Sliced Bricks series (in progress)

Processed audio, multiple media

The idea of a “brick” in the name of this project is a misappropriation of a concept coined by radical computer music composer Goodiepal. In his works/lectures, he uses the term “brick” as a way to refer to well-known musical recordings that have become closed or dead in the sense that we don’t need to hear them anymore, because we all have listened to them many times and we all know enough about them. Or that’s what I, in short, got from it. One such “brick”, for instance, could be Michael Jackson’s Thriller and the music in it.

But I like the idea of manipulating the sound of such “bricks” while mantaining a reference to these mythical, frozen sounds, these closed and dead musical ideas. Actually, it makes it more interesting to me, breaking known things and letting new ideas arise while preserving the link between this established original and the more adventurous form I generate from them.

The very extended listening experience is also a way to let people “hear” the processes I’m employing to manipulate sounds, more or less as Steve Reich sets out in his Music as a Gradual Process manifesto.

More important than that, I think these processes, when done with music we know, pit the symbolic value of these pieces against an écoute réduite mode of listening to their own sound material. This is very different from what Schaeffer meant when proposing his own ideas about listening, but I’m seeking to create tension between the signified “brick” and the altered, processed sound material.

I see the extended time and repetition not only as a strategy for making processes audible: it works as a way to reduce the flow of information across the time domain, thus raising the listener’s ability to grasp more of the texture of the sound material (albeit a shattered sound material if compared to the original one). Anyway, I don’t want the listener to lose sight of the link to that “brick” while listening.

I also see this reduction through repetition as a way to present sound material to the distracted listener of our times, a strategy against (or adapted to?) the information overload/attention scarcity in our daily lives with ubiquitous 24/7 music.

Last but not least, and it might sound obvious to some, I see these experiments more as a way to investigate different listening modes than as a compositional effort.

I’ve added a few process examples below:

Billie Jean – Michael Jackson (process A) 
| 44 MB mp3 | Live+M4L patch

It’s the simplest process here: the slices are synchronized to the original beat, and the first two beats of each bar are repeated 8 times.

Billie Jean – Michael Jackson (process B) 
46 MB mp3 | Live+M4L patch

A 32-beat pattern, where the second beat of each original first beat is repeated on 28 eighth-notes, and the offbeat of that original beat is played on the 20th, 26th, 28th and 29th eighth-notes.

King in My Empire – Rhythm & Sound 
142 MB mp3 | Live+M4L patch

Every cell is repeated 4 times, and original cells are not synchronized to the original beat. The section sampled for the repetitions dislocates 16 milliseconds towards the end of the song for each group of repetitions.

Boto – Tom Jobim 
|293 MB mp3 | Max/MSP patch

Process similar to the above one, but without repetitions. The section sampled from the original track moves 8 milliseconds forward for each beat.

Aquarela do Brasil – Tom Jobim 
| 309 MB mp3 | Max/MSP patch

Same process as above, but there’s also an added bass drum every 32 beats.

Pump Up The Jam – Technotronic
 | 274 MB mp3 

Every cell is repeated 3 times, and original cells are not synchronized to the original beat. There’s a pause between each group of three repeated cells.

Rap da Felicidade – Cidinho & Doca
 | 169 MB mp3

Same as above, but one out of 3 repetitions is accented. This is a classic from the Baile Funk repertoire.

Real-life sliced bricks

This project also has a visual counterpart underway, in which these very “bricks”, their own recorded support, are sliced and reorganized in space. The thinking and the processes are the same, but instead of rearranging “slices” of sound across time, the actual sliced objects will be reordered in spatial settings.

This is the LP cover of a Brazilian classic by Tom Jobim. Here, a Photoshop render, not the actual “processed” object.
An example of a sliced vinyl record. This is a Photoshop render.