CRAIG’S STROKE

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CRAIG’S STROKE
Lee Noyes – no-input mixer
Lance Austin Olsen – voice & objects
catalogue IN025
48:34 minutes

One day, my friend Craig had a stroke; he was in his mid 40’s. I wrote in my book – Craig’s stroke – there it was, everything I knew, all jumbled together, just like Craig’s mind. I never saw Craig again, but I continued my notations, and always felt that this was now a document of Craig’s difficult and unplanned journey.

A few years ago I attempted to translate the concept into a triptych, or three movement work. I placed all kinds of marks and notations on three sheets of paper. Eventually, more and more, these marks were painted out as I became acutely aware of the loss of reasoning because of the trauma to the brain. I painted everything black and, except for the few marks and notations that remained, nothing could be seen inside the blackness, everything was still there in the work, but it could no longer be seen or reached.

I sent the work to Lee Noyes, and what he returned to me was perfect, but it needed a physical presence, how was I to do that?

I spent a few nights sitting in my creaky studio chair trying not to move or say anything, wearing headphones, and recording my unconscious reactions to Lee’s realization of the score. Finally, there it was, the presence.

Lance Austin Olsen, 2014
 
 

 
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Craig's-Stroke-triptych

INTERVIEW

The album is based upon a visual score, a large three panel mixed media painting on paper by Olsen from 2011. Was there a preliminary discussion about how to structurally approach interpreting it, or did you create your own independent method?

Lee: The three panels that make up the score for Craig’s Stroke were one of a number of different works Lance had sent my way after his invitation to work together. From our first correspondence he was quite specific in that his preference was to not provide explanations or discuss ‘methods’ prior to me working on them, wishing rather to hear only the results and respond from that. The level of trust that this implied put me at ease in interpreting each individual work in the way that I felt best. I had few other projects going on at that point, which together with Lance’s relaxed attitude to timeframes gave me ample opportunity to sit with and contemplate them and any approaches I might take before recording. Once recording began things moved very quickly for me; the paintings themselves and images their economical titles inspired, proved to be all the information I needed.

Lance: I had originally sent Lee a number of visual scores to possibly use, he sent me realizations for a single sheet score called “Particles and Waves” and also a 3 panel “Tijuana Dance Kings-Shadow Boxer” he asked if I had any others and that he had seen the black panels and would I send them. I was really impressed with his recordings so far so I immediately sent him “Craig’s Stroke #2” which was the end result of a huge series of sketches and notations.

We had no discussion prior to my receiving the recording, I had considered that the panels plus the title should be enough direction.

The backstory of the score is inherently emotionally charged – witnessing someone you know suffer a life-changing ailment. I’m curious how this influenced your interpretations?

Lance: Years ago I read a fantastic science fiction novel called ‘ A Canticle for Leibowitz’ by Walter M Miller Jr.

Set in a Catholic monastery in the desert of the Southwestern United States after a devastating nuclear war, the story spans thousands of years as civilization rebuilds itself. The monks take up the mission of preserving the surviving remnants of man’s scientific knowledge until the day the outside world is again ready for it. What really fascinated me about the book was that the most precious of all of the undeciphered items being preserved was a shopping list.

This concept of the importance of absolutely everything stuck with me and I began to use my sketch books as notebooks for everything that came up, which included shopping lists, brief ideas and notations, calculations, drawings, even as coffee coasters. I always carried a book with me and often they got wet in the rain, wine or beer was spilt on them and gradually images and words partially disappeared as new notations etc were drawn on top of them. Dampness would bring into view the back of the page or other pages and ink would leach through the paper creating new forms. These books resembled my mind far more than any formal or contrived artworks.

So in the beginning these notations were not about a particular event, just my belief that all these unimportant marks, writings and scribbles could become important as they changed.

Then the change, my friend Craig had a stroke; he was in his mid 40’s. I wrote in my book “Craig’s stroke’ there it was, everything I knew, all jumbled together, as I imagined Craig’s mind. I never saw Craig again, but I continued my notations and felt that somehow this was Craig’s difficult and unplanned journey, a journey that could have been my own in different circumstances. I, of course have no idea what goes on in anyone elses mind and for sure I know nothing about a traumatized mind, this is only my perception of the results of such an event.

The most devastating thing about what happened to Craig was his age, this scared us all, as I write this now I have other friends who have had strokes and died but we are now in our 70’s and this is not unexpected so certainly less traumatizing than a 40 year old man getting hit and laid low.

A few years ago I attempted to transcribe the concept into a triptych or 3-movement work. I placed all kinds of marks and notations and colour on the 3 sheets of paper.

Eventually they were painted out more and more as I was acutely aware of the loss of reasoning because of the trauma to the brain. I painted everything black and except for the few marks and notations that remained, nothing could be seen inside the blackness, everything was still in the work, but it could not be seen or reached.

Lee: I clearly wasn’t aware of this back-story; that the subject had been so acutely personal to Lance (this certainly struck me later and altered my perception of the results..) What I had before me at the time was the three images, covered in raw scratches and strokes progressively being superseded with the ‘blackness’. I could seem to tell there was a lot more going on behind this black surface than was obvious and imagined it portrayed a deterioration of memory of some kind. My electronics setup is based around (what is by modern standards) an aged Roland sampler. At the time of its manufacture in 1998 is was pretty cutting-edge with its internal iomega zip drive and floppy discs – 15 or more years on the drive is still chugging away okay, but the discs themselves, which are required for the machine to operate at all, do suffer from serious degradation over time and many of the discs I am forced to use are as old as the machine itself. The feedback dialogue between mixer and sampler has long felt to me like trying to map, or follow, or control the ‘nervous system’ of the equipment and certainly feels like an unsteady dialogue between its and my own… so in many ways working with the imagery implied in the title and score it seemed quite natural for it to be realised on this fragile equipment. This project also began around the time I first began experimenting with a piezo microphone. The foundation hiss, hum, occasional stutter and cloudiness of much of the piece is a result of the piezo being inserted into the drive as it struggles to find information on the disc.

Do you perceive this album as being narrative?

Lee: The thought had never really occurred to me, but perhaps it does… though if so I would imagine it would be in the sense that a Beckett play or a poem by Gertrude Stein has a narrative. By which I mean that from a relatively limited palette of material, sounds and events, quite a rich world opens up over the course of the piece. This is my perception only of course and came in subsequent listens well after the piece was completed – I’d had a significant pause between hearing my interpretations of the scores (which, as I mentioned, was quite consciously grappling with Craig’s inner state). That Lance subsequently provided the ‘outer’ I think resulted in a remarkably complete and balanced representation of everything implied in the scores themselves.

Now that even more time has passed I’ve had further chances to sit with the finished results, removed as actor and partaking as ‘audience’ – and I never fail to be struck with the poignancy of the result… yet I’m positively moved by the last act in an almost euphoric way and am left with a near tangible sense of hope despite the realisation of how fragile we all are, whatever our circumstances. Again, each set of ears with their own individual body of experience to draw from will likely come to different conclusions, but for me I think the piece finds that rare balance between the emotional and the cerebral and contains enough ambiguity to provide the listener plenty to work with… even constructing a narrative of their own, if indeed they need or wish to.

Lance: I have had trouble with this question and I am going to give a simple answer after much back and forth thinking about it.

I have never been interested in the particular illustration of ideas but I am always interested in the construction of a framework into which people can build their own narrative or not.

This work did not, as I have pointed out, start as a particular event about a particular person, it did however through subsequent happenings, (Craig’s Stroke at 40) become the framework of my understanding or misunderstanding of the devastating events of brain trauma.

What Lee has written above, pretty much covers anything I would say.
 
 
REVIEWS

A very enjoyable, thoughtful collaboration, but one of those where it’s difficult (for me) to say too much about it. As I understand it, Olsen sent an image he’d created to Noyes who, in turn, working with a no-input mixer, responded with the initial layer of sound to which Olsen then affixed (a verb that seems somehow appropriate given his work as a painter) other sounds of a non-electronic nature. Somewhere during this process, Olsen learned of a stroke suffered by his 40-year old friend, Craig, and incorporated his thoughts on that event into the project.

The result is some 49 minutes of quiet–generally very quiet–but prickly music that conveys, for me, a great amount of tautness and tension. Small crackles, delicate (though often harsh, in a tiny way) hums, the odd bang or breath. It’s “not there” to a degree that you can easily lose track of it but I think, if so, there would still be a vague sense of disquiet imbuing the room. Perhaps the sounds, as they emerge, might be analogous to the unblacked-out portions of the triptych painted by Olsen (see below). A subdued, wooly vibration comes through in the waning minutes of the piece, like a generator from the next room with occasional power surges. There’s a bit of a surprise a couple of minutes before the end, when we encounter, out of the blue, a loop of some orchestral music, vaguely cartoony in nature, before that fuzzy throb resumes dominance, ending curtly.

A fine, contemplative recording, tough going or not depending how one chooses to listen.

Brian Olewnick | Just Outside

TWO WORKS FOR WHITE NOISE

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TWO WORKS FOR WHITE NOISE
Jamie Drouin
catalogue IN024
66 minutes

These two works reveal unique perceptual and sculptural experiences of white noise using simple, but formal procedures.

In BLINDS 1, an identical monaural white noise is placed in the left and right speaker. During the course of the composition, the proportion of the white noise uniformally extends in the left speaker, and shortens in the right speaker. This not only creates the effect of left-right panning, but also the perception of complex groupings of the events, in contrast to the regularity of the composition. The original concept was two pieces of semi-translucent paper moving across each other, beginning as two, and then merging along the overlapping edges.

GRADIENT 1 again places identical monaural white noises in each speaker, along with a basic EQ filter which systematically opens up to reveal lower frequencies over the first 20 minutes, and then switches roles to slowly remove higher frequencies over the second half. The white noise takes on various perceptual shifts and spatial associations through a gradual process of sonic addition and subtraction.

These works are specifically designed for playback on two speakers positioned at an equal distance from the listener’s head.
 
 
EXCERPT
 

 
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CD VERSION

Order this album as a high quality physical CD-R in printed folder for $18US, including worldwide shipping. Contact us to place an order.
 
 

LANCE AUSTIN OLSEN | SCORES & MARKINGS

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LANCE AUSTIN OLSEN | SCORES & MARKINGS
various
catalogue IN022
62 min audio + text/scores
download complete release (497MB zip)

 

blood and memory #2
crys cole
hardwood floor, radio, snare drum, breath and crickets

craig’s stroke #2
d’incise
field & domestic recordings

“Three engravings on a space” (after copper plate engravings of Lance Austin Olsen)
Johnny Chang
violin, viola, snare drum, playback/field recordings

blood and memory #32
Mathieu Ruhlmann
shruti box, cymbal, + compressed air
Joda Clément
harmonium + field recordings

if so, so. if not, not. #1
Jamie Drouin
microphones + original painting, voice of Antoine Beuger

 

Someone entered this field last night.

To hear Lance Austin Olsen tell it, every significant event in his life, every step of the way, has been a process of meeting serendipity with receptiveness. To hear him tell it – and you really should, as Olsen spins the yarn of his life with a robust admixture of blarney, Beckettian suchness stripped of sentimentality, and zen aplomb – Olsen’s half-century of painting, 40 years of zazen, and 15 years of musical practice, are “footprints of my journey.”

Recounting entering the Camberwell School of Arts in London at age 15, Olsen maintains that the choices offered were carpentry or art, and it was his failure to craft a decent dovetail joint that tipped him into the realm of drawing and painting. Recalling his stint working at an art gallery in Victoria, B.C. when in his late 50s, he describes meeting the young gallery employee Jamie Drouin, who showed Olsen his photography. Olsen was so taken with Drouin’s work he helped him get exhibited. In turn, Drouin suggested they start making music as a duo. “John Cage opened the door”, Olsen says, “and we just sauntered through.” Olsen sauntered into a now 14 year musical partnership with Drouin; the pair perform and record together fairly frequently, largely on the label they co-own, Infrequency Editions. One more serendipitous footprint (and we haven’t even gotten to his painting practice); Olsen leaves the U.K., aged 25, and lives awhile in California and Canada, traveling with his wife of many years, his itinerary set as much by fluctuations in the cash-on-hand, as by any overarching design. “I have no idea what I’m going to do,” Olsen says about making music, “I make a sound and it suggests something…I like flowing, being one with what I’m doing.”

Olsen’s footprints, continuing into this, his 71st year (as I write this, Olsen is in California, en route to further collaborations with some fellow musicians), can be seen in the seamlessness of his creative work, music and paintings which interface and loop together in an interesting way – in short, a process of the instrumentation he uses as sound-makers (e.g., amplified copper engraving plates) serving both his audio and visual art.

The maps of his paintings and sound works are created in a hermetic setting, a bare-bones studio that would induce claustrophobia in many. Olsen’s set-up, whether the table of copper plates and broken stuff of his concerts, or his workaday studio, are as no-nonsense as the zafu facing the blank wall. The results – and you are encouraged of course, after spending some time with the painting-scores included here, to investigate the spontaneous generosity that is Olsen’s output to date – is art of wildness and discipline. Olsen’s is a practice of getting the “art director” – his term for the aspect of the artist/musician’s sensibility that creates via the over-controlled gesture (and, in Olsen’s view, produces contrived work) – out of the way, bringing to mind the practice of the hitsuzen.

Hitsuzen is the familiar (think Lucent Technology branding) brush-stroke enso – but some zen practitioners engage in a process of repetitively creating the enso from a state of “no-mind” fluency and flow, the intuitive and confident action of the brush-stroke overriding the art director. “A surface,” goes Olsen’s artist statement, “is endlessly reworked.”

 

Someone entered the dark woods.

Olsen’s engraving plates make music. Scored music indeed. His paintings also serve as scores. The scores, being the nature of his paintings, offer generous space for the musician to add their own footprints. Olsen might provide a hint – “the deepest black is the deepest silence”, for example.

That’s what you have here, seven works chosen by the participating musicians as a basis for their contributions. As varied as the pieces are, anyone familiar with Olsen’s work might hear some recurrent strains in his friend’s work. crys cole’s piece, close in some ways to territory Olsen explores, is restive, scrabbling, very small events amplified, suggestive of life viewed via microscopy; Jamie Drouin contributes sounds as allusive, near-silent, and resistant to direct apprehension as those found in his many duos with Olsen; Johnny Chang contributes the most active, mini-episodic piece; Mathieu Ruhlmann and Joda Clément’s Blood & Memory #32 offers a beautifully lush and contemplative piece, replete with the plangent and occasionally foregrounded caws of gulls.

d’incise’s track really stands out, its ambiguous throb and thrum suggesting the flow of dark blood, which somehow – tested repeatedly with close listens – most strongly evokes for this listener, Olsen’s overall sensibility. d’incise’s selected canvas, Craig’s Stroke #2, really should be re-viewed upon listening to the piece, making my words even more unnecessary. The Craig’s Stroke series is powerful, comprising 88 works, each representing an eight minute increment of a subtracted life, a decade-long disintegration of consciousness. It evokes Beckett’s masterful prose, whose terminus in his famous trilogy was the unnamable flicker of light cast by the last gasp orison in the silence you don’t know you must go on, I can’t go on, I’ll go on.

Olsen has entered and passed through some dark woods. With each step he has maintained a practice of meeting all things with receptivity, curiosity, and uncontrived artistry. When arthritis gnarled his hands, he developed a technique of clutching multiple brushes loosely, allowing the paint to apply itself sans an art director. When a thief broke into his home in 2010, stealing, among other things, a decade of digital art and sound files, Olsen responded with the composition Thief, a free download available to even the thief who engendered its occasion.

This gift from Drouin and company allows us to view and hear Olsen’s journey, rendered in acrylics, oil, tea and ink, sound and silence, in a dynamic way. I am honoured to contribute my small part. I keep thinking of the composer Antoine Beuger saying “I like to think of scores as confidential letters between friends.”

Gassho, Lance.

– Jesse Goin, 2014

 

 

LANCE AUSTIN OLSEN – SCORES & MARKINGS is available as a free digital release (497MB zip) and includes audio in FLAC format, text, and source scores.

 

Read more of Jesse Goin’s writing at www.crowwithnomouth-jesse.blogspot.com

Someone entered this field last night / Someone entered the dark woods, from Denise Levertov, The Footprints, New Directions Paperbooks

THE ISLAND

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THE ISLAND
Jamie Drouin
catalogue IN021
40 minutes

A 40 minute composition examining the sonic and environmental pollution on Sarichef, a small (12 km2) inhabited barrier island located along the Chukchi Sea in Northwest Alaska.

By combining various types of microphones and sensors, THE ISLAND becomes a sensory-extended portrait of a fragile ecosystem under radical transformation from both natural and human intervention.

In 2010 and 2011, I travelled to the remote island of Sarichef , located in Northwest Alaska, to collect recordings for a sound installation. The island had already been the focus of several news stories on its rapidly eroding shoreline, due to the increasingly higher annual temperatures and sea levels, melting permafrost, and more intense storms. My installation Perimeter:Sarichef was created as a sonic ‘time capsule’ of the island’s receding perimeter.

This new work, entitled The Island, attempts to present another complex layer in the portrait of this fragile island, it’s extensive environmental and sonic pollution, something which stood in stark contrast to what I had expected based on my initial research, but was ever-present during my recording process. Sarichef’s isolation, combined with importing consumer goods has resulted in a large community landfill that burns through the year, the constant deep resonant hum of 3-wheel recreational vehicles and generators, and rivulets of oily runoff which stain the coastline.

The Island is a composition filled with sudden shifts in perception. The listener moves from a pastoral waterscape to the combined low frequency sounds of ocean waves and electrical generators, to buffeting wind mixed with the static crackle of burning waste. The Island creates a highly textural collage where the edges of natural and unnatural sounds bleed together to become another type of landscape experience. At the end of the composition we hear what sounds like radio static, but is actually the island in the process of disintegrating, as the permafrost breaks down, creating an audible hissing vacuum between the sand particles.
 
 
EXCERPT
 

 
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CD VERSION

Order this album as a high quality physical CD-R in full-colour digipak for $18US, including worldwide shipping. Contact us to place an order.
 
 
REVIEWS

“contender for one of the albums of the year” – Daniel Crokaert | Unfathomless

“Fantastic, moving work…reminiscent of Watson’s sonic eco-narratives” – Jesse Goin | Crow with no Mouth

EVERY TING THING

A-Drawn-Horizon

EVERY TING THING
Jamie Drouin | Olaf Hochherz
catalogue IN020
58 minutes

I distinctly remember borrowing a stethoscope from my school’s science department when I was in grade five. I had imagined sticking the device up to all sorts of objects – trees, anthills, fences – and unlocking secret audio worlds within. With the exception of one subject, our dog, who had a particularly active digestion that day, most of my other experiences using the stethoscope where underwhelming, to say the least.

EVERY TING THING, which documents the first meeting between minimalist sound artists Jamie Drouin and Olaf Hochherz, could easily be a suitable replacement for that elusive experience mentioned above.
 
 
 
 

 
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REVIEWS

Por vezes esquecemo-nos que as palavras que utilizamos para falar de um disco acabam por ser redundantes ou insuficientes, quando não desadequadas. “Every Thing Thing” de Jamie Drouin e Olaf Hochherz relembra-nos isso a cada momento da sua escuta. Esta tem de ser atenta e paciente se não queremos perder cada som, cada ruído que emerge, calmo e em volume baixo, do quase omnipresente silêncio. Este, quando é quebrado, deve-se à urgência de nele fazer surgir uma interrupção.

Herdeiro de Cage, o trabalho dos dois músicos revela-se como uma paciente abordagem à arte de fazer surgir sons sem abafar as sonoridades quotidianas que nos rodeiam. Grande parte do que podemos ouvir parece provir de instrumentos electrónicos, da manipulação de objectos e de amplificações produzidas por microfones de contacto. Parece, porque no CD não há qualquer referência ao instrumentário usado; poderiam ser outras as fontes sonoras Aliás, se fossem, talvez a nossa percepção fosse outra.

E assim, este disco de sons frágeis e etéreos, de um radicalismo conceptual que não nos deve afastar da sua audição atenta e empenhada, vai-se desenrolando até aos minutos finais, altura em que uma profusão de sons se faz ouvir antes do silêncio final. Mas, também, se dele quisermos, por momentos, afastar-nos, não deixaremos de continuar com o estado de espírito que julgo ser aquele que Drouin e Hochherz pretendem transmitir-nos.

“Every Thing Thing” vem reafirmar que, na estética “near-silence”, como em muitas outras da música de hoje, ainda há muito para fazer e explorar e que os caminhos que continuam a ser percorridos pela improvisação são capazes de revelar-nos muitas surpresas. Este é, para mim, um dos mais belos e brilhantes trabalhos deste ano, mas também dos mais difíceis de recomendar, nomeadamente pela ousadia presente durante cerca de uma hora, o tempo que dura a gravação. No final, tanto podemos achar que ouvimos pouco, muito ou “apenas” o necessário. Mas, como se encontra disponível para download a um preço baixo, sempre posso apelar a que se atrevam a indagá-lo.

Pedro Chambel | Jazz.pt
 
 
Very, very, very quiet. In the notes to the release on the Infrequency site, Drouin (I assume) mentions borrowing a stethoscope from school at a young age with the intention of investigating the hidden worlds in trees, anthills, etc. (he got as far as his dog). That image, of holding up a sensitive recording device to a thick, opaque object–say, a tree–and just barely registering the sounds within, the termites chewing, the worms softly gnawing, the internal architecture of the tree itself slightly bending and creaking, is a pretty apt one for the experience one has during the hour or so of infinitesimal activity from Drouin and Hochherz. It’s extremely easy to forget the sounds are there, to let them simply provide the merest addition to wherever you’re listening. The scant chittering (tiny mandibles at work), the bumpy rolling about of an object on a barely resonant surface, the even fainter hums of some exterior world, the imagined gentle trudging of sextets of pincers/feet on sand–all can easily blend in to the point of disappearing. Plus, I’m listening to it as a download on my Macbook, so there’s a limit to the volume I can achieve, though I’d say that overly pumping it up would defeat what I perceive to be the purpose. That said, it makes it a hard one to evaluate in the routine sense (not a bad thing!) insofar as concentrated listening goes. I go back to thinking of it as non-intentional natural phenomena, listening in on those trees, with no guarantee of constant “interesting” goings-on, requiring the state of mind to find any activity as inherently fascinating. You find yourself leaning in to the speakers, trying to decipher what you’ve heard or think you’ve heard, aware, uncomfortably or not, that you’re missing events occurring deeper in. I like it a lot.

And, as always, a beautiful illustration and package design from Lance Austin Olsen.

Brian Olewnick | Just Outside