a train coming underneath the ocean floor; they sing &
a window on absurd scenes
[please watch the video with the 4k option with sound on]
A mix of 17 oscillator based drones recorded from 3 different patches (settings) of my modular synthesizers. I kept the minimal editing with only panning to expand spatial perceptions. The recording and mixing process are part of the sonic experiments of microscopic spaces of partials within modular synthesizers, along with "a brittle ocean sings" (Anqiliu – Oceanog2), are series of synthesizer experiments I designed as part of my PhD dissertation.
In the summer of 2020, I lived alone , far away from my family, in San Diego during the pandemic. The virus brought pain, chaos, and struggles to people all over the world, and in the face of this I started to become frustrated, since I felt that there was so little I could do about this as an artist. Each afternoon, I walked to the rose canyon and came back in the evening. I shut all the lights down, and recorded my improvisation on my synthesizers. Little by little while I was developing this project, and considering my situation, I became concentrated on listening deeply to my synthesizers, and in doing so felt almost able to travel to, and live inside of the microscopic sonic spaces it created.
I start to realize how time essentially as an intangible hand shapes our artistic creations. Each drone in the recording session is at least half-hour long or in some cases, two-hour-long. Those sessions are like astronavigation that only allowing minute finger gestures on knobs on the synthesizers while incorporating deep listening, I not only tangibly feel how sound waves evolve, transform as well as while hitting their limits then suddenly shifting the shapes, but also feel time corporeally. The way to describe the feeling of time becoming tangible is extremely challenging that I have tried several weeks to articulate but seems still unclear. Instead, I decide to introduce another similar experience I encountered in early 2019 when I started practicing film photography and again, buried myself, this time, in the darkroom every weekend to try to make one single print of the black-white film. Time in this printing process is extraordinarily sensitive in that it decides the contrasts and how negatives evolve which touch the beauty core and artistic essence of the photography. In most cases, the contrast is relatively light with a grey tone. In order to generate a darker-tone contrast with a decent balance between black and white, request deft hands on framing negatives under very slim light beams in the complete dark working space and the proficient knowledge regarding the relationship between the luminance of lights as well as time. And time calculations are based on milliseconds which temporal and transient nuances are decisive. This process closely ties to the process and experiences while I was recording drones on my modular synthesizers. Therefore, tiny grains, segments, and even sonic accidents, for me in the recording phase of each drone are tangible corporeality of time that I do not want to cut or process them in the digital working space.
When I improvised, I aimed to avoid sudden shifts of signals but rather focused on how sonic grains gradually unpack and evolve within time. I had to make several takes in some of the recordings because the slow evolution requires meticulous concentration. For example, it took me five takes to finally record a one-hour drone, which totaled to a nearly 4 hour recording session. Most of my difficulties resulted from
you accidentally touching nearby knobs, and causing dramatic changes in timbre, or manipulating the main knob too quickly, and generating sudden changes which did not fit the nature of the work.
Later I began developing this minute approach to machines and synthesizers into an improvising style in a way that serves as a personal healing and an intimate ritual while playing, improvising and recording. As sonic dairies, I took my synth with me to many road trips where I also planned field recording projects. Each day while I wake up in the new nature or new city, I go out and expose myself to the environments. Record some snow sounds, river sounds, ice sounds, and others with an Audio-Technica BP4025 microphone. In the meanwhile, I set up my camera for shooting thousands of photographs for time-lapse videos. Running among gears and multiple tasks, most times, standing alone in the grand yet almost astonishing empty fields, witnessing and feeling time tangibly slowly passes in both camera and microphone, for me, are solitude rituals. While back to the place I temporarily stay, I start improvising, mostly in the evening on my modular synthesizers, and I record. This audiovisual piece A Window on Absurd Scenes is made with those recordings mentioned above, plus some studio recordings of my acoustic chamber pieces. More details of those pieces could be found at Etudes Page.