Manifestoon Platoon's Dangle Statement: practice, process and remote collaboration

hello lines,

Arseni and I (collectively known as Manifestoon Platoon) are happy to share with you our most recent album entitled Dangle Statement. We’d like to offer a few thoughts on how and why this was created, and hopefully share some ideas and generate some discussion about liveness, jamming, and electronic music collaboration done wholly at a distance.

We met online in mid 2020 while co-producing the livestreamed experimental modular synth show Off The Grid for theNew York Modular Society. We found out we had similar tastes in music, but also in art and photography too.

After a couple initial songs, we realized that a couple things we were doing worked well, and some didn’t. For both of us, most of our previous solo albums and collaborations tended to be of dense and full-on music, and we didn’t want this album to become a soupy drone or an ambient washy mess (simply for aesthetic reasons). On the other hand, we didn’t want to rely on editing and cutting out material or any DAW-based trickery to create space, either. Unable to be in the same room to collaborate, we tried to distill a sense of improvisation in each stage of the music, from performing parts to recording to editing and even mixing. This meant making quick decisions, and committing to them, even if they might be perceivable as “wrong.”

As we continued to record, we distilled down the working practices that we most enjoyed to derive a manifesto for the project. It wasn’t a grand statement about art in general, or really intended to be a template for other musicians, but helped us focus on a small list of “do’s”, a small list of “don’ts”, and situated the nature of our collaboration in Karen Barad’s theory of intra-action. Some of the don’ts might seem harsh: no software presets, no samples of other peoples’ music (orsound effects or spoken word or movies or whatever), no typical musical formal features like melodic counterpoint or pads. But we found it liberating: if we had an idea, why not make it from scratch ourselves?

In general, we embrace constraints as being necessary precursors to creativity. And one of the constraints was trying to take on board how the intra-action concept, which is a “radical” rethinking of subjects and objects and how they become co-present with each other, would impact our choices about musical form. The consequence: no grid, no more figure/ground, no more rounded binary or arch forms, no more dependence upon the “conventional” roles of instruments or the need for electronic instruments to assume the roles of acoustic ones.

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We never really discussed it or decided on anything, but towards the end of the album, we realized that we were getting more inspiration from those photographs we were sharing with each other of decaying urbanism and non-pristine nature, than we were from any existing music. So we embraced that, just since it seemed to be working out pretty well. Moreover, art tends to communicate best when it references something external to itself, so why couldn’t the music reflect, even if in some small way, the experience we had trudging through muck and cowpatties and slushy snow trying to photograph decay?

Unlike some existing artist’s manifestos (Matthew Herbert’s, or Russolo’s futurist manifesto, or Grant Richter and Dean Ireland’s MEME manifesto from 1989, or Legacy Russel’s Glitch Feminism Manifesto) we intend this to change per project. Our next album will work with a set of purpose-made location recordings as the primary material, which will necessitate different sets of restrictions. We do want to keep the improvisatory feel alive throughout the performance/production processes, though, as we did with the previous albums. What could improvisation feel like when consciously working with pre-recorded material?

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We have developed two distinct paradigms for remote collaboration:

a. For ‘studio’ work we both use the Reaper DAW with the same minimal pre-selected set of plugins. The number of plugins matters: we specifically did not want to lose focus deciding between many EQ plugins, between this or that or the other reverb plugin. We exchange Reaper sessions and audio files via dropbox, using the notes feature to keep track of any issues or unrealized ideas. Anyone can edit anyone’s audio, but all editing, regardless of who does it, should feel like a performance, not like a technical problem-solving session. We kept asking each other, how can the editing or mixing aspects feel like they’re gestures, with a shape, rather than “corrective” versus “creative” effects being applied to something? This dovetails nicely with some of the issues raised in the thread on the hegemony of the DAW thread earlier this year.

b. For live “performances” we use the free software Sonobus that allows us to perform with minimal latency; between Brooklyn, NY and Moscow, Russia we can typically work with about 250ms latency. Obviously this makes it impossible to perform tightly coordinated rhythmic stuff with a specific swing in real-time, let alone hocketed melodies/rhythms, but we do hear our parts synchronized, even if with a bit of delay, in Sonobus. We tried to make up for the lack of tight rhythmic synchronization with more attention on ‘gestures’: when we perform, we try to focus on the shape and duration of gestures that contribute both form and material to the song. In addition to Sonobus, we use a combination of Zoom and OBS to provide video feeds from both performers. Each of us records multichannel audio of the performance locally as well as their respective video feed so they can be all synced together at a later point, mixed, mastered and delivered to youtube.

Here’s an example of how that works out in practice:

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In these posts we deliberately tried to steer the discussion away from the music / synth gear we used and focus instead on the nature of the creative / collaborative process. While the sounds we made of course are impacted by the specific tools we used, the collaborative process could have been realized with most anything, really. We consider lines the kind of online community that, compared to others, is less focused on gear and more on art, music, musicians and their practices, and we are grateful for the chance to talk about what for us continues to be an open-ended, exploratory process!

We’d love to hear if other lines users have tried out similar working practices, and how they worked out for you.

Here are a few download codes for Dangle Statement:

2xk4-5ba6
aqyj-bcuy
88u6-wxef
j7m8-v8qd
7lry-gr6c
xsm3-ul9x
4jrm-jmyq
4blf-kg2z
qdsv-g7x6
g4q7-uvmy

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Hi, thanks for sharing the codes and your experiences. I’m into the first few tracks and loving it. I took the code above.
I’m particularly interested in the idea of limitations but along with the flexibility to reject them or change them. I’ve lately decided on “no screens, no reverb” as a guiding motto going forward but I’m ready to re-examine it if it becomes counter productive. I think it’s pretty common now for artists to get overwhelmed with the wealth of options and limiting your self is one good way to get around that.

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Thanks! I grabbed this one! Feeling the Christmas spirit!

Gonne give it a proper listen, but already I am getting very interested in these both dry and crunchy, but at the same time sort of splattery noise sounds!
Also the booket is beautiful!

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Thank you. Loved the manifesto.

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I used this code, looking forward to exploring all of this, you’re dealing with some fascinating questions!

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I’m particularly interested in the idea of limitations but along with the flexibility to reject them or change them. I’ve lately decided on “no screens, no reverb” as a guiding motto going forward but I’m ready to re-examine it if it becomes counter productive.

Thanks for sharing your “no screens, no reverb” limitation—how has that been working for you? Has it led you to any musical discoveries/ideas/sounds that you’re fond of?

Gonne give it a proper listen, but already I am getting very interested in these both dry and crunchy, but at the same time sort of splattery noise sounds!
Also the booket is beautiful!

Many thanks! Love the adjectives you chose to describe the sounds. Arseni might chime in differently, but in my memory of the “making” process, some of the sounds we stumbled upon were compelling to us and brought us joy in listening to them more than once. We cut the rest…

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Thanks for asking! Both of them come from a better understanding of how I work and what I’m interested in. I’ve never been comfortable with using a computer to record or mix or edit. And I don’t think in terms of tracks and mixing. I just want to play and record. So I bought a Zoom H5 (yes, it has a screen. But I have it angled away from my instrument set up and don’t look at it once I’ve hit record.) I’ve also never been that comfortable with any instrument with an encoder or presets. I’ve come very close to buying a Norns shield but I know that it would be a distraction and I’d end up selling it shortly.
The “no reverb” comes from my almost ruining an entire bunch of otherwise great recordings by adding huge amounts of reverb. I was too lost in an ideal sound to actually hear what great ambient natural space the recordings had. For the time being, I’ve decided that reverb is too easy an out for me.

But back to your album: I had a full listen last night and look at the booklet. I really enjoy the sounds themselves and very much like the space that you’re giving them. There’s a lot of listening and respect for something performed by 2 people. For something so “noisy” it doesn’t wear me out at all. (“Noisy” is always a compliment from me. :grinning:)
The booklet is great too. The images are beautiful and I love reading artists’ thoughts about what they are doing and why.
I think this is a recording I’m going to be coming back to often. Thanks for sharing it!

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Thanks! Great description, aligns very well my own perception of a lot of our noises!

Exactly, it’s kind of a part of this “gestural editing” approach — sometimes we would edit just to make sure that a certain sound we like isn’t obstructed by something else happening in the very same moment…

I couldn’t agree more with this. We record everything without any reverb, it’s happening in post where we’re able to control it / precisely dial in the parameters we want. We treat it more like an instrument that requires its own approach than like a set-and-forget “mandatory” element.

Many thanks! It’s excellent that our album finds its audience here. Space is just as important to us as the sounds themselves, I’m happy that translates well.

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Thanks! Used: 4jrm-jmyq