Posted April 14th, 2017
One of the first televised instances of the infamous “Brown Note” was aired in the year 2000, January 12th. The sound was discovered after a long search during rehearsals for Yoko Ono and Kenny G's collaborative project “The World Wide Recorder Concert” led by South Park Elementary's Eric Theodore Cartman. A gargantuan ensemble of four million elementary school pupils simultaneously played “My Country 'Tis of Thee” on (you guessed it) the recorder.
Anyway, if for some reason you can't recall this historic event, Cartman and his friends added the pesky pitch to the end of the piece, and the combined power of four million recorders created a sonic-weapon of sorts, and caused a worldwide scatastrophe. Since then, only a few people have come close to finding the fabled frequency. The “Mythbusters” claim to have the myth “busted”, but many others believe it's still out there; hiding in the airwaves, lurking in your speakers.
One man who is rumoured to have accidentally come close to discovering this dissonance of doom is one half of Beijing based noise duo, ATELIER II. The improvised-sound-scape-generators Alex Damboianu, and his girlfriend Huang Huan have been haunting live-houses in Beijing for the last year. Whilst paying homage to influences across the artistic spectrum, through the use of synthesizers and audio manipulation techniques, they manage to create an immersive environment for the listener.
Their show is a true representation of music in its purest form, music as the organisation of sound, in time and space.
For more information, you can find them on Facebook HERE.
Photograph taken by Andreea Hriscu, DDC
We call ourselves ATELIER II because we are two, and we have a workshop where we live and work. We do many things there, amongst which we do music.
It begins with having some free time, and some passion for sound, because we do also painting, photography, architecture, but sound is the one that has immediate reaction for the listener or for the visitor in a place where you have some sound. The only concept that we have at this moment is to create an environment for the listener. So you just sit down. You can close your eyes or whatever makes you comfortable, and then you use your own mind and your own feelings to just travel wherever you want. I will just try to create an environment that will just keep you going somewhere, but it's up to the listener where it's going.
Because I started playing music recently, I don't have any knowledge about analogue gear and stuff like this, and I know I'm losing a big part of electronic music, because you can build your own set up, you can build your own synthesizer even, you can build your gear, but in a way you can do that with digital applications. I use one application that is like a mixer, and on that I will build my instrument. I will put synthesizers, effects, samplers, all kinds of things that will help you to have a clear and loud sound...compressors, limiters, whatever.
AUM… that application will give you a structure. It's the structure of your instrument some how, so you put there a thing that makes a noise, and on every channel you put some effects that you can control however you want with your MIDI controllers, or... I don't even use midi controllers, I just play with my fingers, that's all.
I will use samples, I will use field recordings, I will manipulate them in such a way that will make them abstract from the place I took them, and I will just use them as raw material for something that I will create and present to others. I did some paintings that I don't have anymore, but I took some pictures, manipulated them a little bit, and made a symmetrical image, and blended it with my work.
Yeah, I mean, this is a kind of clue of what is in my mind, but you don't need to go there if you don't want. But, every time when I play with my partner, it's about space, time, somehow an existential anxiety that we try to deal with, and then we put it all in our performance, but we don't want to impose this on the listeners so they go wherever they want.
But we just create this dark...because, it's more dark than light. We just think it's more light because our atmosphere is glowing, but if you go out it's darkness.
I'm hoping that people that are listening are making their own films or whatever they imagine in their own mind, so yeah, it is connected with visuals sometimes, but I don't want to provide the visual. I just want to provide the sound, and then you have your own way to enjoy it... or hate it.
Because we don't use rhythm or melodies or things like this, it seems like it's not intended, but it is intended! So, even if you only hear abstract noise, it's still music because we arranged it in some way. But yeah, there is an order there, there is an organization there, even if it seems messy and abstract.
So, we use four kinds of reverbs, together at the same time, and we use two apps made by some Swedish company that will manipulate the vocal sounds in such a way that it's unrecognisable. We want to use the voice as an instrument that creates sound – not necessarily for transmitting a message, distinguished words, or meaning.
Atilla. I know this guy from a long time ago. I don't even know his face or what he looks like, I have no idea, but I know his voice every time I hear it. I was listening to that guy when he was playing with Mayhem, I just had like, an old cassette that was recorded from a floppy disk someone downloaded for me, it was a live show or something like this. It was very messy. And then, his voice is fucking dramatic so it impressed me. So that was the first contact. And then I knew Sunn O))) separately, and then I found out they will play with this guy, so it amplified my interest somehow!
I get a lot of influence from Sunn O))) and Lustmord. Their stuff is in my mind constantly, although I try to ignore them, but somehow they influence me.
I never play with people that are playing the same kind of music actually. I play like the last band from a group of rock bands, or indie bands, I'm the curiosity of the event! All the time. And I never got a bad reaction. Sometimes, they ask me to play more. In the beginning I made it very short, like, twenty to thirty minutes, so they say “Do you have more?”, and of course I can improvise until the morning, but it will get boring after a while. Thirty (minutes) to one hour is enough. The reaction is positive all the time, although I am just misplaced all the time, with my girlfriend.
I want to play in Tango because I want to play very loud. All the time I have problems. I broke one thing in Mao when I played one time, and someone got “sick” because of the low frequencies (he told me later). I was playing some very long drones, very loud and very low frequency – you feel it in your stomach if you have big speakers. I said “What the hell? These people, they have big speakers, I'll just play as loud as I can...” but yeah, I would like to play in Tango here in Beijing because they have a huge... and I've been to Godspeed you! Black Emperor concert twice, it was great! It was one of my favourite bands. This one, Swans, Lustmord and Sunn O))) – these are my top five / four / whatever.
I can explain how we do it. For example, she's just playing and finding some interesting sounds. I will do the same thing, but we have the same world view, the same kind of vision, the same kind of taste in sound, so this makes it a lot easier. And then, I say “Okay do you want to play together, or shall I play solo this time?” If we have an idea, we play together.
So, I start building my sound. I will have a set of sounds, and I will say “Look what I have”, and she shows me what she has. We play, I think, one time combined before we play live together. That's all. It is very instinctual, all the time. I do something, then I give her some space then she does something, and she gives me space and I intervene with my sound, so altogether we try to keep it as an interesting composition.
It involved a lot of study... on youtube. I spent in the past two years at least four hours every day studying what is a synthesizer, what is everything.
HH: He's a geek! He's a geek! He can learn everything from youtube, by himself.
Although I don't have formal education, I studied a lot, to figure out how I can use the technology... to apply it what ideas I have.
We will exchange information in such a rudimentary way, such a... we just talk a lot. “What do you want to say? How do you want to sound?”. Then she will tell me, and I will immediately figure out what kind of app we can use on our iPad so we can make a conversation in our music. At this kind of level. She's trained as a musician, but we cannot touch this... we cannot make a melody.
HH: And also, when we talk, even our English is not good, and I tell him... We organize what we want to show in the music; what sound I like, what sound he likes, and we understand each other, because I think this is from our art work. We understand each other, (what art we did), actually from a lot of talking.
Just have the balls to do whatever you think is cool, and whatever you think is interesting for yourself first of all. And if they don't like it, this is not your problem. That's all. You just do what you like, you try it, and if they don't like it, next time you play by yourself that's all.