♫♪  Mark So - “Pale Plumes of Dullness” / “Shenandoah Suite”

It’s hard to imagine a contemporary composer other than Mark So whose work utilizes found artifacts as scores to create compelling minimal soundscapes. Over the last several years, So has excelled at assigning compositional values to found texts and visuals that render gloriously fuzzy sonic results. The works “Pale Plumes of Dullness” and “Shenandoah Suite” continue these studies but also implicitly explore So’s choice medium of cassette tape as a tool in and of itself.

“Pale Plumes of Dullness” is largely a continuation of the John Ashbery based works that So explored on last year’s excellent Reading Illuminations. However, “Pale Plumes of Dullness” creates an even more dizzying effect than the former composition through the hard panning of So’s voice and more frequent tape cuts to environmental sounds. The simultaneity of So’s different dialogues in each channel coupled with the quick cuts in and out of various settings creates a near canonic effect where speech and white noise create a very different kind of counterpoint.

Similarly, “Shenandoah Suite” explores a contrapuntal contingency through the use of two found mix tapes and intermittent field recordings. The results in this case create chance driven mashup music that is truly remarkable. At times, the content of the mix tapes surreally align and Elvis Presley and the Sugarhill Gang fuse together into a blur before So begins recording natural sound onto one tape and the temporary alignment is destroyed and then rebuilt only to have the same process occur again. It’s a simple work that is nonetheless extremely entrancing and effective.

Taken in tandem, both of these pieces show that So has started using his lo-fi tape manipulation as another conceptual layer in his composition. What was once simply the ends to a score’s means has become yet another found tool in the composer’s catalog and what he’s doing with it is wonderfully engrossing.

Both “Shenandoah Suite” and “Pale Plumes of Dullness” were posted to So’s soundcloud page nearly a year ago but just recently saw very limited respective releases from Motor Image Recordings and So’s own Death Spiral.

• Mark So: http://www.angelfire.com/rebellion/mark_so
• Death Spiral: http://www.death-spiral.net
• Motor Image Recordings: https://www.sites.google.com/site/motorimagerecordings

Chocolate Grinder

CHOCOLATE GRINDER is our audio/visual section, with an emphasis on the lesser heard and lesser known. We aim to dig deep, but we’ll post any song or video we find interesting, big or small.

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