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Brendan Murray
Brendan Murray
Not Now
create.transmit

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The more abstract a piece of music, the harder it is to describe. It's like describing to someone the sounds of a city; you can enumerate and try to identify all of the sounds you are hearing, but that sort of misses the point. It's not the individual parts that are most interesting, it's the way they go together and interact to create a complex sonic environment.

This is true for most music, but for some less-abstract varieties, it's not so bad. You can say that a string quartet is in sonata form, that the cello plays a melody while the violins and viola play pizzicato accents, that it begins very quietly and ends with a rousing choral. Or you can say that a punk rock tune does the soft/loud thing with fierce girl vocals and a surf guitar solo in the middle.

But what do you say about something like Not Now? I can't very well walk you through the four long, sparse tracks, describing every bleep and warble. And just saying something like "these are four long, lovely, sparse tracks that go bleep and warble and hiss and buzzzz" doesn't really do justice to the wonderfully strange and mysterious atmosphere that those bleeps and warbles manage to create. I tried getting something like this past George the Editor:

............. .................. .................. delicate ............. .......... ............ ......... organic ....... .... ......... ....... clickclickbuzz ..... .... ................... ... .............. ....................... ................. .... ............... ............. ............... ................... ...... .... ...... glitch ......... ...... .............. .................. ....... ....... .......... ..... .............. ................................. . ................. resonant ...... ....

but he wasn't buying it, and for obvious reasons; it's kind of a cop-out. At the same time, I'm really stuck for a way to adequately describe, in about 300 words, something that takes a full hour to listen to and appreciate. At the risk of exposing myself as the super-dork that I am, let me say that this is a common problem for cryptologists and people working on compression algorithms: how do you take a complex signal (document, sound, image) and describe it using another signal that's significantly shorter than the original? With some types of information, that's easy; text can generally be greatly compressed because it's so repetitive and orderly. Things that are unpredictable and abstract, on the other hand, are very hard to compress, as there's very little "extra" information there to be thrown away. In fact, one definition of "random noise" is that it's a signal that is impossible to compress; the only way to represent the noise is to, well, present it.

What's this got to do with Not Now? Well, it's getting me well over my 300 word minimum! Seriously, this is all simply my way of saying that this is a very lovely and engaging CD and that you'll just have to take my word for it. There are lots of people out there making long, abstract soundscapes; this is one of the best ones I've heard.

-- irving bellemead
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