Molding the Pop Ghost: noise and immersion
Noise in and as Music
My work Pop Wall Alphabet, which can in many ways be described as "noisy," consists of 26 pieces, each lasting between six and fourteen minutes, with a total duration of approximately four and a half hours. When performed live in its entirety it takes on certain characteristics of a live installation in that it is neither necessary to follow the work from beginning to end nor to follow it for a specific continuous duration. Each of the 26 pieces has been composed according to the same
... in each case using appropriated source materials taken from pop albums produced between 1970 and 2011. Amongst many other criteria, the albums have been chosen for the first letter of the artists' names, each artist representing one letter and together forming the complete alphabet: Abba for A, Beastie Boys for B, Chemical Brothers for C, Devo for D, etc. I use superimpositions of pop songs in order to generate dense textures. For quite some time I have had a fascination with the changes in perception that occur when familiar materials are condensed and concentrated, and in observing how well known material gradually becomes alienated and eventually unrecognizable as it is superimposed in an increasing number of layers. Various listening modes are evoked when listening to Pop Wall Alphabet. In order to explain how this takes place I find it necessary first to outline briefly the principle of the form of the pieces. I use two kinds of material to construct each piece: first, the entirety of songs found on a single pop album, and second, a so-called spectral freeze of each of these songs. The spectral freeze is realized with a Giant FFT analysis. The phase information gathered during this analysis is randomized and then used to resynthesize 10.5920/noise.11 noise in and as music 192 the song over time. In the resulting sound, all the frequencies and amplitude changes are present as they occurred in the original material; however, due to the phase randomization the audio sounds subjectively like bandpass-filtered noise. It could also be described as a reverb tail that does not decay. Each piece starts with a superimposition of all songs found on the album plus their spectral freezes. The spectral freezes immediately start to fade out, with the duration of the fade identical to the duration of the shortest song on the album. Hence, at the end of the shortest song all of the spectral freezes disappear; the other songs continue playing. One by one the songs drop out, according to their original duration, until only the longest song remains. At this point the spectral freeze of this same song fades in, the unmodified song fades out, and the spectral freeze is allowed to ring on after the song has finished. This point marks the start of the second part of the piece. The spectral freezes of all the songs return, starting one after the other in reverse order to which the original songs dropped out in the first part. As each new spectral freeze fades in the previous one fades out, resulting in a continuously changing texture of noise bands, with the time intervals between the onsets of the individual spectral freezes the same as the time intervals between the Graphic display of how the 26 pieces of the Pop Wall Alphabet were composed. (Five songs are used in this example; most of the time around 12 songs were used per piece.) Gray blocks indicate songs, black triangles indicate fading spectral freezes. The moment when the shortest song ends is also the point at which the spectral freezes finish their fade-out. The spectral freezes of the songs return in the reverse order to which they dropped out. Durations of the fade-ins/out are the same as the time intervals between the points when the songs dropped out.