The Experience Of Humans Being

Music has the ability to get humans to circle around a fire – its sounds stoke the aural, leading to the visual, and still more, the emotional. The relationship between humans and sound is wonderfully complex – especially when we find ways to emulate, manipulate and enhance the soundtrack of our lives with musical instruments. Music is the experience of humans being.

The Endless Sonic Adventure

Everything and nothing changed with the birth of my son. What hasn’t changed: the concept of the endless sonic adventure, which seems to occupy my mind most days, while my son and I find ways to relate to each other. The idea that we create sonic vibrations, followed by an often more complex and dynamic reaction, is magical. Blowing bubbles in the bathtub and barking nonsensical words and tones into plastic cups – my son and I play every day. The funny thing is, I never stop being a kid in a sonic candy store. Every seemingly insignificant sound catches my attention, often to the chagrin of the company I keep. Feel free to diagnose the struggle for my focused attention – certainly don’t mistake it for being uninterested or unaware. As sound flies like a baby bird from its proverbial nest into a world of complex harmonic, and spatial, ebb and flow – the baby bird’s flight plan requires real-time, calculated actions and reactions, requiring further actions and reactions, etc… the walkabout of a single sound is an endless story, should you choose to listen.

Another One Down

Thanks to Christopher Willits and Envelop for putting on a great show at Luminary (Expanded):art|tech|music last weekend. Our immersive sound story ‘Into The Dark’ has never looked and sounded better. Coupled with an amber LED-light performance by Alingo Loh, ‘Into The Dark’ literally shined, in lieu of any video images, during the intense ‘fire’ scene. It’s amazing what the imagination conjures up when given the opportunity.

‘Into The Dark’ to be shown at the Luminary(Expanded) show at The Midway in San Francisco Nov. 4th

SnowGhost Music is excited to announce that our immersive audio story, ‘Into The Dark’, was selected to be shown at this years’ Luminary (Expanded) show at the Midway in San Francisco this weekend. For those of you in the bay area, please stop by and check it out, along with the rest of the incredible music and art that will be performed and presented at the event. You can watch the trailer for ‘Into The Dark’ here:

Thank you Google Play and everyone who came out to see ‘Into The Dark’

We had a wonderful time at Playtime 2017 and would like to thank Google for allowing us to share our spatial audio piece ‘Into the Dark’ with the attendees. We were overwhelmed with the turnout and are extremely pleased with the response to the piece, and by the high level of excitement around the concept of immersive audio stories. For those who attended the showings, we handed out gatefold packets that included information about the piece as well as 10 postcard images, each of which represents another supporting story that surfaced while conducting research for the Granite Mountain mining disaster. Butte is one of the more fascinating of the lesser known places that we have visited. It is rich with history and amazing to see what it has become in the 100 years following this event. There are many other stories that we have to tell around ’Into the Dark’ and we plan to release one per week on our site for the next ten weeks in association with the postcard images in the packet. For those of you who weren’t able to attend the live showing, this is a way for you to hear all of the stories and see all of their associated images. Please stop by our ‘Stories of Sound’ page on the site to check out the other stories. Thanks again…there is more to come.

‘SnowGhost Stories of Sound’ pilot episode, INTO THE DARK to debut at Google’s ‘Playtime 2017’ developer conference:

  We are excited to announce the upcoming release of our spatial audio content series called ‘SnowGhost Stories of Sound’. This VR content series utilizes audio as the driver of narrative to tell compelling stories in multi-channel spatial sound. Unlike a traditional audiobook or podcast, the SnowGhost experience is designed to transport the listener into the story or scene as if they were actually there. For context, consider the storytelling format of Prairie Home Companion, in which the author or storyteller is able to expand their characters and plot using rich audio content to create a theatrical experience that is much larger than the story’s words. Utilizing the spatial audio format, SnowGhost elevates the audio storytelling experience to a new level. SnowGhost will debut their first episode, ‘Into The Dark’ , at Playtime 2017, Google Play’s annual developer conference. The event will take place October 19th at Envelop, a live spatial audio event space that is located in The Midway in San Francisco’s bourgeoning Dogpatch neighborhood and will be experienced exclusively at Playtime 2017.

Moebius Story Leidecker, Familiar’ Album To Be Released On October 6th

Brett Allen, of SnowGhost Music, was honored to serve as the audio engineer for one of Deiter Moebius’ later projects. Recorded at SnowGhost Studio, ’Moebius Story Leidecker, Familiar’ is set for release on October 6th, 2017 and is a collaboration between Jon Leidecker of Negativeland fame, and Deiter Moebius of Cluster. It is an album that explores the juxtaposition between the natural and artificial world and was inspired by a few days of hiking in Glacier National Park, Montana. I grew up listening to a significant number of bands who were directly influenced by the Krautrock bands of the late 60’s and early 70’s. I was born in the early 70’s so it makes sense that I was listening to the next generation of bands that followed suit. Once I realized the origins of influence, I took a trip back in time to explore the forefathers of the avant-garde. Krautrock was a movement that was given it’s ‘name’ in jest by John Peel, and the name stuck. An important fact that should be mentioned by anyone writing about the genre is that Krautrock was originally a form of free art. Krautrock bands gave their records away at free art fairs. It was truly a ‘movement’ of artists, and one that has been hugely influential over a vast and varied spectrum of genres. Kraftwerk is most likely the household name that this generation knows as somehow being connected to the birth of hip hop and sampling via Afrika Bambaataa. Kraftwerk, though brilliant in their own right, was not the first to emerge from this movement. In 1968, the Zodiak Free Arts Lab was created in Berlin by Hans-Joachim Roedelius, and Conrad Schnitzler. Schnitzler was an early member of Tangerine Dream and founder of the band Kluster (Cluster). Schnitzler started Cluster with Deiter Moebius, who sadly passed away in 2015. He left behind an incredible body of work and was still recording new music up until his passing. ‘Vexed’ is equally mesmerizing in audio and video form and can be seen below…

Congratulations to the ‘Lil Smokies’ on Their New Release ‘Changing Shades’

All of us at SnowGhost Music would like to congratulate you on the release of your new album ‘Changing Shades’. It was such a fun record to make and we are extremely pleased to see it out in the world today. The musicianship and cohesiveness of this band is astonishing. The album was live-tracked in a little over two days and completely finished, mixed and mastered in eight. It is a production approach that we strongly promote and believe in and we were fortunate enough to have a band like the Lil’ Smokies in to elevate the bar for live analog recording. There’s a great interview with lead vocalist Andy about the recording process in the Missoulian. Best of luck as you travel the world sharing your music and yourselves. I hope that all of the people who hear these songs will experience as much happiness listening to them as we did making the record with you. All the best!  

Everything In Its Right Place

Associated Article: In the age of algorithmic curation, artificial intelligence, and the promise of ‘personalization’, there is a phenomenon taking place that is pushing people forward with more considered intention. Technologists continue to create conceptual products that represent a future world where machines will be making the ‘right’ decisions where the humans are unable to do so due to inherent flaws as a result of varying values, judgement and degrees of critical thinking or lack thereof. One’s quality of life equation or moral genetic make-up is drastically different based on what they value and why they value those things. There is an etiquette to intimacy, it takes time to establish trust, which varies significantly based on the dynamics of each individual. The “rate of trust’ is dependent upon each exchange and experience. AI assistants are learning strictly on a need-to-know basis as they gather information to point them towards specific outcomes, however, lack the ability to ‘read the room’. They are unable to find beauty in the unconventional and abstract, the unexpected mistakes and the subtle nuances of life that often become the greatest influencers of joy and happiness – the ‘simple pleasures’. In a world of ‘right’, the world becomes flat and uninteresting. The imperfections give us beauty and depth that preserve the idea of personalization itself. If machine learning is calculating everything based on numbers, we will all eventually be influenced towards the same outcomes – there is then a ‘right’ way to live and act in this new ‘right’ society, algorithmically. We need the flaws to connect to human qualities and characteristics. We yearn for the mistakes that give us the stories of something new and original. If Morrissey was pitch perfect, would we like it more? If Neil Young didn’t have such a signature and unique tone to his voice, would we know and experience his songs in the same way? Perfection is unattainable for humans, and as a result, not that interesting. With everything in it’s right place, there is no journey left to travel and nothing left for us to do or discover.

There Have Been a Lot of Promises Made…

In late 2008, my wife and I were in London for work and decided to spend one of our days off at the Tate Modern. For whatever reason, we hadn’t really done any research ahead of time, but had planned on simply enjoying the visit to the museum in general, which is quite impressive in its own right. When we arrived, we noticed that there was a Mark Rothko exhibit highlighted as one of the featured exhibits at that time. Rothko, in my mind, conjured up images of cheaply framed college dorm posters, sitting along side a variety of band posters of The Cure and Echo & The Bunnymen. Rothko had achieved a level of fame that most artists will not achieve in their lifetime, he had become a household name for most. He was one of a few artists who broke through into the mainstream, making his work easily recognizable by most. Consequently, I didn’t think much about the exhibit since I felt that I had probably seen most of his work in some form or another, but do remember thinking that it might be nice to see the paintings in person since we were there. We made our way through the gallery, eventually arriving at the entrance of the Rothko exhibit. We walked in with relatively little expectation, neither of us prepared for the reaction that then followed. We were speechless and immediately transfixed on these massive paintings that had been very intentionally placed in this amazing space. We were both silent, and from that point forward, immersed in an experience that was truly awe inspiring. Seeing those paintings at scale and alongside one another was impressive in and of itself. The impact was amplified by the environment in which they were displayed – flawlessly designed, creating an experience that showcased these paintings in such a way that they had transcended their reputation of ‘commodity’ and reclaimed their ‘holiness’ as they had been so reverently placed back in their temple. My wife and I have talked about this experience for many years, it changed how we think about art, music and the environments in which they are shown and performed. We have landed in a place in which the convenience of distribution has significantly impacted how we experience and perceive music. We don’t have the Tate Modern museum experience for album releases today. The excess of accessibility, has commoditized it to the point of feeling unimportant, or just ‘there’. All music sits side by side on the same plane and the listeners are then left to decipher what is special. Furthermore, as reward, our listening “habits” then become the subject of a mathematical equation that further commoditizes you as a listener. We have been reduced to statistical probabilities in how we experience and discover new music, and it feels pretty bad. It is offensive when we receive recommendations based on the highest statistical probability. It is similar to that person at the party who acts as though they know everything about you, and yet, you have never met them before. They are trying to connect with you through inauthentic means and it violates very basic principles of etiquette. Like the Rothko exhibit, ‘how’ music is presented and experienced makes all the difference between moving someone to tears or simply being overlooked as just another record release. A lot of promises have been made throughout the years; the promise of accessibility, curation, better experiences, fidelity, etc. Those promises largely remain unfulfilled. ‘Fidelity’, in the sense of shipping a higher quality file, does happen, however, in order for that experience to be truly realized, the listener needs to have the resources and care enough to design and carry out the promise of that experience on their own. The technologists claim that they have done their part, however, they are not the culturalists that first and foremost care about the music. Many of these platforms can absorb a loss on music since it works in the context of packaging their other service offerings. I am not implying that they don’t have good intentions, however, when it comes down to it, in this new context, it often becomes a commodity on a platform designed for mass scalability. The promise of more immersive experiences has also fallen a bit short. There are numerous claims of live VR concerts, but I have yet to see much in the music world that makes meaningful use of this medium. With that said, there have been some individual efforts that have been quite impressive. Bjork Digital has been the most consistent innovator using these new digital tools in the context of real content and art. Apart from the mavens who are beginning to push the boundaries of these new mediums, we are mostly still in a time where we are trying to figure out the best applications for using these new tools to create sensational and meaningful experiences. Like all tools, it is up to the user to become the craftsman. The tools often steal the thunder in the beginning, but in the absence of meaningful application, they lose purpose. Like Rothko, musical experiences must be framed and placed in a spectacular environment, supported by other sensationally relevant experiences that elevate it to its rightful place on the walls of the museum. If we keep it in ‘print’ form and place it in a cheap frame, it will remain there and will be experienced as such – as just another poster on a wall.

‘The Avant-garde Guard – My Week In The Studio With Matmos…’

Matmos is most widely known for their musique concrète approach to electronic pop music. Their albums are highly conceptual and they are regarded as the crème de la crème of experimental electronic pop music. With that being said, I was extremely honored to be invited up to SnowGhost studio to take on a very undefined role in helping them gather and record sounds for their upcoming album. An ‘undefined role’ because working with Matmos is an extremely fluid process that is steeped in experimentation. You simply design scenarios that create an environment for something to happen, all within the boundaries of an overarching theme. We picked up Martin and Drew at the Kalispell Airport and immediately headed out to go record sounds at a conceptually relevant location. They instinctually navigated their surroundings for new sounds. Each sound is potentially part of a larger composition, or conversely, can be melodic and rhythmic on its own. The week was chalked full of magical moments, some misfires, intentional brilliance, some happy accidents, many late nights, an entire spectrum of emotions and finally ended with a high school marching band. Without knowing what to expect, it is exactly what I had expected.

‘Escape From Nashville – The Towne Sessions’

Having lived in Nashville myself for 11 years, I am acutely aware of the benefits and trappings of ‘Music City’. Nashville is an industry town, and while there are some benefits to being close to where things are happening, it can sometimes have an adverse effect on creativity, where the business can often overshadow the creative process. Such being the case with Nashville country duo ‘Towne’. For the reasons mentioned above, Towne decided to take a trip to Montana to write and record new material. SnowGhost was hired to produce something completely different than what they were accustomed to writing or recording. Nowadays it is rare for a band to be sent on a writing trip with no expectation of outcome. What transpired, on day one, was a late night candle-lit writing session in a remote off-the-grid cabin which produced the song that was recorded the following morning. The song was recorded live using analog modular synths and programmed drums – there were no guitars. What emerged was a beautifully hypnotic 8 minute ambient electronic pop song about yearning for something real to happen. The song was an audio representation of what can happen when you intentionally let something unfold.