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Ten Mixes to Countdown the New Year
every mix is a new composition
1. “Staring” 64 BPM
2. “Looking” 96 BPM
3. “Watching” 144 BPM
4. “Observing” 96 BPM
5. “Seeing” 64/128 BPM
Announcing Tilted Axes’ “20/20 Soundscape” as part of our “Points of Seeing” virtual event on December 21, 2020.
What is it? It’s 20 musicians bringing 20 musical cells each into a protean structure created and produced for the winter solstice.
Musicians participating are: Aileen Bunch, Alex Durante, Amy Denio, Angela Babin, Chad Ossman, Christoph Götzen, Dan Cooper, Elisa Corona Aguilar, Gene Ardor, Gerard Smith, Howie Kenty, Jane Mabrysmith, Jason Goldstein, Jeremy Nesse, John Ferrari, Leslie Stevens, Michael Fisher, Michelle Zulli, Steve Ball, and Tony Geballe.
Letter of Invitation Sent to Musicians
This new music and event are made possible in part with public funds from Creative Engagement, supported by the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council and administered by the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council (LMCC). Tilted Axes is powered by Vox Amps USA. This event is part of Make Music Winter NYC and produced by Peppergreen Media.
Ten Mixes to Countdown the New Year
every mix is a new composition
The Process: Unedited drafts of each mix will be posted here as they are created. When the set of ten is complete the process of editing will begin. Each mix will be edited for its structure, balance, and duration. Expect the results of each track to be be 1/2 to 2/3 the length of the original. In this way, it is much like editing a film: only the good bits need remain. From these transcriptions for live performance could be made.
LISTEN: December 22, 2020
Proof of Concept (11:06 unedited)
The first of the first. Raw. This is an entirely intuitive and random AF “proof of concept” mix. The only effects used in this fairly clean initial mix is an overall reverb for room ambiance. Future mixes will incorporate more effects. It is a slight modification of the mix that was used as occasional background during the Points of Seeing live stream. The clip array was played entirely with single mouse clicks and drags (for now) as opposed to using an external controller. The clips are played in concept order of Staring (64 BPM), Looking (96 BPM), Watching (144 BPM), Observing (96 BPM) and Seeing (64/128 BPM). Some sections work well and others could be better, but this is a great sound to arrange structurally to develop as a composition. Thanks to all the players for putting your soul into this.
Any Given Moment (12:10 unedited)
This is quieter. It concentrates on a clarinet quartet with percussion, all three bassists, with guitars and Stick supplying patterns as connective tissue. The clarinet quartet was created artificially by multiplying Amy Denio 4x and playing her parts in canon for unintentionally-intentional polyphony. The sense of quiet comes from staying within the 96 BPM of the “Looking” section and allowing only a handful of instruments at any given time. The sense here is Stravinskian in that an orchestral sized group is only deployed in smaller subsets at any given moment. The structure is approximately ABA with the woodwinds appearing only in the outer sections.
Stereo Crunch (15:54 unedited)
Fretted strings and indefinite percussion only. There is no winds, vibes or xylophone in this mix. This involved rebalancing all of the parts. It’s a different approach. Guitars were divided left and right into stereo pairs that shared a similar soft-amp plug-in. This mix works through the sections “Seeing” to “Observing” and ending on “Watching” (543 in terms of the original 12345 order). It’s interesting to hear accompaniment parts become the focus while “lead” parts fade into the middleground. This is a quality that will be refined in future mixes.
Mallet Canons Bright and Light (14:03 unedited)
The mallet tracks are triplicated for random canon polyphony. The size of the guitar ensemble is reduced by half. The saxophone makes a number of middleground entrances. The piece grooves within a solid 64bpm (or subdivided as 128bpm) by staying within the “Staring” section for the first half and the “Seeing” section for the second half. Out of all the mixes so far, this one avoids any section where all instruments play at the same time. They don’t. They are always small, transparent textures. If one gets too big, it changes to a smaller group immediately or gets stripped down instrument by instrument before building a new section.
Scherzophrenia (13:59 unedited)
Multiple personalities exist within this single organism. There’s also lots of effects on the guitars here. The material stays brisk throughout drawing from the 144 BPM phrases of the central “Watching” section. There’s many different combinations of smaller groups, every player’s contribution gets heard within this mix. There’s a big buildup in the middle and one near the end. Skronky guitars play against long tones in the background in sections where the rhythm section drops out entirely only to quickly return with a vengeance. This mix represents the end of the first half of these 10 countdown mixes. There is a great difference between where they have came from and where they have ending up here. All in all, the larger piece, the total of all soundscapes, has been revealing possibilities along the way. The intuitive combining of elements heard so far has given many clues to what lies ahead in its further evolution.
Half the Truth Makes a Great Lie (21:42 unedited)
This mix and the next one are experiments in texture. The group was divided (approximately) in half and a recording was made using only these musicians. The mix follows the complete Staring – Looking – Watching – Observing – Seeing (ABCDE) structure in that order. The musicians on this mix are: Christoph Götzen, Steve Ball, Michael Fisher, Elisa Corona Aguilar, Aileen Bunch, Angela Babin, Chad Ossman, Alex Durante, Dan Cooper, and John Ferrari (vibes, xylophone, and hand percussion).
How the Other Half Tilts (16:09 unedited)
This mix and the previous one are experiments in texture. The group was divided (approximately) in half and a recording was made using only these musicians. The mix follows the complete Staring – Looking – Watching – Observing – Seeing (ABCD) structure in that order. The musicians on this mix are: Gerard Smith, Howie Kenty, Gene Ardor, Leslie Stevens, Tony Geballe, Michelle Zulli, Jason Goldstein, Amy Denio, Jeremy Nesse (stick, bass, touch guitar), Jane Mabrysmith, and John Ferrari (drums and hand percussion).
It’s a Clean Machine (13:05 unedited)
This mix goes back to the full ensemble. A significant difference is soft amp plug-ins on all guitars (Waves CLA mono amps) set to various “clean” settings, as a way to get away from the overdriven sounds of the last few mixes. It is similar in sound and form to the very first mix, but with the added benefit of experience. Different combinations of instruments were tried, but some it it feels kind of lazy. After this mix it’s time to shake things up. Even so, there are many good moments here that make the effort unique and worthwhile. Look forward to some change in the penultimate and final mixes coming up.
A Mix of a Mix of a MMXX (16:42 unedited)
This mix aims to break off from the grid (the session array) that has been used up to this point. For this mix the structure consists of the clips from “Looking” and “Observing” (both 96 BPM) being combined into each other with the clips being interlaced. This section then moves into the clips from “Staring” and “Seeing” (64/128 BPM) which have been similarly combined and interlaced. This makes any familiarity with the patterns triggered or memorized up to this point useless. In a sense, it is brand new in this way. As a result, some of the transitions are smoother than in previous mixes, but there are also many that are more jarring than found in previous ones. Any seeming disadvantage was used as an advantage wherever possible. Every strange jump was repeated to become integral to the evolving structure. How could this not be seen as a metaphor for the year MMXX itself?
Scenes of Pointing (21:43 unedited)
Music writer Kyle Gann tells of composer Morton Feldman describing one of his string quartets: ’’It’s like a jigsaw puzzle that every piece you put in fits,” he says, ”and then when you finish it, you see that it’s not the picture. That was the idea. The jigsaw puzzle, everything finishes, and it’s not the picture. Then you do another version, and it’s not the picture. Finally you realize that you are not going to get a picture.” While listening through these mixes, that’s the effect I experienced. It’s like being like a tour of a very large and grand mansion, entering the hallway, going up and down the big staircase, seeing variations of the architecture along the way. Sometimes you can see rooms far away down the hall that you’ll get to later in the tour and then can look back at those rooms across the expanse to which you’ve been. I’d like this experience to feel like that to the listener at the very least. At the very most, this experience was a great proving ground toward future group collaborations. It works on a number of levels and can be adapted and refined. This is was a point of seeing, this was the finger pointing at the moon. Thank you everybody who contributed to this project, thank you to the sponsors who provided the means to make it happen, and thank you, yes, thank you to the Year 2020 that gave us the opportunity to grow under incredibly difficult circumstances. Let’s take what’s useful to us into 2021 and leave everything else that is not far behind, but to never forget.
Here’s to a Happy and Healthy New Year!
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