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 Let me once again quote from the unpublished essay that was written to accompany Eleven Clouds: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.
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.
In 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.
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
Of 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
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.
John Cage was born September 5th, 1912 and thus would have been 100 years old this week. There really has been no more influential twentieth century composer and his influence has loomed ever larger since his death. His influence on my music making in the last few years is undeniable and even more-so if you consider the second (and third and …) generations of influence. This year I ended up being away for quite some time on a cross-country bicycle tour which I set out on not long after I composed the tribute piece in the previous post. Alas I have yet to find an opportunity to construct that score and perform it but I hope to before the end of the year. In the meanwhile I’d like present for the first time a few other pieces that I’ve made in tribute to John Cage.
In 2010 I embarked on a musical project where I released a musical object for eleven months of the year. This project, the Eleven Clouds, project was a many layered project with each release have multiple facets to it. One of this facets was that each piece was dedicated to an artist that had been a major influence on me. The April entry in this series, Mid-Spring (rock, breath, 12kHz) was dedicated to John Cage. Another aspect of the project was that there was a task that one had to undertake to receive a copy of said release which were made in extremely limited physical releases. The task for this release involved decoding the instructions and then following them. For the first time since this release I present both the decoded text for this release as well as lossless versions of the music.
For more information please feel free to contact us at mgmtAThollowearthearthrecordingsDOTcom.
Constructed in memory of John Cage, this piece was composed by chance operations using the I-Ching. The three layers of the score are made up of a fixed event with two layers of variable length events each separated by variable length silences. The length of the events and the silence in between was determined by the previously mentioned chance operations. Unlike previous any realization of other musical patterns this one is a constructed piece (whereas the others were realized in real time) a demonstration that the system does not require a particular form of realization. As always it is essential that the sound sources be carefully chosen but can be chosen from recorded material. For an even more Cage influenced piece these sounds themselves could be anything but in this particular case I chose them from material I recorded myself.
For a copy of this recording simply send a message to the address below with the word anechoic in the subject line. Be sure to include the address this should be sent to in the message. [Ed. note: this offer is no longer valid. Instead download the release from the Mid-Spring (rock, breath, 12kHz) page]
For more information please feel free to contact us at mgmtAThollowearthearthrecordingsDOTcom.
The code was a book code using John Cage’s Silence. The only plain text in the post, Silencio, 16, was the clue to to use Silence Weslyan University Press 16th Edition (though most editions from around that time would work) using the following system:
7 digits to find each word:
Page: 3 digits (e.g.: 029 is page twenty-nine)
Line: 2 digits (e.g: 10 would be the tenth line)
Word: 2 digits (e.g.: 01 would be the first word on that line)
Along with the 11 releases in the project there is also a corresponding document that describes the theory, the methods and the many layers behind each release. For various reasons this document has yet to be made public (though parts of it were used in an interview with Joe Milazzo on Drunken Boat). Below I’ve pasted in the entry in this document for Mid-Spring (rock, breath, 12kHz), the first unedited bit of this document to be published. Note that this document was a work in progress and there hasn’t really been any editing on this entry nor is it as complete as I intended. It does cover the basics behind it, its place in the 11 releases, the tributary aspects and the reception of the piece and the success of the challenge that was required to get a free copy of this release.
Excerpt from No Ideas But in Things, the companion document to the Eleven Clouds project:
Released April 2010 as a 3” CD-R in an unlimited series though only four were ever made.
While aolian electrics [Ed.: The previous months release] strayed from the pure notion of utilizing the network instrument, it was still a vital part of the release. This one on the other hand, completely strayed from the preceding releases. The piece was a direct homage to John Cage utilizing the I-Ching to generate a Musical Pattern9 from which pre-existing recordings were used to assemble the piece. These recordings were of playing a recorder in an extended fashion focusing on the movement of air through restricted passages and playing with rocks in the manner of Christian Wolff’s Stones. A 12kHz sine wave accompanied these sounds which were sparsely spread out over the pieces length.
The method of acquiring this piece was the most difficult to date and no-one rose to the challenge. This showed the limits of how much effort people would expend quite clearly (though this would be shown even more clearly in subsequent releases). The release was to be freely sent out to anyone who successfully decrypted the press release. The cipher utilized was a trivial book code using John Cages Silence which was indicated in the plaintext ‘Silencio 17’ at the end of the message. Some outcry or at least comments regarding some sort of befuddlement was expected but there was nothing. Two copies of the release were sent along to people with other releases (how I would typically get rid of extra copies I had made of earlier releases).
Download the audio
This piece as well as a bunch of supplementary material is now available on the Mid-Spring (rock, breath, 12kHz) page in both Apple Lossless and FLAC formats. The supplementary material includes cover art, score, performance score, the encoded and cleartext PR, the encoding scheme and some additional images.
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.