Thursday, August 19, 2010
I've been held in thrall to Tristan Perich's new 'CD', '1-Bit Symphony,' which I just received 3 days ago. I've listened to it perhaps 10 times since. As you can see by the image, this ain't no ordinary CD.
Perich is a New York composer in his late 20's. He's young enough to have had the CD around as a medium his whole life (that makes me feel old). What a thrilling idea to radically rethink the form. His compositions have often involved the absolute simplest, most low-fi digital information - 1-bit technology - either 1's or 0's. As far as the digital realm goes, it is absolutely old school. I have some early electronic lp's from the mid 1950's that employed some of this technology.
Perich has taken a tiny microchip and glued it into an empty CD case with an on/off switch, volume knob, forwarding button and headphone jack. He carefully hand-assembles each CD. You plug in headphones (good quality headphones are a must, BTW) and switch it on, and the entire 'symphony' plays from the microchip - in essence, a 'live performance'. On first audition, the tones are so buzzingly in-your-face that it takes you aback. Then, as you adjust to this stripped-back sound texture, the beauty of what you're hearing begins to arise, big-time. This is in no small part due to Perich's talent as a composer - he leads you into the sound world and melodies and themes open like fractal flowers.
Words like 'shimmering', 'fluttering' and 'tapestry' come to mind repeatedly. Make no mistake, it ain't pop. What it is, however, is beautifully melodic, dense and rich. And it deepens on repeated exposure, like any good art. While it isn't for everyone, those with an open mind will find it a wonderful experience.
Here's Tristan describing his music himself:
Those wanting to try it out yourselves can order it here.
And Perich has many of his compositions to download free on his website.