Zen & the Arts - Field Notes

About a year ago I was feeling frustrated with making electronic music on a laptop; since I was more or less making a living with my laptop at the time, the boundary between day job and art practice was getting thin in just the wrong ways. I wasn’t yet interested in how this barrier is increasingly permeable for all of us, so I thought I’d try a physical alternative: hardware. This way I would at least be able to use a different metal rectangle after work. Being a man of modest means I probably shouldn’t have, but I later played the things at Lincoln Center1 so there’s no telling. I ate a lot of rice and beans for a while and learned about synthesis and sold my guitar. All’s fair in love and war.

This was the first piece I wrote on this particular instrument 2. It’s an improvisation and as you hear it is as it happened. The source sample, a slashed and stretched rave chord, becomes a ghostly symphony, howls and ringing metal. I like to hear it loudly and in the dark.

The title riffs on the curves found inside the sounds. A Dyson Sphere is a really big fictional thing: a sphere surrounding a star at the distance of the Earth to the Sun. The idea is that a sophisticated civilization could solve its energy and overpopulation problems by taking a few neighboring star systems and turning them into a big hollow orb to live in. I’m told there are problems with the idea from an engineering standpoint, but I liked the sense of these vast shapes—bodies, ships, people?—inside something so big and still being hollow themselves, and maybe lonely.

  • That performance was as the duo Middle Grey at at Film Society of Lincoln Center’s Staring at Sound Series, with video artist Ginny Benson. Photos of the performance can be seen here at Impose Magazine.
  • An Elektron Octatrack; a sort of intensely techy, strangely intuitive music-production-platform in a small box. Less omnipotent than a laptop, it has its own creative constraints and the tremendous advantage of being incapable of checking email.

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