Alex White is a Sydney based sound, video, interactive installation artist, and modular synth enthusiast. He has performed at Liquid Architecture, The Now NOW Festival and This Is Not Art amongst numerous others. He also collaborates with Ben Byrne in the noisy highly synthetic duo Nadir. His current label, Room40 suggests he “has orbited the outer ranges of chaotic synthesis, noise and electronics for over a decade,” which is a pretty apt description. His latest release Transductions is something special. It was recorded using a Diskclavier, an acoustic piano that can be controlled by an external MIDI source. In this case a modular synthesiser is producing the MIDI data through an improvised performance of a generative patch design. It’s pretty wild (you can check it out here). We were of course intrigued and wanted to know more, so we reached out to ask about some of his favourite music.
Delia Derbyshire – Doctor Who theme 1963
I think some of the sounds I heard as a kid built a aesthetic foundation that still carries me along today. The distorted backwards slide guitar on Midnight Oils’ Scream in Blue, the sound world of the early Star Wars films and the soundtrack to Doctor Who that would resonate through my house at 5:30 every weekday. Its well understood that the melody of the Doctor Who theme was written by Ron Grainer but its was the timbres and arrangement by pioneer electronic musician Delia Derbyshire that captured my imagination. In 1963 synthesisers, even modular synthesisers were not yet in production, every component of the recording was painstakingly constructed using tape music techniques.
Bendike Giske – Adjust
Bendike Giske takes the structures and sensibilities of electronic dance music and reforms them through the the distorted lens of solo saxophone. His recordings are all the more mindblowing as they are single takes without any effects (maybe reverb surely), using his voice and emphasising the clicking of the buttons. I think this was my favorite record last year.
Caterina Barbieri – Fantas
I’m really interested in the “analogness” of synthesisers and sequencers but not necessarily in relation to the character of the sounds, instead the musical event generation by analog based (or originating systems). I perceive a similar obsession in Barbieri’s recordings, although her intricate work is highly crafted, the complex structures she builds have shifting and offset components that take it well beyond more typical pattern based music.
Keith Fullerton-Whitman – Occlusion (Rue de Bitche)
In July 2012 I attended a performance by Keith Fullerton-Whitman in Sydney, the experience had a galvanising impact upon my practice. The performance was of ‘Occlusion’ a piece or system he has performed many times since. Like many of his modular based works the piece moves gradually from a seemingly chaotic, senseless and sparse, disconnected series of sounds, to a dense mass of events that seem to teeter on the brink of forming an organised structure. Fullerton-Whitman’s performance mirrored the form of the instrument itself in its exposed yet complex connections; his continually adjusting, minute gestures are plainly visible but incomprehensible. As I perceived a structure emerge from the performance it seemed that as a listener, I was at least equally responsible for the patterns I organised from the chaotic, ever shifting mass. The climax of the performance was rhythmic, but no overarching tempo, instead layers of erratic, staccato notes piled upon one another. In these structures I could hear activities of the clocks, logic gates and dividers, and I could comprehend the entire instrument as a generative system operating across multiple unstable scales.
Mark Fell and Gabor Lazar – The Neurobiology Of Moral Decision Making
This record brings together 2 of my favourite artists who both work with very minimal sound palettes to imagine techno as an intricate and unstable. This release seems to combine their interests and energy perfectly with no need for compromise on either part. Mark Fell’s interest in using relatively vanilla and simple hardware based sounds and sequencing tools to generate shifting patterns mirrors my own interests. Fell’s mesmerizing release Intra (2018) is performed by the Portuguese Drumming Grupo de Percussão using computer generated rhythms, has an obvious resonance with Transductions.
You can find Transductions here.