Proof of Concept: “Sure!”


The goal of several recent experiments in the sweltering third floor studio was to test a performance concept: playing live on steel guitar against generative content streaming from an iPad track and an iPhone track (into Logic on a laptop.)

I have been spending most of scarce studio time with Gestrument, a terrific generative sampler for iPad. There are any number of generative audio apps for IOS. On the iPhone’s side of the equation, I reached first for Mixtikl, Immersion Station, and the trio of Eno-associated apps, Bloom, Trope, and Air. Once I imported a slew of Camel Audio Alchemy patches from the laptop and, instantly, Alchemy became part of the potential mix.

This process of trial and error resulted in an initial upload to Vimeo because I exceeded Youtube’s time limit. To my bemusement I realized I didn’t record the live mix into Logic because in all the excitement I didn’t punch the recording in. Fortunately the camera’s mic did a good job of picking up the monitors and also some of the pedal sounds from the Fender steel guitar and buzzing strings from the eBow.

It is not possible in the current physical set-up to mix live as well as play live. Because this is all oriented to my slow music you’ll see in the video how shifting back and forth works out.

Dark ambient drone.

Ambience for Pedal Steel Guitar and eBow from Stephen Calhoun on Vimeo.

Kamelmauz: Evolusi Spontans Project

Kamelmauz - Evolusi Spontans
new Kamelmauz music, below via Bandcamp

What I’ve been doing with generative music is making systems — in the particular case we’re talking about, an app — which generates music. The way it generates, it is somewhat under your control, somewhat under my control, and some part out of either of our control. That’s a move from the picture of the composer as a kind of architect, to a picture of the composer as a sort of gardener. So you now think of the composer as somebody who plants some seeds, and then watches them grow. Brian Eno

Composer Dave Stafford inspired me to revisit Eno & Chilver’s deep generative app for the iPad, Scape. Stafford has been posting examples of his own “Scapexperiments” on youtube. It is a very deep app in the class of audio apps for IOS I term configurative-generative.

This melding of configurative with generative captures the entwined fundamental concept of this class of apps: the user/composer configures the app and then lets the app generate the sound world. The user/composer can dip back into the configuration if he or she wishes and guide to some extent–often to an unknown extent–the subsequent re-generation.

There is a lot of meta hanging in the background because, given generatively, in the operational context are features that are: random, guided by hidden formulas, emergent, uncontrollable, unpredictable, indeterminate, and, autonomous.

One crucial meta aspect of such operations is that the user/composer is neither the controller or conductor. Making sound this way is to partner with a mysterious colleague, to join with the ‘machine,’ and to come face-to-screen with contingencies driven to highlight the chanciness of production.

This chanciness is part of any robust creative processing and production. However, usually, the creative effort is asserted to be necessarily centered on control rather than submission to chance.

iTunes podcast about Scape by Brian Eno & Pete Chilvers

Three apps plugged into three separate tracks Logic (on a laptop) and then being let loose to generate their magic.

iPAd Studio Set Up

The initial goal of the experiment was to see if Mike Giesen’s Drone FX would behave and play properly as a web-based application. It worked fine, running on an old MacBook. Drone FX’s interface was set to randomize the instruments and progressions, although I did do some responsive ADSR programming as it tipped into new configurations.

I used a dark, slow patch I devised on Scape on the iPad. And, the last track was input from an iPhone 4S using Immersion and another patch set to simply run and evolve.

The over-arching goal was to let the soundscapes evolve. This half minute video shows the set-up running.


Here’s an example of the raw three track rough mix.


I intervened a couple of times to refine the Scape patch and ride the envelopes in Drone FX. Later, after reviewing more than an hour of raw recordings it became clear that the ripest soundscape could be derived from melding the three track raw mixes together. This was a conscious decision to utilize the rough three tracks recordings and build up a finished track from, in effect, layering edits (or slices,) on top of one another.

full track:

Kamelmauz Finds Little Bits of Slow Time

Kamelmauz reports, two new EPs will be released by Duty Free Records via Bandcamp in March. The above track, however, is slated to be completed and included on the delayed O meu toque, forthcoming, to be released in May 2013.

Kamelmauz Rainbringer

Kamelmauz Naked Strands

Produced primarily on an iPad using the touch paradigm and a handful of amazing IOS audio apps, both reflect a great deal of experimentation unfolded on the temporal margins of a fairly wild last half of the year. First the flood, then the house hunt, then the leaky ceiling in the studio, and, finally a new place–but, today, still on the far side of the big, heavy move in a week.

The upshot of all this volatility in comparison to the usual determined and laid back approach has been a lot of recording activity, but activity committed in very small blocks of hardly-available-at-all time.

The fuel for these hot little bursts have been an amazing surge of interesting sound creation tools released for IOS platforms; in my case, the iPad. I’ll be highlighting the wonders of Gestrument, Borderlands, Feed, Scape, and DrumJam, once things settle down in the new place.

The other element is that the calming effect of sitting down and transforming catch-as-catch-can time slots into brief creative immersions readily evoked elliptical improvised or generative drones, or, combinations of improvised and scripted sound. And, no guitars had their feelings hurt in the making of a surprising inventory of iPad-based ‘slow music’ over the past months.

Wrapping Up 2010 IV. Electro & Beyond


Flight Patterns

Open Graves

Ruins of Morning

Praha Meditations
Alio Die
Yellow Swans
Going Places
The Art of Dying Alone
The Effective Disconnect
Brian McBride
Sigh of Ages
Steve Roach
The Ominous Silence

Desert Phase

Kaya Project

The New Emancipation

Soweto Kinch
Variations for Oud and Synthesizer
Keith Fullerton Whitman
Funeral Mariachi
Sun City Girls
Ninja Tune XX
(various artists)
My Friend Rain
Robert Millis (recordist/compiler)
Into the Deep 3-4-5-6

Turning to genres of music that can hardly be encompassed by either electronic or experimental, the challenge mention in a previous post, is how to deal with the flood of musical creativity. Again, one can’t keep up. I don’t try. I follow my favorites, keep a close eye on credible blogs, and am open to completely out-of-the-blue investigations.

I have no problem with accepting and receiving this flood as documentation of prolix artistry. This is different than being the musical equivalent of a picky eater.  I like it that a new find, the noise and dark ambient guitarist Aidan Baker rolled out over ten recordings last year, under is own name, with Nadja, (duo with Leah Buckhart,) and in partnership with other sonic explorers. I have experienced six of ’em. Steve Roach, in my pantheon of sound painters, released four recordings; a wave of riches, and, yes, some better than others. Yet, I want to hear every last note.

For me it’s about the documentation of artistry for better or for worse. Still, I can’t try everything at the buffet. Overall, the rise of the cheap digital studio has inspired a prolific, oft lo-fi, tendency. This has caused an explosion in the aforementioned documentation, and, paradoxically, amplified the challenge of being selective, and this against wishing to take in every last note.

Half of the sixteen recordings listed here are by artists new to me last year. Pride of place goes to Open Graves exercise in deep listening, and the flood of ambient noise unleashed by Mr. Baker. Ruins of Morning is both heavy and heavenly. The Kaya Project‘s ambient post-rock meshes pedal steel with slow moving sound worlds. I have a weak spot for what I call slow music. Even Soweto Kinch‘s marvelous down-tempo hip-hop unfolds at a leisurely pace.

It’s all every-last noteworthy.

Deep Verb


I first heard Pauline Oliveros sometime in the early eighties. Could it have been George Todd who dropped the needle? Darnit, I don’t remember. While in my Vermont chapter, I took in recordings by David Hykes, Meredith Monk, Terry Riley and others. Yet, I didn’t begin the deep dive until a fateful day in (probably) 1993, a year after returning to Cleveland, when I took out a copy of the Deep Listening Band’s self-titled debut recording on New Albion Records from the local library. It provided my first experience of the inversion of: music is sound into sound is music.

I was instantly entranced. A switch flipped. A new journey began. Out of this arose an instant connection with deep listening and the soundworlds and music of Pauline Oliveros, The Deep Listening Band, various offshoots, and, soon enough, all sorts of music that can be loosely described as ambient.

Now, more than fifteen years later, my own naive music is shot through and through with the influence discovered in ongoing my deep dive. That I was open to all of this didn’t surprise me because the world is, for me, sound. My resonance with the concept of sound awareness had been developed by my prior immersion in the jazz avant-garde, various ethnic folk musics, and, numerous stirring masterworks of classical music. I’m sympathetic to what I roughly term the medicinal/mystical understanding of music and sound, especially as this was articulated for me in books by, first, Joachim Berendt, second, Hazrat Inayat Khan, and in personal experiences enjoined by a variety of encounters with masterful advocates of ‘vibration’ such as Abdullah Ibrahim, Joseph Begeswitse Shabalala, Bobby McFerrin, John Cage, and others. About this I would say: I was a very lucky fool.

The entire field of sound: environmental sound, found sound, sound walks, natural sound, folk sound, everyday sound, comprises the ground for the development of the refined concept “music is sound.” Then, several years ago I began to reflect on, and later investigate, what could have music been before it was music, thus before sound was known as music.

(From this came my rhythmriver concept, my own extremely modest and nascent contribution to the deep listening ethos.)

“With the music of the Absolute, the bass, the undertone goes on continuously.” H.I. Khan, The Music of Life.

This year the winds brought me a collaboration between the duo, Paul Kikuchi and Jesse Olsen–recording as the group Open Graves–and The Deep Listening Band’s Stuart Dempster. It’s called Flightpatterns and it provides an astonishing ‘float’ in sound.

Recorded in the Dan Harpole Cistern located in Port Townsend, Washington, it is Kikuchi and Olsen’s second recording as Open Graves, and the second essayed in a naturally reverberant setting. Dempster, a unique virtuoso who plays trombone and didjeridoo, has recorded on numerous occasions in similarly cavernous, man-made yet natural vessels. Dempster has said of the environment,

“This is where you have been forever and will always be forever.”

Previous posts with music sample: Over the Tones | Listen From Where You Are

FLIGHTPATTERNS 1 from Prefecture Records on Vimeo.

Flightpaths is the follow-up to their superb debut recording, Hollow Lake. It’s one of my most favorite records from this year.

The discography of The Deep Listening Band and Pauline Oliveros is as deep and reverberant as a 2,000,000 gallon cistern–so to speak. The resources and links available at Pauline Oliveros‘s web site are invaluable.

Dive in.

Alio Die

Alio Die is a mystical sound designer and auteur of ambient musical soundscapes. (Like good ol’ Kamelmauz, he has a regular name too, Stefano Musso.) An Italian, Alio Die is mining the same electro-acoustic wellsprings that deep divers such as Steve Roach, Vidna Obmana, Ian Boddy, Peter Namlook, Robert Rich, are also mining. However, he strikes me as the audionaut most secure in gathering in olden European sources, especially voice.

His music is too graceful to fall down into the dark layer. Airy and serious, very focused yet open–Alio Die is sound to travel on.

Alio Die:
home page
MySpace I | MySpace II
@ Projekt Records

Over the Tones

Part II. influences. Stuart Dempster, colleague with Ms. Oliveros in The Deep Listening Band, is heard, but not seen, in this video in what I will term ‘the cistern series.’ There should be enough clues here to figure out what’s going on. (If not, see his page at epitonic. There, should you register, two free-legal, superb examples of his music are available.

The music of David Hykes, the composer and singer, stormed into the room widened by my encounter with The Deep Listening Band. Singing that left me speechless.

David Kykes has a great youtube channel.