I’m in the 4th semester of the music theory track at NYU, which means that the time of talking about tonal harmony is kind of over. This whole semester, the focus has been things that are post-tonal and/or experimental in nature. We started with Debussy, who was one of the first composers to start to develop a practice against the tonal system. We’ve mentioned Ives, Varese, Stravinksy, Reich, Glass, Cage, and lots of other composers similar to them. They all make music that, to some degree, can be considered “not normal” from the viewpoint of high classicism. The point of mentioning this is that it functions as an explanation for why the below soundcloud embed sounds like so much death.
This is my third and final composition for Music Theory IV. My process was as follows: use SoundHack to change the headers on several video files (Star Wars, Fight Club, Aqua Teen) to cause them to be interpreted as audio. That is, the raw video and audio data bytes contained within the mp4 files were interpreted as audio data with absolutely no preprocessing. As you may have guessed, this resulted in close to six hours of almost nothing but white noise. The first second of each transcode, though, had a unique bit of digital evil, for whatever reason. I took the first second from each of my three transcodes and arranged them in a rhythmic pattern in Logic. I also included a low, repetitive drone from LSDJ.
I bounced this twenty-second clip to a stereo mix, and then opened it in Spear, a specialized granular synthesis engine. Spear analyzes the audio data and breaks it into its constituent sine wave partials, visualizes the partials on a graph, and resynthesizes the source material granularly. It also allows you to timestretch and move the partial data in a lot of different ways. So basically, I slowed the whole file down to a tenth of its original speed, then chopped the heck out of it, moving partials around all over the place.
That’s what you’re hearing. The love child of several technologies that may or may not have been intended for use on the same project. The noise created when an Aqua Teen mp4 file is read as audio. The sound…of death?