Music For Shuffle

Sketch #06

More messing about with combining earthier, acoustic instruments with the glitchy textures. A bit too Radiohead-lite in terms of chord voicings, but the combination of sounds has a bit of potential. I must try and do some proper recording with proper musicians at some point.

Download the MP3s (4.2mb)

Physical artwork

I think I’ll definitely look into doing some monoprints for the animated art in the next few sketches. This whole project links nicely to the idea of one-off prints, each one made with slight random variations. Of course, John Cage has already done it, but hey. I’m keen to make things a little more hand-made, both musically and visually. Manual production methods seem to sit nicely against the essentially digital nature of the project.

Attention as musical material

I’ve been thinking a little about how this project could evolve to use more things than just shuffle mode. There are tons of other little facets of our everyday listening experience that could be used as compositional material: the time of day, where I am, the ambient noise levels around me, whether I’m doing something else with my phone or computer at the same time; nearby network activity, and so on. All good, meaty stuffs that I could use to make music with.

Specifically, I’d love to hear music that adapts to how much attention I give it. I sometimes listen intently, on the sofa, eyes closed, expensive headphones on. Other times I’m on the bus, texting, or reading a book. Other times I’m playing music on the speakers in work, and need to be able to concentrate, or chat to people. The music could know all this, and adapt accordingly. Even the artwork could know if I was reading or touching it.

Loads of apps are trying these ideas out already, like RJDJ and so on, but for some reason they’ve never really stuck for me. I just don’t find them very… well, musical. They’re reactive sound apps, yes, but are they musical? What does that mean anyway? I’m not sure, but I can’t seem to shake the feeling that RJDJ is basically just a guitar effects pedal strapped to your head.

I guess the distinctions between musical albums, tracks, toys, tools, instruments, art and so on are all brilliantly blurred at the minute, but no matter how I experience music, part of me just wants to feel that it has been authored, composed, or performed by someone, not something. We all love music partly because talented people devote their lives to making it for us. They’ve been augmenting our reality for thousands of years.

I guess all of this also points at more things I need to read up on. My friend Mark (a very clever musicologist) mentioned that I should look at ecological systems theory, and books like The Ecological Approach to the Perception of Musical Meaning. I should re-read things like Bill Gaver’s work on sound and music, too.

Anyway. Maybe that’s another project. Still plenty to do here.