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This is not the future of the music industry but it's pretty cool.
June 20, 2010 5:57 PM   Subscribe

Tristan Perich has released a new 'album'. Tristan Perich is a recording artist that doesn't sell recordings. (Previously.)
posted by mhjb (38 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
the synth nerds among us just want to slap a LPF on the end of that and make it actually sound nice, as well as look cool...
posted by mhjb at 5:58 PM on June 20, 2010 [4 favorites]


ohmigodyes
posted by humannaire at 6:00 PM on June 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Housed in a jewel box, great idea. The chip and wiring is a lovely piece of sculpture. The music is something that I might well enjoy when in the mood for something like that. It's rather intense, but yeah, if you can get into the right receptivity mode, it'll work, I reckon. Kudos to Tristan Perich, and thanks for the post, mhjb.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:02 PM on June 20, 2010


This is absolutely amazing!
posted by MaryDellamorte at 6:13 PM on June 20, 2010


I don't mean to be a buzzkill, or to downplay the technical skill required to do create something like this, but I take issue with the implication that it's somehow innovative. Older video game consoles used exactly this kind of technique for all their music, and people have been using chiptunes as an artistic medium for decades. Is there anything new here besides the fancy packaging? Am I missing something?
posted by teraflop at 6:32 PM on June 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


The device treats electricity as a sonic medium

You don't say.
posted by kenko at 6:37 PM on June 20, 2010


Is there anything new here besides the fancy packaging?

Well, "new" is a very relative term, isn't it? It's certainly "new" compared to Bach sonatas, or Appalachian banjo tunes, or gagaku. It's not as "new" when you consider much more recent developments in music-making technology. But an absolute "wow, this is really brand new, there's never been anything remotely like this before!" is something that doesn't really happen too often, and I doubt that neither Tristan Perich nor the people who appreciate what he's done here would classify it as such.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:41 PM on June 20, 2010


What are the various components?

Battery - Switch - IC - Something - Something (Amp?) - Headphone jack.

I find it amazing that you can just wire things together like that, without any resistors or capacitors or anything. Please explain to an electronics dumbass?
posted by Jimbob at 6:42 PM on June 20, 2010


You know, if the circuit is already programmed by Perich, then you aren't really witnessing the "performance" of the music when you turn it on any more than you are when you turn on a CD player with conventional CD in it. It's just a different, and self-contained, encoding.
posted by kenko at 6:54 PM on June 20, 2010 [4 favorites]


...you aren't really witnessing the "performance" of the music when you turn it on any more than you are when you turn on a CD player with conventional CD in it. It's just a different, and self-contained, encoding.

I think he means that the machine itself is performing, the machine which you hold in your hand, and the fact that its self-contained is what makes it different from a CD, which is encoded data that needs a reader to play back. Perich's creation is the device itself - "performing". I think that's a key enough distinction to make it, well, classifiable as something worth pointing to as *unique*.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:01 PM on June 20, 2010


mhjb: "the synth nerds among us just want to slap a LPF on the end of that and make it actually sound nice, as well as look cool..."

Not all of us.

The romance of "you are there while the music is being generated" is a bit on the schmaltzy side for my tastes, and the tonality has been done. I too thought the tone of the synth contrasted poorly with the melody and harmony of the music it played, but I would have preferred something structurally experimental, keeping the tone.

I like the fact that he is playing with the packaging. Two of my favorite variations on such being a gerogerigegege release that consisted of a squid inside a cassette case, and a Haters release that was a cotton ball glued to a piece of cardboard, with instructions to hold the cardboard against one's ear and rub.
posted by idiopath at 7:02 PM on June 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


heh, well, I know Tristan sells recordings because I just bought two from him a few days ago. I've known him for years - he's a kickass drummer and he's also a really fine programmer, I worked with him on some design studies.

I own one of the original of these.

If you like this, you should get to see a "Loud Objects" show, where Tristan and friends literally throw a bunch of components onto an overhead projector and solder them into the PA. Pretty primal stuff!

I find it amazing that you can just wire things together like that, without any resistors or capacitors or anything. Please explain to an electronics dumbass?

Very high-level explanation... most circuits start off with a specific result that they are trying to hit so they use standard components and then glue in other small stuff to get the desired result exactly.

Tristan is simply trying to generate "a thing that makes noise" so he doesn't have to tweak.


You know, if the circuit is already programmed by Perich, then you aren't really witnessing the "performance" of the music when you turn it on any more than you are when you turn on a CD player with conventional CD in it. It's just a different, and self-contained, encoding.

I'm not sure you're right. What you have in your hands is the result of Tristan's wiring stuff together - if he screwed the wiring up, you'll get a bad result or no result at all, and it's pretty likely that different, working instances of the product would have fairly different sounds.

Hmm, I'm on the fence. If you build a robot and it later played the violin...?
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 7:06 PM on June 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


on preview: what flapjack said.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 7:07 PM on June 20, 2010


jax

:)
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:09 PM on June 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


I might also hold in my hands a CD player, which is also something he could, perhaps, have assembled. (I assume he didn't actually fabricate the components of his device, though if he did I don't really think it would be relevant.)

One way to think of this is: he has put together a device which, when turned on, sends a given sequence of electrical signals to a headphone jack. The device is physically quite elegant and has a small number of parts, admittedly. But … so what? An ipod modified to have, not a hard drive, but a fixed-in-advance, read-only data store would do the same.

I can't help but think of this as something which counts as noteworthy because it took an educated, culturally well-off person a lot of time and effort to make something that does one thing, which is also something that can be done by commodities that also do a lot of other things. (The labor theory of artistic value.) It would be as if I spent a great deal of time creating a copy of the first page of a book in pencil, even though there also exist photocopiers.
posted by kenko at 7:09 PM on June 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


it's pretty likely that different, working instances of the product would have fairly different sounds.

Not if they all work the same way and are wired up the same way, no? Unless "working" means "wired well enough that you get something".

This would also be true if he made the CD by hand. (Presumably not really possible. If he magnetized sections of a tape by hand.)
posted by kenko at 7:11 PM on June 20, 2010


But … so what?

Sigh... OK. Yeah, so what. Worthless endeavor. I'm sure you create much more relevant, interesting and cutting-edge things, kenko. Hopefully you'll share some of them with us sometime!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:12 PM on June 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Perich's creation is the device itself - "performing". I think that's a key enough distinction to make it, well, classifiable as something worth pointing to as *unique*.

You are right that this is a distinction, but (not at all to take away from this great piece) humans have been making "musical boxes," art devices that perform music, for over a thousand years, and that doesn't even include things like wind chimes that date back another thousand years at least...
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 7:16 PM on June 20, 2010


I find it amazing that you can just wire things together like that, without any resistors or capacitors or anything. Please explain to an electronics dumbass?

Modern microcontrollers are just self-contained computers on a chip. This is probably an attiny13 or similar, which is an 8-bit processor with a built-in oscillator and a couple of K of flash to store the program. They're designed to need as few external components as possible.

The great thing about lo-fi is you don't need decoupling caps, etc. He kept it simple, and it looks beautiful.
posted by phooky at 7:17 PM on June 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Good point, lupus_yonderboy, certainly couldn't argue with that. In that sense, Perich is merely carrying on a looong musical tradition. And of course, there ain't a damn thing wrong with that.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:17 PM on June 20, 2010


It would be as if I spent a great deal of time creating a copy of the first page of a book in pencil, even though there also exist photocopiers.

No, no no!

It'd be one thing if he wrote a piece of music and then created a machine to play it. But he's doing the reverse - trying to find the simplest machine he can make that will make music.

So you're getting something that's actually intrinsically the piece itself - i.e. it is "written for this instrument".

A CD recording of this would be a distinctly different animal. For one thing, it'd take me very little work to resolder what he has and produce a "derivative work" or a warped "remix" - try that with a CD!
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 7:19 PM on June 20, 2010


Jim-bob the components are:

Battery-switch-microprocessor-switch-stereo potentiometer-jack.

The microprocessor would contain the music data in memory, along with some program to read the data out. I'd speculate the second switch is for skipping tracks? The stereo potentiometer is for volume control.

Kenko part of the newness of this release is that he's producing 1-bit music, i.e., there's no DAC. It's as if your CD player just played the 11001110101's straight off the disc and into your speakers. That's what's so interesting.

The only people I'm aware of that are actively pursuing this medium are the Lunetta revival people over at electro-music.com. Mmm... Lunetta's deserve a post of their own.
posted by mhjb at 7:20 PM on June 20, 2010


I am not a total philistine, flapjax, and I think the thing Perich made is very neat. I like the sounds it makes, judging by the video on the page, and I even like the way it looks.

But that doesn't mean it's all the things that are being said on its behalf, nor is attempting to say why I don't think it's all those things a condemnation of it as worthless. There are, you know, intermediate positions here. Sometimes it seems as if people think (perhaps, unfortunately, correctly) that the only way to get attention for something perfectly fine but actually not groundbreaking or revolutionary is to make much more of it than (one might think) a sober assessment would show it to merit. The would-be sober assessor needn't have his throat jumped down (or, to be more fair to your response, to meet with weary sighs at his obvious unreachability) just because he doesn't think the thing is all that, an assessment perfectly compatible with thinking it's pretty damn neat. Let's don't be caustic beyond necessity. There's nothing wrong with a thing's being good on its own terms, without its going beyond all that came before.

(I admit I'm not sure what the even putative relevance of the device is.)
posted by kenko at 7:23 PM on June 20, 2010


In that sense, Perich is merely carrying on a looong musical tradition. And of course, there ain't a damn thing wrong with that.

No, indeed.

But he's doing the reverse - trying to find the simplest machine he can make that will make music.

You mean like a diddley bow?

So you're getting something that's actually intrinsically the piece itself - i.e. it is "written for this instrument".

Seems as if the processor is the weak point here, but I will concede that the one-bitness of it is pretty interesting.
posted by kenko at 7:26 PM on June 20, 2010


And this had led me to a very entertaining idea of having a "live broadcast" of his device on my radio station! I was tempted to do it now, but I have a performance myself tomorrow night that I'm woefully unprepared for... but soon...
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 7:37 PM on June 20, 2010


I am aware of persons who by canny positioning of microphones and speakers have turned their radio shows into I Am Sitting In A Room-ish showcases of the sonic properties of the stations from which they are broadcast, but I have, unfortunately, never been able to hear or witness one of these things.
posted by kenko at 7:39 PM on June 20, 2010


It's an interesting concept, and the music is actually pretty good for what it is. It reminds me vaguely of the pseudo multitracking programs you'd find in old QBasic files (where they'd simulate different tracks by multiplexing the soundcard really quickly -- it was just layered square waves).
posted by spiderskull at 7:40 PM on June 20, 2010


It's as if your CD player just played the 11001110101's straight off the disc and into your speakers.

Interestingly, many CD players do have 1-bit DACs, they're just operating at frequencies way higher than 44.1kHz and they get smoothed out before being sent to the speakers.
posted by Jpfed at 8:00 PM on June 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Off-topic: ...and a Haters release that was a cotton ball glued to a piece of cardboard, with instructions to hold the cardboard against one's ear and rub.
My favorite is Wind Licked Dirt: "This record is played by rubbing dirt on it. A blank 12" LP (no groove) packaged in a white sleeve with paste on cover. Included in the jacket is dirt. "
posted by monkeymike at 8:12 PM on June 20, 2010


He seems awfully fond of his very modest creation.
posted by NortonDC at 8:14 PM on June 20, 2010


He seems awfully fond of his very modest creation.

haha! Such is the artist's condition, I reckon!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 8:15 PM on June 20, 2010


"...[he wanted to revisit the idea that] when you listen to an album, that you could actually be experiencing, first-hand, the production of the music itself."

Not entirely unlike jazz, or jam bands. But with a much more limited processor.
posted by clockzero at 8:17 PM on June 20, 2010


Oh. Dozens of floats used as spacers. Interesting. That had me puzzled for a bit.
posted by Artw at 8:41 PM on June 20, 2010


the synth nerds among us just want to slap a LPF on the end of that and make it actually sound nice, as well as look cool...

For the non-synth nerds amongst us, what would this do?

Oh. Dozens of floats used as spacers. Interesting. That had me puzzled for a bit.

Heh, fellow web-developer here, and I wondered about it too. I was hoping for something more exciting.
posted by !Jim at 8:48 PM on June 20, 2010


For the non-synth nerds amongst us, what would this do?

LPF = low-pass filter: cuts down the highs, leaves the lows intact. Pretty much every synthesizer has one, and it is one of the larger influences on the sound the synthesizer produces. The effect, used on this music, would be to render it less buzzy and metallic; it'd be softer, warmer.
posted by Mars Saxman at 9:16 PM on June 20, 2010


This is pretty cool, and I actually like the buzzy metallic sound. I do agree that he really oversells it in his speech, and the bit about "symphonic form" in particular made me roll my eyes, so I don't blame the nitpickers.

However, you probably need that kind of lofty rhetoric if you want to win stuff like the prix ars electronica, so I don't really blame him either.
posted by speicus at 10:42 AM on June 21, 2010


the synth nerds among us just want to slap a LPF on the end of that

Yeah ... how much could a little RC rolloff cost?

I grok his approach, people will pay exorbitant prices for crappy little one-off paintings ... tangible, unique ... but nothing for a tune which took a hundred hours to craft.



posted by Twang at 12:02 PM on June 21, 2010


The chip (closeup of the first board) is an Atmel Atmega8l-8PI microcontroller with 8K of Flash memory, 1K of RAM. 1@$4.50 a pop, 100@$3.50.

A step-up from the tech in musical gift-cards.
posted by Twang at 12:22 PM on June 21, 2010


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