a new album of solo electronic improvisations

April showers invite indoor-listening-hours.


Playing music together with friends via Internet streaming - occasionally in public, mostly in private - has been a major source of joy and creative sustenance throughout the Fall and Winter. In previous editions of this newsletter I’ve written about some of the fruits of those collaborations - the album Flash Fouls, made with Chicago electronic musician J. Soliday, and the weekly podcast LV2MKRT, which documents music played with Los Angeles double bassist and composer Scott Worthington. While these sessions are first and foremost for the pleasure of music-making, they have also served as a marvelous laboratory - an opportunity to test, refine and develop ideas about the electronic-music performance software I’ve been writing, and to iterate on its improvisational flexibility and expressive capacity.

That collaborative process continues, and I continue to develop the instrument, with frequent inspiration from experiences playing with J. and Scott. But in late January it occurred to me that since I also wanted to use the software for solo performance, I should be evaluating it in that mode as well. So, I started a daily routine of recording and reviewing short solo improvisations. That recording process was rewarding, turning up a bunch of new ideas that I’ve incorporated into the instrument design. Even better, it resulted in a heap of interesting music - some of the best of which I’d like to share with you. Please welcome Manifest - a short album of solo electronic improvisations.

Each of the recordings I’ve selected for Manifest explores its own particular combination of speed and stasis, repetition and variation; some aspects of the music race forward at high velocity, while other elements move slowly, or not at all. The tracks all make use of delay and echo in acoustically improbable ways, with sounds pivoting suddenly from dry clarity to cathedral reverberation or even looped reprise. Sped up and yet stuck in place, uncanny and occasionally unstable, Manifest reflects its moment.

At the workbench

I wrote last time about a collaboration with sfSound comrade Matt Ingalls, using custom server software to facilitate the automated and networked exchange of data (pitch, rhythm, timbre) etc. about our improvisations as they proceed. Our rehearsals still involve more debugging than music-making, but we’re making good progress. The performance that’s closest to readiness right now is titled “Zero Sum” - a game piece in which the two players gradually “consume” the 88 pitches of the piano keyboard. Repeated pitches are only permitted in certain circumstances, and the piece ends once all 88 pitches have been sounded. It would be fiendishly difficult to observe, remember, and obey the restrictions involved. However, our server software functions as umpire and mediator, enabling us to concentrate on music-making while the rule-following happens automatically. Which brings me around to the true aim of the project - searching for new kinds of music-making and communication that might only be possible via networking.


Better carrots than sticks (with thanks as always to John Granzow for the cartoon). And my thanks to you for reading and listening -



Christopher Burns