A horrible hack

Guy Birkin

Tintinnabuli Mathematica – Vol. 1

Year Released: 2014
Format: CD
Label: Runningonair Music
Reviewed by Captain Fidanza on Apr 29, 2014
When you listen to those old fuckers on BBC documentaries talking about music in the seventies, they always seem so blasé about the albums that were being released back then. Obviously I understand they’re just trying to demonstrate how cool and detached from everything they were, but just think of the bands that were around then. The first three Black Sabbath albums, Led Zeppelin III and IV, Sticky Fingers, Exile on Main Street, Tago Mago, Maggot Brain, Hunky Dory and Dark Side of the Moon were all released within three years of each other – and this is not a “Special Remastered Edition with a Retrospective Essay from Paul Morley,” these are the actual albums coming out for the first time in the shops – it boggles the fucking mind. Just imagine going into Woolworths looking for Led Zeppelin IV never having seen or heard anything about it, you wouldn’t even know what it looked like and then some spotty twerp would say, “it’s that one over there with the picture of the man with the sticks on his back” and you’d go over and pick it up and think, “what the fuck is this? It doesn’t even have the words Led Zepelin written on it.”

All of which brings us to the latest release from Runningonair Music, a label specializing in music programmed by mad scientists and whose albums I have been listening to since being sent one in 2011.

The last time I received one made by Guy Birkin, it contained a sheet of paper with one hundred individual black and white square patterns printed on it, one of which had been circled with a red pen. This mysterious accompaniment to the music was fantastically interesting and even now, three years on, I occasionally take sheet of paper out of the album sleeve and try to work out what the fuck it’s supposed to be.

This new release doesn’t have a coded pattern sheet to bamboozle morons like me, but it does (as with all Runningonair releases) contain some of the most extraordinary liner notes ever written down by anyone who isn’t Gibby Haynes. Let’s have a look shall we?

“Tintinnabuli Mathematica is a generative music project in which melodic parts (M-voices) are created using algorithms based on stochastic methods and integer sequences, written in the Mathematica programming language. Harmonic parts (T-voices) are created using algorithms that transform the melodic parts, based on Arvo Part’s tintinnabuli method of composition.”

Now, those are the real words from the album cover, I haven’t made any of them up or purposefully used them out of context for comic affect, they are real, someone sat down and actually wrote that on a piece of paper then sent it to the CD factory. Remarkable.

Reading that, you might think that the music on the CD just sounds like a Dot Matrix printer processing and printing a copy of the Bible, but it doesn’t, it’s incredibly beautiful and sounds like something you’d hear being played on a xylophone on the Young Musician of the Year contest, which I actually won in 1988 with my avant-garde rendering of the theme from “Degrassi-Junior High” so I know what I’m talking about.

“Wake up in the morning, feeling shy and lonely,

gee, I gotta go to school.

I don't think I can make it, don't think I can take it,

I wonder what I'm gonna do.

But when I look around I see,
that someone is smiling right at me.

Wait! That someone’s talkin' to me. Hey, I got a new friend.

Everybody can succeed, all you need is to believe,

be honest with yourself, forget your fears and doubts,

come on give us a try at Degrassi Junior High.”

So whether or not you understand about advanced algorithmic programing, there will undoubtedly be something in this release with which to connect; I had to do my Maths GCSE 3 fucking times because I was so stupid and I absolutely love the music made by these maniacs, so you should go their website immediately and check it out.


Do it now.
Recommended record by Collective Zine!

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