The title “Beautiful Ghost Wave” occurred to me as I was composing the piece from different recordings I’d made in my studio during 2010. In order to keep track of all the working material I gave the different sound files names, and in this case “beautiful ghost wave” was one of them. This particular file struck me for the beauty of the peripheral sounds occurring, a kind of sonic aura hovering around the more central sounds in the recording. Thinking about this more I began to see this title as a model for the entire piece, where the partials of a sound, something analogous to “hearing between the sounds” (as in “reading between the lines”) became the focus for my compositional choices.
Beyond all this “Beautiful Ghost Wave” is a bit of a departure for me in that it deals more with dramaturgy than other work of mine. I wanted to extend a sense of movement to the sounds and create a feeling of the piece expanding and contracting, both through dynamic modulation and an emphasis placed on spatiality in the stereo field. Although the piece retains a sense of forward movement and an allusion towards an impending resolution, I wanted the feeling for the listener to be of an open system, where the actual ending or further continuation of the piece beyond its actual cessation on the CD could be filled in, much as one fills in meaning when reading between the lines of a text.
I recorded the basic material using analog synthesizer, mixing board, contact microphones, short wave radio and electromagnetic coils. The recording was made with microphones placed in front of the loudspeakers and in the room directly behind where I was sitting, thus lending a sense of acoustics to the sounds I generated and recording my movement as I made these sounds. These recordings were then edited and used to compose with on the computer.
(excerpt, vbr mp3)
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Release date: Jan 2011
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Goh Lee Kwang: Good Vibrations
Now here’s a change. Over the years we have learned to appreciate the music of Jason Kahn as something that is minimal, slowly moving music composed using percussion and analogue synthesizer. Drone like, introspective, derived from slowly unfolding improvisations – alone or in combination with others. This is not the case on ‘Beautiful Ghost Wave’. Still at his disposal is the analog synthesizer but also a mixing board, contact microphones, short wave radio and electromagnetic coils. Kahn goes noise here. This thirty seven some minute work is divided into various movements (as one track), separated with acoustic rumbling – Kahn recorded this work through a microphone in front of his speakers and from the room directly behind – I assume the latter is when he uses only those. Feedback like, noise based sounds, static hiss and such like rule this work, which has a much more dramatic play than much of his previous work, if not all of his previous work. Kahn fans will be alarmed I guess. Its not the kind of blast of noise that say someone like Merzbow would do – maybe that would have been the work if it was directly taped from the mixing board – but it has a distinct different quality that makes it quite good and also different from the other trouble makers. I guess it has to do with the amount of variations Kahn employs in this work and the somewhat curious way of recording it, bringing in a certain amount of acoustic noise. An excellent work and a brave move for Kahn. Hopefully to be followed by more such work.
- Frans de Waard -
I’ve doubtless simply been missing one or more plies of Kahnian activity in the past couple of years, but recent examples of his work that I’ve heard show a decided step away from what I’d come to think of as his sound-world: insistent (one might say, obsessive) percussion-centered rhythms augmented by pitch-shifting devices. Along with the recent disc on balloon & needle, this one finds him more positioned in the broken electronics school, albeit with a fairly steady substratum that may indeed refer back to his earlier concerns.
Kahn, in his notes, mentions the piece having “a sense of forward movement” and indeed it does, pretty much hurtling through its length in a welter of acid-drenched electronics, scouring one’s ears as it does so. It’s very rapid. When it relaxes, it’s with a sense of re-coiling, amassing energy for a further assault. But as with the drones above, there’s always a level of detail that keeps me absorbed; I always have the sense that there’s parts I’m not hearing, that remain to be discovered. That’s a good thing.
- Brian Olewnick -