So I’ve been reading these books by Norwegian writer Karl Ove
Knausgaard called My Struggle, where he fills out details of memories to
make a sort of embellished autobiographical picture of his life. Not
quite non-fiction, it takes a shape of it’s own, pulling you into a part
of his life and seeing yourself there. Episodes combine to form a very
lucid portrait of the artist.
I’ve been obsessively collecting sounds for as long as I’ve been
able, but they’re sitting in boxes and on hard drives, gathering dust.
What’s worse: I’m constantly adding to this pile and not making art of
out it. So here we go: the first installment of my monthly sound
journal. This first issue is all about soundtrack music I’ve written,
with some drafts that stayed in the notebook along the way.
My hope is that as I pool these sounds into cohesive packages, a
broader narrative arises that will sound like me. Let’s see if it works.
From Circadia Sees the Moon (2005)
In 2005, Dave Hanagan asked me to make some music for his short
Circadia Sees the Moon. In this beautiful little film, a young woman is
kept from seeing the moon and, it seems, her adulthood. I tried to give
childlike quality to the surface but rhythmic chaos underneath. I had
just been seduced by the first three records by The Books, and had some
of this in mind while building these sounds with Csound and my guitar.
The Books taught me to trim the attack off of the note, which was
extremely liberating. I began to find all these new ideas in sounds I
already had. The film features a repeated shot of the moon, which I
supported with this stretched high slide guitar sound you hear here, and
later on this disc.
Sometime in 2004 I wrote a program to impersonate the EMS VCS3, a synth
I’d heard on lots of recordings, including Dark Side of the Moon. The
sound was sweet and thick, like pork fat. I loved the sound and spent a
week or so hacking this instrument together that would eventually be the
backbone for my synth weirdness band Wizard Prison. This is the 1st
improv I recorded with my new toy I made. The pulses transfixed us. At
the end you hear what we in WP called the ‘Party’s Over’ sound, which
Scott and I would use to signal it was ready to move on to the next
Inspired by Raymond Scott, from Urban Scarecrow (2002-2006)
I had heard Raymond Scott’s music in cartoons growing up, but hadn’t
heard his groundbreaking electronic music work until the Manhattan
Research Inc compilation Basta released in the early 2000s. Like some
classic mad scientist, Scott built oscillators and mechanic sequencers
from scratch, designing everything along the way.
I pictured RS’s circular sequencers rotating to create loops of sound
and wrote these pieces, under the influence of Soothing Sounds for Baby
and the occasional scotch. Most of these were created for my brother’s
beautiful film Urban Scarecrow. The first three made it in (I think) but
the final three I used for other things…
From The Emergency Pants Collection (2004)
Using the computer and my programming skills for so much music made
part of me rebel and crave organics. I set a challenge for myself:
create pieces solely with my 4 track, the crappiest guitar pedal I had,
and my piano. Brandon Schaeffer liked them and used them in his
Emergency Pants collection of films. The ring modulator you hear on Broken Waltz
is the only reason I keep that pedal around.
I am addicted to collecting sounds, and for long binges during the
winter I will sit in our shed, long into the night, trawling the air for
new sound on my shortwave set. I made this out of three recordings.
First, the pulsing time signal you can pick up anywhere in the world on
5000Hz, 10000Hz, 15000Hz, you get the idea. Second, a brief digital
signal coming from a buoy in our Puget Sound. Third, a distant voice
One of the first pieces of sound art I was actually proud of. I made
this while in the composition program at the University of Washington,
studying with Richard Karpen. My head was full, one part Squarepusher,
one part Iannis Xenakis. I’m not sure this has much to do with either.
One loop is used throughout – you can hear it, unedited, in the first
full bar of 4 in the piece. Xenakis created Concrete PH from a single
recording of charcoal burning. With him in mind, I wanted to create as
much as I could from this single loop. You’ll hear glitchy tweaker
beats, a Nancarrow-style tempo canon, and Noh Theater-inspired spatial
From Circadia, a reverse overture that crams all of the elements from
the soundtrack into a final pulsing climax. The visuals involve
crosscuts of a train crashing through a wall and the moon breaking
through the clouds, which I try to reflect.