Date of Submission
Academic Programs and Concentrations
Project Advisor 1
The Timely Pursuit of Eternal Unknowing
Since my moderation into Bard's music program a year and a half ago, my artistic focus and methodology have shifted from one of cultural consumption and reappropriation (turntablism) towards a preoccupation with instrument design, or tool as art rather than art as product. Throughout my entire history with music, I have always eventually felt tethered, or hindered, or just bored in some way by more conventional instruments, first with guitar, then with computers (though in a completely different way), eventually with turntables and the simple processing I was doing with guitar pedals (though yet again in a different way), with my first wave of more or less standard mixer feedback, and I'm sure it will happen again with what excites me now... I sure know how to keep myself running.
Perhaps the issue wasn't that I was too hindered by those instruments, but that after a while I got to know them a bit too well for playing to feel like a cooperation or an exchange of power, and just an exercise of meaningless control. By far the most exciting part of playing an instrument is getting to know it. Someone with no experience can get sounds out of an instrument that a virtuoso can't (albeit not consistently), because they have no known “safe actions” to lean back on, they can only drown and flail wildly. There's a real twisted humanity there that most practiced musicians can only hope of emulating. But of course this is a bit of a digression, I'm not playing an instrument I'm totally unfamiliar with, if anything I'm more intimately familiar with it than any others, as I've designed and built all of it from the ground up, with the exception of the old noisy Mackie mixer that serves as the central hub (which I'm treating basically as a found object).
What I've built consists of four small extremely dense “circuits” filled with components all disconnected from each other. The circuits are totally open and have taps at every point. All of these taps, if not connected to a component, converge on a central matrix of taps. Every input and output of the mixer feedback chain is run through this network, as well as 4 small ring mods I built. All of these relationships are openly customizable as everything is connected by a combination of bits of copper mesh, to connect hope pathways, and alligator clips to connect jumps. Running feedback through the various components on the boards all drastically expands the sound palette of typical mixer feedback, as does the complex intermodulation brought about by the convoluted connections of the circuit, but the most important part of this project is to make something “untameable.” Something that will continue to fight back and change its nature even when you think you know its tricks. The other fundamental way in which I'm allowing the instrument to express itself rather than myself is in the routing of the mixer itself. The mixer is old and noisy and has some degree of bleed between all of its inputs and outputs, so I for the most part route none of the inputs to any of the outputs explicitly and let the mixer decide, which is of course heightened by the more explicitly chaotic connections on the board. This instrument fascinates me because simply by playing it one changes the fundamental relationships by which it functions. Perhaps it will not work out that way in the long run, but for now I am hopeful that it will keep me occupied and on my toes for a long while.
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Blumin, Denis Naum, "The Timely Pursuit of Eternal Unknowing" (2016). Senior Projects Fall 2016. 23.