Entries tagged with “conceptual music”.

David Tudor

David Tudor performing John Cage's Water Music

Today, January 20th 2013, would have been David Tudors 87th Birthday. This occasion provides sufficient impetus for me to write a bit about the major theme of the Eleven Clouds project. This is the notion of what I’ve often referred to as Post-Tudor Live Electronics.  Before delving into that subject let me relate the origin and early history of the Eleven Clouds project.  I’ve written many times about the Network Instrument and how I began thinking about the live electronics work I’d been doing in those terms.  While I want to explicitly state that I didn’t really independently develop any of this I was quite ignorant of this history when I began my own music making. I was aware of what might be thought of as third or fourth generation live electronics and perhaps that could be thought of as my starting point. In a way I was working backwards but it wouldn’t be for several years until I really realized that.  Network Instrument theory on the other hand is my own development in that it is a way of thinking about these existing practices, practices that were often treated as mysterious, purely intuitive and esoteric.

Around the end of 2009 I began working exclusively with various networks in order to further develop my understanding of this theory I was developing. This would generally take the form of setting up a network and working with it, changing it, pushing specific parameters and the like. If I hit a configuration (a cloud in Network Instrument parlance) that was particularly interesting I’d document it in various ways, typically a recording, photographs and any patching data. In late December 2009 this process led to a piece I found so strange and yet compelling that I felt I should do something with it. But I was pretty attuned to the tastes of my fellow travelers at the time and I knew this was a particularly odd piece not particularly attuned to those tastes. But I still felt that the music demanded that I do something with it. So I made a few 3″ CD-Rs of the piece and I gave one to a fellow live electronicist. This gave me the germ of the idea – I would continue my exploration of network instruments, documenting it as I went and releasing a series of recordings of these efforts. I decided right off that if I was going to do this it had to be done right and that this exploration of network instrument theory had to be just the base of the project. That is that it had to have multiple components to it; it had to be an exploration of several ideas both overarching and in each individual release.

 Winter Clouds Setup

 Winter Clouds Setup - used for I'm not completing any thoughts and Skipping Stones

The overarching themes of the project were three: Post-Tudor Live Electronics, Music as Object and Conceptual Music.  Not every release would encompass all three themes though they often did. Music as Object, clearly pointed at by the projects slogan ‘No ideas but in things‘ (William Carlos Williams,  A Sort of a Song1), was the fulcrum around which each release was built.  Additionally each release was also done in tribute to one or more musician, composer, artist or poet. It is this additional layer that would generally determine how an individual release would engage the overarching themes.  Three of the releases were explicitly engaged with ideas of live electronics particularly the notion of a configuration as score. These three releases were dedicated to David Tudor.

In the unpublished companion document to the Eleven Clouds project there is a short section on each of the overarching themes as well as an entry for each individual release. Below I’m including the section on Post-Tudor Live Electronics as well as the entries for the three releases dedicated to David Tudor. The generally short entries for individual releases describe the format, dedications and additional ideas. Also there is some discussion of how it was released and how this was received. This aspect is part of the Music as Object thread of the project which as I noted above is the axis upon which each release revolved. This document was unfinished and there was meant to be additional writing on each release exploring the individual idea(s) that may be explored herein. These entries are primarily included for completeness sake. Additionally the music and photos from each of these releases has been uploaded to their corresponding sub-pages in the Eleven Clouds webpages. Thus for the first time complete versions of these pieces can be heard by anyone. The three releases dedicated to David Tudor in the Eleven Clouds project are:

I’m not completing any thoughts
Skipping Stones, and
A Closed Letter

 Network Instrument

Network Instrument utilized for A Closed Letter

Post-Tudor Live Electronics

The first overarching idea is purely musical: what should follow on after David Tudor in the area of live electronics. Tudors legacy in live electronics is huge but barring a few people who were working with him at the time as well as some tangential artists it did not seem that many followed in his path during his lifetime.  After his death in 1996 there were many tributes and retrospectives and the like there wasn’t much in the way of attempting to follow on with his work. Those who had been engaged in live electronics already did of course continue on, but they were following their own trajectories that could be seen as concurrent to Tudor’s as opposed to starting from it.

Over the next decade though there would be a renaissance in analog synthesis, followed by a DIY resurgence and suddenly more and more people are citing Tudor as an influence, working in the same general areas and, finally, trying to use his techniques to explore the ideas that have captured the current zeitgeist. I think of artists such as Matt Rogalsky and Micheal Johnsen that can be seen as having started where Tudor left off as well as those such as Brian Eubanks and James Fei who started within the current milieu and found their way toward Tudor.  However I think that it can be said that even with an increased awareness and interest in his work it is still an open question of how to iterate from where Tudor left off. He was such a virtuoso and so idiosyncratic plus there is a dearth of information on the subject that this is hardly surprising.

The very first release in the Eleven Clouds project, I’m not completing any thoughts2, was part of an initial stab at this notion. The electronics in this piece are, unlike David Tudors custom and modified electronics, commercial products interconnected in such a way asto increase unpredictability. The Network Instrument3 was a theory devised to attempt to create an understanding of the instruments that Tudor created and to attempt to develop a language to facilitate to further developments in this area.  I’m not completing any thoughts was an interesting step in this direction but in isolation didn’t seem sufficient.  It was at this time that the notion of Clouds (a configuration of a given network instrument) was codified and the notion arose of a series of statements exploring this instrument.

i'm not completing any thoughts

(01) I’m not completing any thoughts.

Released January 2010 on 3” CD-R in an edition of 4.

This release could only be acquired by being given it. Of the three copies that were given away none of the recipients were from the same country. The ideas explored in this piece were Post-Tudor Live Electronics and network instrument theory. It is the network that was developed for this piece utilizing an interconnected Clavia Nord Micromodular and a Chimera BC-16 that would form the basis for many of the following pieces.

The webpage with downloads for this release can be found here: I’m not completing any thoughts

Skipping Stones

(02) Skipping Stones

Released toward the end of February 2010, offered to anyone who would send a Self Addressed Stamped Envelop to an addressed supplied by an auto-responder.

This was perhaps too great of a jump for the initial release – actually asking someone to go to the post office is perhaps too much. It also is of course difficult for those outside of the US though it was stated from the beginning that there would be allowances for that.  Ultimately eleven (11) copies of this piece were sent out, though only a few of these to people who jumped through the hoops.

Musically this piece expressed the most successful attempt at a Post-Tudor live electronics. The network was iterated from the I’m not completing any thoughts and I think displayed a way to work out complex sounds from minimum structure. Ideas of the last decade of improvisation mixed with Live Electronics in a way that was different and engaging.

The webpage with downloads for this release can be found here: Skipping Stones


a closed letter

(07) A Closed Letter

Released in July 2010 on a single 3” CD-R.

This piece used an expanded network to create a denser more spiky piece than previously generated. As part of the promotion of this piece a short excerpt was put up onto Sound Cloud to allow people to check it out.  According to Sound Cloud statistics it was played around 40 times. The method of acquisition was not stated; only a question mark. Again this garnered no posts in response, no inquires publically or privately.  Interest does not seem to have bee acquired.

The webpage with downloads for this release can be found here: A Closed Letter

In retrospect I am of the opinion that I’m not completing any thoughts and A Closed Letter are closer to examples of historical live electronics. It is only with Skipping Stones that I think that the ideas of live electronic are iterated upon with respect to the work that occurred since Tudors time. Which isn’t to say that there isn’t aspects or portions of those two pieces which I do think work in that way and it is the case that I was coming from that mindset.  That I think is a critical aspect to these abstract notions of instrumentality. A live electronics configuration truly is the score – that is it directs and limits what you are going to do. But it is the performers mindset that influences how that score is performed and what it becomes. In this way it is like a graphic score – a noise musician playing Christian Wolff’s Edges is going to end up with a different soundworld then a classically trained cellist.  But unlike a graphic score the sound world is set and it has definite boundaries with a live electronics configuration. So it is the networks of those pieces and not just the mindset of the performer (myself in these cases) that keep these at least one foot in the past. It is interesting to note that Skipping Stones – the most successful I think of all of the Eleven Clouds pieces is an iterated version of the I’m not completing any thoughts network4. While A Closed Letter is as well I added many more components to the network and is best thought of as more evolved (punctuated equilibrium even) than iterated upon. What all of this goes to show is that the network, in effect one’s score, has to be as reflective of your mindset as anything else.


1)    William Carlos Williams, A Sort of a Song

Let the snake wait under
his weed
and the writing
be of words, slow and quick, sharp
to strike, quiet to wait,
— through metaphor to reconcile
the people and the stones.
Compose. (No ideas
but in things) Invent!
Saxifrage is my flower that splits
the rocks.

2) Robert j Kirkpatrick, Eleven Clouds Hollow Earth Recordings 011: http://spiralcage.com/hollowearthrecordings/discography/ElevenClouds.html

(01) I’m not completing any thoughts. (January 2010, 3″ cd-r. Edition of 4)
(02) Skipping Stones (February 2010, 5″ cd-r. Available throughout February)
(03) Vertical Landscapes 1-5/aeolian electrics (March 2010, 5 Paintings w. 2×80′ cd-rs.)
(04) Mid-Spring (rock, breath, 12kHz) (April 2010, 3″ cd-r.)
(05) An delay (May 2010, 2×3″ cd-r. Edition of 16)
(06) 100 Black Kites (June 2010, box of assorted items. Edition of 1)
(07) A Closed Letter (July 2010, 3″ cd-r.)
(08) 47° 32′ 25.80″ N / 121° 54′ 32.0″ W (August 2010, micro-c60. Edition of 1)
(09) Fugue State (September 2010, 5″cd-r. Edition of 12)
(10) Sometimes the rain is hard to see (9 haiku) (October 2010, mini-cd-r edition of 9)
(11) …and yet (November 2010, Edition of 11)
(12) Aleph (December 2010) [never released]

3) Robert j Kirkpatrick,  The Network Instrument (a work in progress), A Spiral Cage, March 2010, and The Network Instrument (WIP): Subnetworks, A Spiral Cage,  April  2011

4) It is worth noting that the majority of the other pieces in the Eleven Clouds project also worked with the Network Instrument and are examples of Post-Tudor Live Electronics with varying degrees of success. They aren’t considered in this post due to not being specifically dedicated to David Tudor.

...and yet

 this world of dew,
is but a world of dew
and yet…

-Kobayashi Issa

November 2010 the final release of Eleven Clouds, …and yet, was made available. As previously noted each of these releases was dedicated to various artists, musicians, composers &c. Each of these was a complex web suspended between several overarching themes and ideas, trying to be true to them all while staying true to itself. Let me once again quote from the unpublished essay that was written to accompany Eleven Clouds:

The Eleven Clouds project is a number of disparate ideas wrapped around the idea of creating a physical object, that contains data in the form of music, every month for year. There are ideas being explored that encompasses the entire project but also ideas that drive each individual release. The overarching ideas may be the primary idea in a given release or may not be instrumental to it at all. Additionally there are references, homages and nods toward a number of artists in plastic as well as musical arts. Finally considering that one of the overarching ideas has to do with interpretation there are some aspects that inherently must be left up to observers.


By November there had been ten releases encompassing over 8 hours of music and there was a certain level of exhaustion. Making a complete CD with often quite elaborate packaging month in and month out had taken its toll. For me the music of Morton Feldman is the music of exhaustion. It is the music I put on when I’m too tired to sleep and let its slowly iterating stasis fully envelope me. The principle members of the New York School have all been a major influence on me and they were all paid tribute, in greater or lesser form, throughout the series. By November there had yet to be one for Morton Feldman, though of course I’d always intended there to be and now at this point of weariness seemed like the time to do it.


Music for Piano and Strings by Morton Feldman vol. 2

John Tilbury and the Smith Quartet
Music for Piano and Strings by Morton Feldman vol. 2 (Matchless)

This year has seen a number of excellent recordings of Morton Feldman’s music. The incredible recording of Crippled Symmetry by the Feldman Soloists (Eberhard Blum, Nils Vigeland, and Jan Williams) on the Finnish Frozen Reeds label. A compendium of the the early, mostly indeterminate pieces, Early Works for Piano performed by the always stunning Sabine Liebner on the Wergo Label. The second volume of  Music for Piano and Strings from my favorite pianist John Tilbury accompanied by the excellent Smith Quartet on the Matchless label. Re-Releases of some of the classic recordings by the Ives Ensemble on hatHut. And of course plenty of releases that I have yet to hear.

Piano, Viola,Violin and CelloIn 2010 I was living in a small house in Kirkland WA that was right in front of an abandoned railway. On Sunday afternoons I would often walk for an hour or two one way or another along these tracks. Generally I’d listen to some recordings as I walked along usually softer stuff that I could play low enough so that ambient sounds would mix in. I found myself playing the Ives Ensemble recording of Morton Feldman’s Piano, Violin, Viola and Cello over and over again in these walks.  For me, while I love Feldman’s music across pretty much all times and all instrumentation, it is his pieces for piano that particularly move me. Especially the longer more etherial later pieces both solo and in the various chamber ensembles. Of these chamber pieces I’ve come to love Piano, Violin, Viola and Cello the most. Unlike say Piano and String Quartet, the piano here leads and the the string section, deemphasized without the second violin, seems to comment on the piano pieces. The piano begins more discordant sound, especially with the inputs of the strings, almost prepared. After some time it settles down into this pattern, in typical late Feldman style, that is fully explored, mutated, iterated upon. This pattern, melody, tinged with melancholy, even a sense of weariness eventually becomes broken by time before hesitantly completing itself as the strings prickle and poke at it. On these long introspective walks and many times as I was wearily trying to sleep this piece has been my companion. The new recording by John Tilbury and the Smith Quartet which is a little more leisurely at around 90 minutes is particularly effective in my mind. Tilbury’s unparalleled touch for Feldman’s music and the Smith Quartets meticulous attention to Feldman’s require (slow and low) has created the best recording of the three that I’ve heard of this piece.


...and yet

Another of the overarching themes of the Eleven Clouds project was what I refer to as Post-Tudor Live Electronics. Much of what I talk about w/r/t The Network Instrument is a way to codify these thoughts. A full discussion of the topic is beyond the scope of this post but there is one aspect that is apropos. David Tudor’s live electronics was typically wild, flirting on the edge of chaos. The early indeterminate, graph pieces of Morton Feldman would seem to be the closest his pieces hued to what Tudor was doing with his electronics (no surprise then that Tudor remains the most impressive interpreter of those early Feldman pieces). But could one’s live elections, in the Post-Tudor era, be more like Late Feldman – soft, slow, floating and enveloping. For the final piece in the Eleven Clouds sequence, I wanted to explore that, to express the weariness, the melancholy of the end of this near year long project.

...and yet booklet interior scan

QR Code for ..and yetOf course there was always more then one (or two, or many) thing going on with an Eleven Clouds release and this one was no exception. The physical release itself was a roughly DVD size cardstock booklet inside a vinyl pocket. The front of this can be seen two pictures up and the interior directly above this ‘graph (I should note the above scan doesn’t capture the color well at all which is more of a light, blue-grey). The “disc” that came with this was a clear plastic CD sized disc that comes with a stack of blank CD-Rs. Along with this was a postcard that had the Hollow Earth Recordings logo on one side and a QR Code on the other (see image to the left). These “cds”, of which eleven were made, were sent out to anyone who asked. The promotional posts on i hate music and on this blog showed pictures of the recording session as an additional hint.

QR Codes hadn’t quite hit the level of ubiquitousness (saturation even) that they have now in which probably everyone would know to scan it and see what it encoded. What it encoded (if you haven’t already reflexively scanned it) was an URL to this page: …and yet. This page contains lossless downloads of the music recorded for this project. Watching my web statistics I only saw one person download it during the time of the project. I posted the QR code to this blog and I’ve sent that link to a couple of other people but this is the first public release of these recordings.

 ...and yet recording session

...and yet recording session

This piece is an ~95 minute piece on a Network Instrument where I attempt to create something like PPiano, Violin, Viola and Cello. This was the single longest piece in the Eleven Clouds project (though Aeolian Electrics wasn’t far off at nearly 80 minutes). The length of course was essential to capturing that Feldman feel; allowing it to slowly evolving over time. It is meant to be played softly as Feldman would insist for his pieces and it was indeed performed at a low volume. The setup and the patch are the “score” for this piece and it was performed and recorded in one continuous session. Overall I think it works and captures what I was trying to go for. Like a lot of the longer Feldman pieces there are moments that seem jarring and discordant but they are resolved (as it were) long minutes later. Give it a listen for yourself and see how you think it works out.  Whatever the verdict, this one’s for you Morty.

Download  …and yet in either Apple Lossless format or FLAC:  …and yet

I recently took part in an email question and answer session with Joe Milazzo (formerly of Bagatellen) w/r/t the Eleven Clouds project. This session covers a lot of ground and delves into quite a few of the concerns and ideas behind the project. While not by any means a complete deconstruction of the project it is the best place to begin for anyone interested in the whys and wherefores. This question and answer session has been published on the Drunken Boat internet concern and can be found here: Eleven Questions RE: Eleven Clouds.

Over the coming weeks I’ll put in various bits of additional information about this project. If there are specific things that people are interested in, feel free to ask in the comments.

Eleven Clouds

Eleven Clouds

(01) I’m not completing any thoughts. (January 2010, 3″ cd-r.)
(02) Skipping Stones (February 2010, 33’33” cd-r. )
(03) Vertical Landscapes 1-5/aeolian electrics (March 2010, Painting with 2×5″ cd-r. )
(04) Mid-Spring (rock, breath, 12kHz) (April 2010, 3″ cd-r.)
(05) An delay (May 2010, 2×3″ cd-r. )
(06) 100 Black Kites (June 2010, box of assorted items. 4×3″ cd-r.)
(07) A Closed Letter (July 2010, 3″ cd-r.)
(08) 47° 32′ 25.80″ N / 121° 54′ 32.0″ W (August 2010, micro-c60. )
(09) Fugue State (September 2010, 5″cd-r.)
(10) Sometimes the rain is hard to see (9 haiku) (October 2010, mini-cd-r.)
(11) …and yet (November 2010.)

Pictured above is the complete Eleven Clouds. A confession: throughout the course of the project, even as limited as each release was, one copy was held back for the archive” . Said archive is pictured above. This was done with the intention that this archive would end up in the hands of a single individual, so there would be one person, beyond the artist, with all of the releases” . It has been decided that the complete”  Eleven Clouds Archive will be sent to a randomly selected individual who has inquired after the final Eleven Clouds release …and yet. That release, as stated in the press release, is available to any who ask and from that list a single person shall be selected to receive not only …and yet but the entire Eleven Clouds Archive“¡ .

As of the writing of this post there are still copies of …and yet available. So strike while the iron is hot! However all people who inquire after this release, including those that exceed the number of available copies will be entered in the drawing for the complete archive. So there is absolutely no reason not to take the plunge. This offer is open to anyone worldwide with no restrictions including previous recipients of other Eleven Clouds releases“¡ .

Send your inquires to: mgmt AT hollowearthrecordings DOT com

”  Caveats
1) Of course there is only one real copy of 100 Black Clouds, a unique puzzle box filled with undisclosed objects. However this archive includes the music, presented in the same four disc format of the original release. It has been housed in a vinyl pocket with a photo of the original release
2) Likewise 47° 32′ 25.80″ N / 121° 54′ 32.0″ W really only exists as a micro-cassette buried on a riverbank (perhaps) in the Cascade Foothills. In this case the archive contains the simultaneous recording that was made with a voice recorder. Again a custom sleeve was generated with the promotional artwork.
3) The pictured Vertical Landscape is not the one included in the archive. The archive version is Vertical Landscapes 1 which had been wrapped up securely in brown paper for its journey to the east and was not unwrapped for this photo.

“¡ Additional Caveats
A list has been kept of who has received which release for the entire project. If the winner of the archive has previously acquired Eleven Clouds releases said releases will be excluded from the archive as sent to them. These releases will be randomly sent to other recipients of …and yet who of course also do not already own said release.

As always feel free to contact us at mgmt AT hollowearthrecordings DOT com