Disquiet Junto Project 0566: Outdoor Furniture Music

Hello. These instructions popped up at disquiet.com/0566 (thanks to the powers of automation) shortly after 12:10am Pacific Time on November 3 (I was asleep at the time). The email containing those instructions went out via tinyletter.com/disquiet-junto after I woke up, and then I posted them here.

Please note that I’m taking a Twitter pause, so I won’t be posting the instructions there. As I mentioned at the end of last week’s project:

I’ve never been interested in setting up a Facebook presence for the Junto. I’m on Mastodon at post.lurk.org/@disquiet (and Instagram at instagram.com/dsqt). I think between those two locations, plus the tinyletter/disquiet-junto list, and Lines, and the Junto Slack, and disquiet.com/tag/junto, I’m pretty well covered for getting the word out.

Also, I have a vague recollection someone in the Junto made a comment on Twitter along the lines of the project idea this week, so if it was you, please send me a link to the tweet and I’ll share it and credit you.

Thanks, folks. The Junto was sorta born on Twitter (and co-parented on SoundCloud) in its early years, but it’s time for me to take a Twitter pause.

And now, on to this week’s project.

. . .

Each Thursday in the Disquiet Junto group, a new compositional challenge is set before the group’s members, who then have just over four days to upload a track in response to the assignment. Membership in the Junto is open: just join and participate. (A SoundCloud account is helpful but not required.) There’s no pressure to do every project. It’s weekly so that you know it’s there, every Thursday through Monday, when you have the time.

Deadline: This project’s deadline is the end of the day Monday, November 7, 2022, at 11:59pm (that is, just before midnight) wherever you are. It was posted on Thursday, November 3, 2022.

Tracks are added to the SoundCloud playlist for the duration of the project. Additional (non-SoundCloud) tracks appear in the llllllll.co discussion thread.

These are the instructions that went out to the group’s email list (at tinyletter.com/disquiet-junto):

Disquiet Junto Project 0566: Outdoor Furniture Music
The Assignment: Imagine the ur-ambient Erik Satie musique d’ameublement concept en plein air

Step 1: Familiarize yourself with the concept of furniture music, or musique d’ameublement in the original French. This was an idea of Erik Satie’s. Often cited as a precursor to ambient music, it was music that would mix in with the furnishings, and serve as furnishings. Presumably these were indoor activities.

Step 2: Imagine the concept of furniture music transported outdoors.

Step 3: Record some “outdoor furniture music.”

Eight Important Steps When Your Track Is Done:

Step 1: Include “disquiet0566” (no spaces or quotation marks) in the name of your tracks.

Step 2: If your audio-hosting platform allows for tags, be sure to also include the project tag “disquiet0566” (no spaces or quotation marks). If you’re posting on SoundCloud in particular, this is essential to subsequent location of tracks for the creation of a project playlist.

Step 3: Upload your tracks. It is helpful but not essential that you use SoundCloud to host your tracks.

Step 4: Post your track in the following discussion thread at llllllll.co https://llllllll.co/t/disquiet-junto-project-0566-outdoor-furniture-music/

Step 5: Annotate your track with a brief explanation of your approach and process.

Step 6: If posting on social media, please consider using the hashtag #DisquietJunto so fellow participants are more likely to locate your communication.

Step 7: Then listen to and comment on tracks uploaded by your fellow Disquiet Junto participants.

Step 8: Also join in the discussion on the Disquiet Junto Slack. Send your email address to marc@disquiet.com for Slack inclusion.

Note: Please post one track for this weekly Junto project. If you choose to post more than one, and do so on SoundCloud, please let me know which you’d like added to the playlist. Thanks.

Additional Details:

Deadline: This project’s deadline is the end of the day Monday, November 7, 2022, at 11:59pm (that is, just before midnight) wherever you are. It was posted on Thursday, November 3, 2022.

Length: The length is up to you. How long is your lawn party?

Title/Tag: When posting your tracks, please include “disquiet0566” in the title of the tracks, and where applicable (on SoundCloud, for example) as a tag.

Upload: When participating in this project, be sure to include a description of your process in planning, composing, and recording it. This description is an essential element of the communicative process inherent in the Disquiet Junto. Photos, video, and lists of equipment are always appreciated.

Download: It is always best to set your track as downloadable and allowing for attributed remixing (i.e., a Creative Commons license permitting non-commercial sharing with attribution, allowing for derivatives).

For context, when posting the track online, please be sure to include this following information:

More on this 566th weekly Disquiet Junto project – Outdoor Furniture Music (The Assignment: Imagine the ur-ambient Erik Satie musique d’ameublement concept en plein air) – at: https://disquiet.com/0566/

More on the Disquiet Junto at: https://disquiet.com/junto/

Subscribe to project announcements here: https://tinyletter.com/disquiet-junto/

Project discussion takes place on llllllll.co: https://llllllll.co/t/disquiet-junto-project-0566-outdoor-furniture-music/

The cover image for this project is from DALL·E 2. The prompt: “outdoor furniture, pixel art, sunny day.”

4 Likes

The project is now live. Thanks, everyone.

I had an image of the Chelsea Flower Show stuck in my head … this seemed to fit wandering around there with all that organic growth going on.

11 Likes

last weekend, I recorded some outdoor sessions with soma cosmos, OP-1 & guitar
then i read marc’s assignment today
I thought that’s exactly what it is

it’s a three part track, each part for me and my little brothers above me

15 Likes

Disquiet Junto Project 0566 - Outdoor Furniture Music

Background

There’s an article on Academia.edu called “Erik Satie’s Musique d’Ameublement, some ninety years later”. It begins with a quote from John Cage that immediately brings us to the subject of this assignment:

A few days ago it rained. I should be out gathering mushrooms. But here I am, having to write about Satie. In an unguarded moment I said I would. Now I am pestered with a deadline. Why, in heaven’s name, don’t people read the books about him that are available, play the music that’s published? Then I for one could go back to the woods and spend my time profitably.
– John Cage, “Erik Satie” – in Silence, 1961, p.76

The article is pretty short, I recommend it.

My idea

Satie’s original furniture music is said to be “very short pieces which may be repeated an indefinite number of times”. In the manuscript of the score to the first performance of “Sons industriels”, Satie wrote:

Furnishing music completes one’s property;
it’s new;
it doesn’t upset customs;
it isn’t tiring;
it’s French;
it won’t wear out;
it isn’t boring.

Therefore, outdoor furniture music would be music served to complete the outdoor scene with something new that doesn’t upset the environment, and hopefully doesn’t bore or tire the listener. It should blend with the environment.

Instead of preparing a raw piece intended to be played in an outdoor environment, I decided to make a piece that already includes wilderness in it, to demonstrate exactly what the end result would be if it were played in this environment.

Process

To realize the idea, I used the following components:

  • live field recordings from a property on the outskirts of a Polish wilderness not far from where I live captured at the time of me working on this project;
  • Norns playing 4 voices in Euclidigons;
  • Iridium playing a simple 4/4 chord progression (C → Am → F → D# → C → …) on an e-piano patch I made;
  • Ableton Live tying it all together.

The end result

Eno’s “Discreet Music” is meant to be listened to very quietly so the synths in my piece are indeed mixed very quietly within the field recording. The resulting mix itself isn’t very loud at -21.5 LUFS. This is deliberate and in line of how loud Eno’s “Ambient 2” and “The Pearl” were. You’re obviously invited to still turn it down if that’s too loud on your system.

Note that the resulting lossless audio file is perfectly seamlessly loopable, providing a musical backdrop that “does not seek to offer any solution nor escape to its staticity”. Hopefully it shouldn’t be too monotonous though. The field recording is pretty rich in detail. There’s rain, there’s a squirrel rustling through the tree (the microphone is several meters above ground level), there’s bird calls, there’s a train siren, a dog barking.

ezgif-5-1ce37f5be6

And here’s Norns calmly generating the main sequence. Hope you like it!

18 Likes

Hey All, Well I know for a fact this song would not exist without the prompt -so thanks Marc.
I started just playing a melody and came up with some changes. I then looped and recorded other parts live to it. I then added some vocals to humanize the furniture.
Furniture has become so dehumanized in the modern world. People used to make that stuff New Yankee wood shop style by hand. Hell the whole house was made by hand.
I am thankful to be able to sit down and stream shows because back then I don’t think they did a lot of sitting and usually died in their 30’s, probably working on a second chair for the wife and 12 kids.
Hope all are well.

Peace, Hugh

5 Likes

Erik Satie owned between seven and twelve velvet corduroy suits hanging in his wardrobe, each the size of a large bathrobe. With all apologies to Mel Tormé, Satie was the original “velvet fog.”

Satie was the personification of eccentricity. He reportedly ate only white foods, slept in a circular bed with one eye open, collected hundreds of umbrellas, and walked the streets carrying a hammer for protection. One cannot confirm whether these were genuine behavioral quirks, or simply the manifestation of a brilliant mind with a wicked sense of humor.

For this piece, Suss Müsik took inspiration from two Satie compositions: the minimal piano repetition of his most recognizable works (cue Trois Gymnopédies and its sibling Gnossiennes) and Musique d’Ameublement as performed by string quartet. The piece is an ode to two rocking chairs on the front porch of Suss Müsik headquarters, accompanied by heavily treated percussion sampled by hitting the metal chairs with a stick.

The full title is Musique Pour Deux Chaises Berçantes Accompagnée De La Colère Des Écureuils Déplacés. Feel free to have that phrase translated via your online tool of choice.

9 Likes

4 Likes

Here is my very unpretentious contribution to this NeoSatien project.

Four snippets a la maniere de Eric Satie.
Musique d’ameublement. But for the outdoors.
Instruments: Yamaha TG77, Torso T1

1 Bird Cage
You can hear a bird in midst of the wood and the ornamental steelhouse of the cage.

2 Mouse Trap
Patience needed. Mice are intelligent. They tap danger!

3 Cold shower
It always drops. Sometimes faster.

4 Tea Trolley
Appears with liquor when the mood turns romantic. Or so.

6 Likes


horsthel mood is digging into musique concrète
and sent me the following text by pierre schaeffer

wenn das gehör der einzige richter
über das musikalische phänomen ist,
so liegt es bei ihm und nicht bei
der mathematischen analyse oder bei
der elektroakustischen technologie,
die ihm zusagenden klänge auszu-
wählen, und - wo nötig - zu erfin-
den.

hope we will be able to
create more based on that idea.

photograph courtesy of horsthel mood
who also kindly provided the
typewriter soundbite - thank you!

11 Likes

This track was inspired by this great prompt and two outdoor lounge chairs covered with lichen - I can’t seem to bring myself to get rid of them, they really have developed a beautiful covering that continues to grow - apparently, species of all types are entitled to lounge in the sun. A series of instruments make up this drone piece, some software from Spitfire and guitar pedalled through Hors d’Oeuvre?, Meet Maude and Mercury7.

10 Likes

I listened to some of Eric Saties tracks for musique d’ameublement, like Tapisserie en fer forgé and knew, it has to be very repetitive. I was lazy and took a track I was already working on and cut away everything non-repetitive, plus I changed the instrumentation to something more orchestral and Satie-esq and the key to Am (in which Carrelage Phonique seems to be).

I wanted it to have beauty and regular irregularities. I added some field recordings (from france!) to give a feeling of listening to this musique d’aménagement de jardin outdoors. Like all good wallpaper, the pattern repeats loopable.

6 Likes

Here’s mine:

And as an extra here is one of my earlier songs which I think meets the prompt very closely, but I’m not submitting as my contribution as I wanted to make something new:

My process:

  • I spent an hour or so listening on Spotify to the Erik Satie pieces that seem to have been regarded as music d’ameublement
  • I read the paper by Nicola Bernardini entitled “Erik Satie’s Musique d’Ameublement, some ninety years later” (available freely online) and noted the following particular features of music d’ameublement:
    • “It consists of very short pieces which may be repeated an indefinite number of times”
    • “its harmonic texture and its counterpoint are designed to create a circular endless form whose repetition constitutes always a new starting point while being completely expectable”
    • “No simplistic modal progressions or pedal notes are being used”
    • “The harmony is tonal, the music features cadences, pick–ups, salient points and catchy melodies.”
  • I tried to implement these features by writing a short piece at the piano:
    • I wrote a looping chord progression that creates a circular form. It is generally based on melodic minor harmony, moving between different melodic minor scales to suggest the tonic, subdominant and dominant functions in a minor key.
    • I wrote a short melodic phrase which repeats throughout the piece (using a rhythm based on a 4 against 3 polyrhythm) while the notes alter to follow the looping harmony.
    • I wrote a countermelody which is based on the nursery rhyme ‘Round About The Rosebush’, which I picked to include an outdoor element in keeping with our prompt this week. The countermelody is a four beat phrase whereas the main melody is a 3 beat phrase, so they line up in different and interesting ways throughout the form.
    • I added a simple baseline just playing the root notes.
    • I recorded these parts on my clarinet (having noted that some of the original Satie pieces were written for small instrumental groups including woodwind as well as strings)
    • I assembled the parts in Ableton and added a FabFilter Timeless delay on the melody and countermelody parts.
    • I added the sound of a woodland sound from Freesound.com to add to the overall ambience, and test whether the musical elements really can sit equally with an outdoor natural environment. Here’s a link to the sound I used: Freesound - "Woodland Stream March 2016.wav" by plantmonkey
5 Likes

Love the Schaeffer quote.

2 Likes

Nice! Funnily enough I was informed by the same article and used a pretty similar method!

2 Likes

I had a lovely time getting stuck right into this one.

I took my cues from two usual suspects (of mine): Steve Roden and Rolf Julius. Initially I thought about Julius’ Music For A Garden (1996) which is a permanent outdoor installation at the Mattress Factory in Pittsburgh. The audio is also featured on his third Small Music volume released that same year. I’ve always loved Julius’ aesthetic to installing/deploying audio works in outdoor environments, whereby the materials and the audio compliments the surroundings in such an elegant, unassuming manner.

Then I considered a beautiful work by Steve Roden (his sound art very much inspired by Julius), his 2006 outdoor installation “oionos” - a sound sculpture consisting of coloured perspex enclosures and an audio composition made from recordings of cheap and broken toy instruments.

Lastly, I thought about Eno’s famous quote regarding ambient music, that it be “as ignorable as it is interesting.” Eno was obviously very influenced by Satie and his ideas around furniture music, since the quote itself echoes Satie’s intentions.

It seemed logical that the best location to apply the idea of outdoor furniture music was the small private courtyard at the back of our townhouse in suburban Adelaide.

We have a little lamp (presently without a solar powered bulb) hanging near a tree in the corner and I thought that the lamp enclosure would be perfect to house a small loudspeaker and battery powered playback device. I liked the idea of it hanging there and pitching slightly back and forth, directing little wisps of music in a slow arc across the courtyard.

To compose the music, I jumped into Max [1] and patched together a quick and dirty tone generator with its sequence determined by a Markov Chain algorithm. The algorithm is given a set of probabilities (a transition matrix) to determine the likelihood of one state transitioning to another, it’s also given ‘training data’ in the form of a preliminary sequence to work with before the algorithm continues on its merry way. I took the output from Max and routed it into a Morphagene module and triggered the record function to occasionally sample the input. Input and Morph playback was set to 50/50, so there’s an equal balance of clean and manipulated signal. I liked the effect of the Morph since it has the sample pitched down an octave and brings a lovely granular grit to the sound texture. The Morph output is then routed to a Dual Delay which blends everything nicely together. Parameters were controlled with a very slow LFO (ochd module.)

Here’s the result:

But I still had to get the audio into the desired location of the courtyard. I used an ultra cheap mp3 player (which takes a USB stick for data input) and connected this to a decent loudspeaker. I crammed this into the lamp enclosure and you can see/hear the results in this video.

The in-situ deployment of the composition works nicely with the surroundings I think. Our courtyard is quiet and peaceful in a sense, but we do share our block with our immediate neighbours. At one point you will hear dishes clattering and stray voices, as well as a blend of peripheral suburban sounds (distant traffic, birdlife, etc.)

A shout-out to our beloved cat, Neko Radish. And yes, that is her loudly munching on the pond plant. She does this frequently. Also, apologies for the cobwebs everywhere.

As an addendum: some of you will probably be aware of the significant update/add-on to Max this week into the form of RNBO, which basically allows patches to be externalised in the form of web apps, VST plug-ins and Raspberry Pi.

Once I have an infinite supply of time and headspace (looking to 2023 at this stage), I can see the full potential of an algorithmically generated patch fully realised with the patch being implemented into a Pi and deployed remotely. Bring on the future.

[1] If anyone wants to dig into the Max patch itself, it can be found here on a Max patch GitHub repository: Max_patches/outdoor_furniture_music(2022).maxpat at master · TristanLouthRobins/Max_patches · GitHub

9 Likes

I created this as an experiment a few months ago and thought it would work well as my interpretation of outdoor furniture music. Since it’s short, it is meant to be looped for however long it needs to be. Eventually, it should turn into an unobtrusive piece of outdoor furniture music.

This was initially done in Ableton Live using Treetone and Fors (roulette, superberry) Max for Live devices. Audio was recorded onto a Panasonic micro cassette recorder and played back into Ableton at half speed. The final piece reminded me of the sound of wind chimes mixed in with outdoor ambient noise. I remixed the tracks, added a few more subtle effects, and made sure it was loopable in this version. Here’s a link to the video of the original version if anyone is interested:The Tree Tone Tapes - YouTube

4 Likes

Indeed, we found the same article! Interesting how different results we achieved from this starting point. Yours is quite clearly more classical, with the clarinets being front and center. I love how their intertwined melodies create captivating harmonies. Your result is clearly closer to what Satie himself wrote. Very good work! Listening to it reminded me of Steve Reich (in particular Desert Music) through its strong foreground nature, and minimal structural design. It got me thinking.

I went the other way, inspired by the direction in the program text to a play called Ruffian Tojours, Truand Jamais where the second set of Satie’s Musique D’ameublement was performed at intermissions:

“We urge you to take no notice of [the music] and to behave during the intervals as if it did not exist. This music […] claims to make a contribution to life in the same way as a private conversation, a painting in a gallery, or the chair on which you may or may not be seated.”

I incorporated some of Eno’s and Budd’s findings that allow the piece to sit well within the environment. To reward attention but not require it. Maybe that makes my piece less strictly “outdoor furniture music” and more “outdoor ambient”.

How does “furniture music” relate to “ambient music”?

Treating ambient music as an evolution of Satie’s idea is well accepted. But is it right? On my first encounter with this assignment that was my mindset as well. Sure, Satie’s concept fits the bill, but his execution – while definitely interesting – didn’t achieve its goal. After all, that March 8th 1920 performance of his furniture music didn’t go as planned as “when the ensemble started playing, the public stopped and sat, listening attentively to the music being played – much to the dismay of the creators.”

Ironically, nowadays most of our “furniture music” is just regular popular music in the background, whether it’s a café, a big box store, or background music while we work or commute. It works as furniture music despite being catchy and loud in large part through repetition and low volume. So the lineage looks to me more like:

Debussy → Satie → Cage → Reich → ??? → muzak in a café

Even if Eno’s ambient lineage builds on Satie’s idea, it’s got more to do with medieval chants, zither drones, the New Age movement, and Glass’ minimalism. Its end product for capitalist consumption isn’t muzak, it’s soundtrack, whether cinematic or environmental.

That’s the one thing that didn’t sit well with me in the article we both read: there’s clear disdain for ambient music in it. The author is saying things like:

Muzak and ambient music are two commercial categories that (…) exist to anesthetize the musical speculation functions of the brain of their listeners, possibly benumbing it to convert its owner to a more accommodating consumer and/or voter. There is no provocation, no satirical intention whatsoever.

or

The distance between Satie’s Musique d’Ameublement and present–day muzak is simply incommensurable on musical terms. The same goes for ambient music, (…) the differences in musical conception would suffice to dismiss any connection between the two.

or

Satie has not used all the musical tricks and shortcuts that were used later on by his would–be epigons.

I disagree with all three quotes here, mostly with the dismissive tone that treats ambient music as inferior imitation, and cynically equates it with psychological manipulation for capitalist gain.

1 Like

Taking Satie’s use of short repetitions, I went outdoors, in the London rain, to the bar close by where I live. There is an indoors dressing table with plants growing out of it on the street (pictured) and I recorded 20 second clips tapping and wiping the rain off the surfaces. I then cut these into shorter clips and repeated to make a rhythm, and took a tiny clip and stretched it out long so as the overtones are foregrounded.

4 Likes

disquiet0566
Outside Appliance Melody
• Key: C major BPM: 60 Time Signature: 2/4 Length:
• Plug-ins:
• Instruments: Flute, Clarinet, Horns, Celesta, Bells,
• Added: Various outside and animal sounds
• Listened to some Erik Satie music then printed out some sheet music to see what instruments were used. I used the above instruments that are listed next to Instruments:.
• Aded some animals sounds like a parrot, tiger and some outside recorded sounds.

3 Likes