AMN Reviews: Giorgio Sancristoforo/OOME – Milanese Nwas [Acustronica AT056]

One of the more significant subgenres of contemporary electronic music comprises music created by generative processes. Generative music is just part of a larger systems aesthetics in which a work is produced by a system; in this case the system consists in the regular interactions of given sound-encoding inputs and the combinatorial rules or operations that process them into an output. The output is the work as we hear it. Such is the kind of music created by Milanese sound artist Giorgio Sancristoforo, whose new release is titled Milanese Nwas (“nwas” being a phonetic rendering of the French pronunciation of “noise”).

Sancristoforo, who releases music under the name OOME, is a sound designer and software programmer whose sonic works and installations have appeared in Italy, France, the UK and China. He’s created several widely-used music programs including Gleetchlab 1/2/3 and Gleetchplugs, and has written and directed a video series on electronic music. In addition to his solo work—which has included Audioscan MILANO, a sound-map of the city of Milan—he directs the Reihe Laptop Ensemble. A lot of technology, yes, but to judge from the experience of listening to Milanese Nwas, it’s technology as a means to artistry.

The tracks on Milanese Nwas are process pieces generated autonomously through Sancristoforo’s own custom-designed software, but what’s most striking about them isn’t their manner of composition, as interesting as that may be, but rather their sensory beauty. The surfaces are lush and made up of multiple, polytimbral voices that shimmer in unpredictable, quasi-chaotic patterns—the sonic analogue of the play of sunlight on water in motion. Harmonies fall in irregular but consonant cascades, complemented by asymmetrical, intricately-interlocked rhythms. As with some Baroque music the drama doesn’t lie in strong, single-line melody so much as in the interaction of complex, actively intersecting lines. These sonic worlds may have been machine-generated, but they reflect a very human delight in ornament and sensual stimulation.

Daniel Barbiero

AMN Reviews: Chvad SB – Phenomenalism Cartesian Doubt and Bomb #20 [Silber Media]

a1207993938_16Some of the systems art of the late 1960s and early 1970s—for example, Sol LeWitt’s modular lattice sculptures or Mel Bochner’s number grids—embodied a certain regularity of form. A systematic regularity, one might say. A basic element might be repeated at constant intervals or an input sequence subjected to a defined operation. By contrast, some other systemic artworks—integral serialist compositions, for example–produced surfaces of unpredictable, irregularly occurring events from an underlying set of rules. In either case the systems generating the artworks featured a certain autonomy requiring little or no ongoing oversight from the artist. Chvad SB’s Phenomenalism Cartesian Doubt and Bomb #20, a long piece for modular synthesizer, leverages carefully crafted feedback loops into a soundwork that essentially plays itself.

With its collection of fragmentary musical gestures, Phenomenalism sounds something like the pointillist serial works of the mid-20th century—it’s possible to hear in it a refigured echo of Milton Babbitt’s compositions for the RCA Mark II synthesizer of the early 1960s, for example. Like those compositions, Phenomenalism aggregates individual pitch sequences and timbres into a kaleidoscopic sound of playful unpredictability. Also like those compositions, the pleasure of the surface sounds requires no knowledge of the systems underlying them.

Daniel Barbiero