Karl Vorndran, “Bound and Folded”

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Randomly generated music doesn't have to sound like crap.

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Ari Spool | April 13, 2012

Cover art

Cover art

Aleatoric music was first conceived in full in the fifties, by the deity John Cage and others working in the avant garde in the early '50s. Small pieces of music made in this way were done by Marcel Duchamp at the turn of the century, and there are documented circumstances of the idea not being original, but never mind. Aleatoric music is an alternate form of composition, where some or all of the noises are left to self-determine, which is you make a selection of noises that COULD happen but you don't arrange the other things about them, like frequency, or pitch, or timbre, or length, and you arrange either a computer program or some other system that randomly chooses from the elements you've created. People use unpredictable instruments, like modular synths, or other processes to make aleatoric noise.

Despite this process being how Karl Vorndran makes music, his songs never feel completely random. On “Bound and Folded”, we hear a lot of squinking, quivering beats, balanced with a three second drone underneath, for about the first 20 seconds. Then a few more layers are added, and you have to trust that these noises are being created randomly. The five and a half minutes of this song, though chaotic, go quickly, and it almost sounds like Vorndran's aleatoric process of choice was to hire little gremlins who lower each noise into place with precision tweezers, and the part that is set to chance is that their mutterings are also recorded, and they might talk shit about their boss.

You can listen to the rest of Thawing, Karl Vorndran's new release on Rubber City Noise, on Bandcamp, or order the beautiful tape from them starting tomorrow.

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