This month’s Electronic Sound magazine contains my feature titled ‘Parallel Worlds’ examining worlds beyond electronic sound, into pre-electronic and post-electronic music. It coincides with the release of the Oscillatorial Binnage album ‘Agitations: Post-Electronic Sounds‘ (Sub Rosa) where classical electronic sound techniques are explored acoustically. A blogpost on the main Miraculous Agitations blog offers some additional perspectives, focussing on a Victorian proto-electronic toneshaping device called ‘Le Vibrateur‘, patented by the mysterious Eugene Ernest Bornand in 1879, and viewed here through the gauze of modern electronic soundmaking.
Also this month, one of my earlier blog posts about arbitrary microtonal scales from hollow rocks is republished by The Silo.
Oscillatorial Binnage’s ‘Agitations: Post-Electronic Sounds‘ is finally released via Sub Rosa. The album has been in-the-works for some years, and is now available as download or on CD (which is accompanied by an illustrated booklet).
The recordings are entirely post-electronic, arbitrarily microtonal music created using mechanical assemblies of found objects, resonated with electromagnetic force fields. Distribution has been slowed by the pandemic, but it’s available on Bandcamp (and also directly from me – see below). Mirroring the current situation, the album envisions an apocalyptic paradigm shift scenario, necessitating adaptation in the face of adverse conditions (in this case, an imagined post-electronic situation: how might musicians create exploratory electronic music, with its emphasis on waveshaping, filters and modulation processes, without any synthesisers? This album provides the answer).
Oscillatorial Binnage is Fari Bradley, Chris Weaver, Toby Clarkson, and myself. We’ve been performing together for fifteen years, during which time we’ve introduced many unusual new electroacoustic instruments, along with the concept of acoustic hacking. ‘Agitations‘ features the electromagnetic resonators that I’ve been developing since 2004. We’ve given many workshops around the world, teaching participants how to access the hidden frequencies of scrap objects using coils and force fields, and how, by acoustically combining workshoppers’ apparatuses all together, even more complex sounds can be produced: communal apparatuses are fertile instruments for ‘miraculous agitations’.
Miraculous agitations are instances of complex sonic progressions, usually emerging from clustered vibrating objects (see previous blogposts for more explanations). Obtaining these emergent states requires patience, but the probability of such states occurring increases with the size of the apparatus. In 2013, Oscillatorial Binnage spent a week at Maggie Thomas and Bob Drake‘s Borde Basse studio in the south of France, loaded up with as many salvaged/adapted objects as we could haul. Over the course of our stay, we gradually coaxed elusive ‘miraculous’ states to emerge from our vibrating apparatuses, not without some grind (Bob, engineering the proceedings, notably had a box of headache tablets on standby).
In France, where the bulk of material was recorded, Bob and Maggie’s array of microphones captured many moments when our apparatuses would become locked into resonating grooves. The album collects all these instances, recorded entirely acoustically without any electronic processing. These moments – technically known as ’emergence’ – are one of the principal advantages post-electronic apparatuses have over electronic synthesiser-based equivalents: the possibility of unexpected sonic events arising from an infinity of real-world physical variables. Another benefit is the economical, recycling aspect: all soundmaking and filtering modules can be found for free.
The CD edition is available either through Bandcamp, or alternatively, can be obtained from me here (see contact page) for £11 with free P&P for the UK. The limited edition [now sold out] includes a foreword by Nicolas Collins (author of ‘Handmade Electronic Music: The Art of Hardware Hacking‘).