Music and Noise in 2021

I’m about to round off my professional life as a freelance programmer in 2022. Two or three smaller regular jobs will continue in some way but I don’t think I will take on another major programming job that will consume most of my time and energy. I’m 68 now, time to retire.

I hope I’ll continue to be mostly healthy. That would leave more time for music – which so far is a hobby for me, not a profession, as Robert Fripp recommends to his students … which enables me to do it just for fun. There is no ambition in me to become ‘better’ even though I need to practice if I want to be able to play something specific. It feels like a privilege that I can make music with a certain innocence.

2021 felt like I did not have much time for music because my programming life took up too much time – but looking back a bit closer shows that there was actually a lot of music happening: not many gigs and sessions, due to the pandemic, but some did happen, plus there were many occasions when I played for myself, and videotaped/recorded some of it – ‘real’ music, sketches of compositions, bizarre sound/noise experiments (something that I seem to love a lot), and videos that I took on walks, with music added on later (something else that I seem to love a lot).

So here it is, half an hour of ‘fun with music and noise in 2021’. Most of the music was created/composed by myself and/or by the friends I played with. The pieces I played with The Absurd were composed by Michael Frank and Göttin Gala. You’ll hear a very short snippet of a Morton Feldman piece that I used for a video. And I played a piece by Steve Hackett that most of you will recognize. Thanks also to Kaki King for the Passerelle.

I hope there will be many more annual videos like this to come. I like this format. I wish more people would put together videos like this, showing some moments of their lives with music.

Solingen Viertelklang

On the last day of September 2017, shortly after my trusty old Mercedes had died an unexpected death while on a music meeting in Czechia, I loaded a rental car with my gear and headed for Solingen, a town 40km north of here that is world famous for its cutlery industry.

The Solingen culture office had invited me to perform at this year’s “Viertelklang” (quarter sound) festival. Two dozen very different musical acts performed during one evening in five places in the beautiful old “Wald” quarter of town – a school, a church, a bookshop, an old factory, all in walking distance of each other. Visitors could come and go and experience many kinds of music during that evening.




I was the only act who had a location for myself for the whole evening: an abandoned radio/television shop (Radio Schippers), empty except for the electrical installation, the wall panels, and some old tables. This was possibly the strangest location I’ve ever performed in.


My partner in crime was Florian Zeitler, a musician and prolific video artist whom I had not met before. He created beautiful improvised abstract computer video projections, midi-synced to my improvised music. Before we started, he even programmed sequences that highlighted the white vertical rack mounts on the wall that he projected his images on – we couldn’t take them off that wall, so he turned them into a feature.

There was no real stage – I sat in one corner, Florian sat in another corner, and visitors could walk around the room while we performed. It was dark, the room was lit up by the video projection. It did not really feel like a concert – more like a light and sound installation involving live music. I think we managed to turn the abandoned and somewhat sad location into a magical place for an evening.

The music that I played mostly consisted of experimental sound collages, involving some of my field recordings, ambient, psychedelic, and minimalist livelooping music, guitar, synthesizers, granular synthesis, artificial voices, speech fragments (some of my dear friend Rick Walker, I used them without asking him, oops). I had set up four speakers for a quadrophonic setup and could make all sounds move around the room in various ways. This was a new experience for me and one that I quite enjoyed.

We played three 30 minute sets with 30 minute intermissions. Not a lot of people showed up unfortunately – the shop was a little further away from the other locations, and maybe the experimental/avantgarde description in the flyer did not attract as many people as the jazz, blues, folk, and classical music that was performed in the other locations (which seemed to be much more popular). But Florian and I quite enjoyed ourselves, and as usual, several more adventurous people showed up and told us afterwards how much they had liked this.

I wish I could do things like this more often!

Here is a 36 minute mix of the evening. My cheap camcorder does not do Florian’s videos justice but maybe you get an idea what it was like. Lean back and listen loud.

Ecstasy Trilogy

Here are three ambient movies that I put online recently, each of them about 30 minutes long: “Mouse Pointer Feedback Ecstasy”, “Arboreal Ecstasy”, “Symmetric Jellyfish Ecstasy”. Wow, 90 minutes of ecstasy?

Ecstasy is not something we usually encounter in our daily lives, and different people have very different ideas about what it is. I just saw that Wikipedia has three different definitions!

The effect of the videos on the observer will vary, but all of them slow down time like the motion of liquid in lava lamps, or like Marian Zazeela’s extremely slow ornamental videos to La Monte Young’s drone music.

For the MTV generation that is used to very fast and hectic cuts, this will be unbearable to watch 🙂

1. Mouse Pointer Feedback Ecstasy


I used a toy microscope and filmed the microscope output on the screen – I pointed the microscope to its own images. This creates a video feedback loop, resulting in all sorts of effects. Because nothing much happens when filming an empty screen, resulting in more of nothing, I chose to film the mouse pointer from very close. Some postprocessing was applied (mainly, slowing down). The music is ambient music that I played on synthesizers and tape delays, back in the mid-eighties.

2. Arboreal Ecstasy


This was the first video designed to use as a backdrop for Georgina Brett‘s set on my livelooping festival from last April. I filmed these trees out of my car while driving through forests in Washington and Northern California (usually, Sabine was driving and I held the camera). Postprocessing: Slowing down and some motion blur, and a mirror effect at the bottom of the video, to take out the street that was visible in the original. The mirror creates a nice effect that looks like a reflection on water.

I chose Georgina’s piece Leanate as soundtrack for this, and I slowed it down considerably using Paulstretch. Then two weeks before the festival it turned out that someone else had also planned to use trees for a backdrop video, so I dropped this, and created something new for Georgina:

3. Symmetrical Jellyfish Ecstasy


I had filmed these amazing creatures in an aquarium in Oregon. Postprocessing included slowing down, changing the colors, and introducing symmetry. The music I chose for this imagery consisted of a loop I had created a while ago (I have forgotten in the meantime how I did it); during the piece, several instances of this loop, running at different speeds, get superimposed.

Georgina’s gorgeous set with the jellyfish video behind her can be watched here.