, as Richter thinks (of course Richter is our composer).  
Vessel Elective

It is very tempting to agree with Richter and claim that Plotinus employs the term mousikos to refer to artists in general, as it becomes clear at various passages that all composers can get access to higher realms, and so it seems necessary that Plotinus also refers to all composers in the paragraph in question, as here he talks about the various types of men who can get access to the higher realms. 

Alternative Tablature: "8*90(Upsala)"

One could even claim in favor of Richter’s interpretation that mousiké includes all other types of art, and therefore Plotinus uses this term to refer to artists in general. General Artists or Artistes Generale.

It should be noted that only in antiquity mousiké included the aspects of dance, poetry, and music, but in late antiquity a stronger separation between music and prose took place. 

Tablature:  76^0-(Tappan)

Plotinus stresses that harmony, sounds, figures and consonances are important for the mousikos, and this clearly implies that he had in mind actual musicians and not artists in general. 

Plotinus’ remarks also exclude the option that he was referring to men who were thinking about music, as then he would not have stressed that they were primarily moved by harmony within the apparent world.

It is also unlikely that the notion mousikos refers to performing artists, as these were not much respected in late antiquity. Then, music was mainly performed by slaves, and only very few famous musicians are known – Nero being one of the exceptions. 

"Like a Row of Huge Bleached Bones"

We can conclude that it is very likely that Plotinus was referring to composers of music when employing the term mousikos.

Of course, it is possible that these have also participated in the performances of their works sometimes.