Nothing Valued is Here - musings on the post-atomic present

This is not a new release, but rather the only collection of my music I’ve ever put together in a coherent fashion for public availability. I was prompted to post it by this thread, which got me thinking about why I’ve never felt confident posting my music, which I’m actually quite proud of, on Lines.

Partly, I think, it’s because people here are so talented, experienced, and hard-working that I’m afraid my strange ambient soundscapes won’t contribute much to anyone’s understanding of anything, but I don’t think that’s a hugely productive attitude. I’d love to hear what others think of my efforts here.

In any case: This is Nothing Valued is Here, music I was inspired to create after I’d been playing around aimlessly with my first Eurorack system for a few months. I was working on a blog article, which never got published, on the long term challenges of short-term or “stopgap” nuclear power, and I came across the WIPP warning project for a second time. It’s really a strange artifact of our culture; as John Green says, we are a culture both powerful and powerless; powerful enough to, say, change the climate of our planet or create poisons that will remain deadly for ten thousand years, but utterly powerless to choose whether to do so, or how. This music is part of my attempt to reckon with that.

The album is available on Bandcamp.

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I love the haunting atmosphere of this piece. Your words usually come across as very positive and genuine on this forum, so I’m curious to know why the soundscapes are somewhat barren and eerie. I enjoy it, it’s difficult to capture such atmosphere and still make it worth listening to, but I think you nailed it.

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I’m listening now and enjoying it. I will say that at only a few months with your modular system, this is impressive! The compositions are full and nuanced with an array of textures. I have yet to compose something from my modular system this complex and I began my journey in September of last year. One thing I’d be curious to understand about the recordings is if you did multiple takes to track everything or if these are live recordings.

Also, thank you for the sentiment you shared at the outset of your post. I definitely refrain from sharing my work outside of the Disquiet prompts for the same reasons you mentioned: feeling surrounded by others with considerable talent and questioning what, if anything, my work would contribute in terms of furthering anyone’s understanding or approach to composition.

I think you arrived at the place I see myself approaching, which is that I will share it because I want to share something I made, in spite of how I may feel about it, and I get the sense this is part of the road to sharing music on a regular basis.

Thanks for sharing your works and thoughts today! Both are appreciated!

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i don’t think music needs to contribute to ‘understanding’ of any kind… beyond just that of the heart, if i feel your music in my heart, i understand enough to evolve with it.

and here as i feel your music with my heart, it has a very real ‘eerie warning’ feel, coupled with a pensively watchful form of compassion or care, and a track like ‘Alpha Rain’ also rounds it out with a feeling of curious hope for the future(that’s the best way i’d describe what i feel from listening to it). if this is anything remote to what you feel, or even intended, then i’d say it’s a pretty successful contribution(and even if not, you still contributed to me evolving into understanding myself better, by helping me know more about what/how i feel).

i love this music, thanks so much for sharing!
(and for helping me get to know myself better)
please keep sharing your work and your thoughts :pray: :beers:

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Thank you all for your kind words. As I mentioned in the OP I wasn’t expecting people to think much of this stuff, so it’s incredibly heartening that you all enjoyed it so much!

I’m glad I do come across that way! Music is one of those things - like my other creative loves, gamerunning tabletop RPGs and short fiction - where it’s essential, at least in my opinion, to discard one’s persona, or even one’s personality, and let the fictional, or musical, world emerge from some deeper place. In this case, that’s the anxiety I felt, and still do feel, about how the world will look to future generations.

It was all done in one take! For the most part, these were all done on this system, with uPlaits (now replaced with a full-sized original) and Thresholds as the main sound sources. Tides and Monsoon (specifically that clone of Clouds, with its gorgeous fader-based interface) were my motivation for getting into Eurorack, and they’re the center of all three pieces, in one way or another.

I did do a bit of cleanup and editing in Audacity, which I suppose is technically a DAW, but I’m quite committed to keeping all the software I use for music open source (unless it’s embedded in hardware, but even then, I prefer Mutable modules partly for this reason).

It’s a hard feeling to combat, but I hope that if this thread teaches anything, it’s that this feeling is probably your brain lying to you! I, for one, would love to hear some of your compositions. As @RABID mentions:

I think this is a very healthy way to look at things. We all have something to say, and here on Lines, we share not only the written language we use, but also the language of music. We should use it!

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Really enjoying this! After reading your description and listening through a couple of times, it feels like the soundtrack to Daniel Ellsberg’s The Doomsday Machine, about the US nuclear war apparatus. It gives me that same sense of foreboding and awe I got while reading that.

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Wow. That is awesome that these were one-takes!

Yes, agreed. I definitely overthink things and get caught up in my head–not just about music, but about plenty of other things, and definitely something to work at. Thanks for the encouragement.

I don’t have a collection of songs ready to go, but my SoundCloud link is in my profile if you feel like perusing some of the tracks I’ve posted there–most of which are submissions to the Junto. I’m particularly proud of “Houston Haze” if you visit. :slight_smile:

Looking forward to more posts from you sharing your work.

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This is cool! I wrote my thesis on the WIPP project.

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sounds great! definitely movie score territory right here in the best sense. can imagine it underscoring a show like hbo’s chernobyl or some other atomic-fallout wasteland based drama.

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That’s exactly the vibe I was feeling here too. The tracks all contribute to this uneasy tension throughout. I like them alot. Thank you for sharing @NoraCodes

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Ooo, so cool! I’d love to read that, if it’s been published and/or you happen to have a link :slight_smile:

Gave it a listen. It didn’t engage me emotionally or physically, but it seems well executed and consistent with its own aesthetic and goals. Good art gallery music, I suppose. I’d be tempted to sample Alpha Rain and put a beat under it if I didn’t know how to make those kinds of sounds myself.

From the description, I was expecting pointy resonances and growls of distortion. I wasn’t expecting it to groove. I could imagine this being the soundtrack to a modern dance piece.

There’s a sort of fatalism to these tracks, and not in the sense of being predictable. I think what I’m trying to say is that the composition complements the sound design in a way that sometimes seems to be an afterthought in modular music. @alanza’s recent sets in the community live stream come to mind, not that your styles are particularly similar but that I get the same sort of sense of coherent larger-scale flow, rather than just a smorgasbord of Cool Sounds. I guess “Desert of Thorns” is probably the strongest case of this, less so “Aviary” – not that the former is better, just that it feels like a journey unto itself where the latter is more of a single vista.

By the time I checked it out, I forgot that you said it was done in one take! I would love to hear anything you’re willing to share about the composition/improvisation/whatever-you-want-to-call-organizing-sounds-in-time.

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Thank you for this thoughtful response! “fatalist” is definitely one way of thinking about the subject matter, and in a sense also about my process.

I’m really glad this came across. I took @andrewhuang’s advice from this great video to separate sound design and composition. As I use a DAWless setup, that’s more about building and remembering patches, or segments of patches, and then combining them together to re-create the sounds I made before, in a new context.

I’ve tried a lot of computerized methods of recording patches, from generic drawing programs like LibreOffice Draw, to Patchbook/graphviz based solutions and org mode for Emacs - or, in my case, for Vim. Nothing really stuck, and it was a huge pain to wrangle all the files, so I eventually fell back to my beloved Leuchtterm1917 dot-grid notebooks and polychromatic PaperMate InkJoy 0.5mm gel pens. I label each patch with the feeling it gives me, the impression I take away from playing it, and some more mechanical aspects - “pluckiness”/percussiveness, smoothness and harshness, how much attention it requires to keep it in line, and a few of the most important modules. These parameters go into the frontmatter of the journal, in the index that the Bullet Journal-designated Leuchtterm notebooks provide, like this:

  • 2020 dec 7 big tree - pad harsh auto plaits tides
  • 2020 nov 25 falling rain - percussive soft/harsh one knob, edges tides veils

(“falling rain”, by the way, is what eventually became the core of Alpha Rain. The “one knob” is Tides’ shift/offset.)

As to composition, I must say, I think that’s my greatest weakness. All of these tracks came from a general idea of the emotional space I wanted to create, a few of these premade patches interacting with each other, and a huge amount of time and disk space - trying permutations of parameters over and over and over again until I got that perfect single take. That’s one reason I grabbed the Polyend Tracker as soon as I could. I’m using it to practice composition with samples without worrying (as much) about sound design.

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Just purchased.

Nice job! I enjoyed the sound design in all of them. You’ve done a really good job, I think, coming up with some really nice tonalities that fit the mood I think you’re trying to get across.

My absolute favorite is The Blue Forest. It sounds both “blue” and “foresty”, and downright desolate. Love the bits of long-tail reverb on many of the parts in the middle. Well done.

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I’m really glad you enjoyed the album! Making " The Blue Forest" was really fun, finding lots of timbres that evoked nature and then just slightly twisting them to be unsettling.

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Listened to it and like it. Especially the last piece. Keep up the good work.

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Thank you, I’m so glad you enjoyed it!

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