Quill is a sound journey through field recordings, bespoke software algorithms, and, in part, improvised modular synthesizer. The result is an album full of motion, a sense of physical place and space, and the complex abstract structures that can be realized in computer music. The six tracks (three per side on the cassette) are cybernetic music, human experience and electronic possibilities communicating through Frank’s musical taste, judgment, and expression.
Quill’s inspiration, Frank says, “came from the complex sound pavilions of architect-composer Iannis Xenakis, the intricate electronic collages of Bernard Parmegiani, and the acousmatic fantasy worlds explored by Natasha Barrett.”
Quill creates an uncanny valley of—and in—sound. The album opens with “Koelle,” and spattering waves of textures that feel both liquid and metallic. One of the two works that Frank describes as “completely programmed” in Csound (the other is “Another Howled Fragrance”), the music pulls in cyborgian bird sounds while a pulse rises from below—listen through headphones and feel this world gradually push away external reality for something fantastic, surreal.
But there’s more to Quill than digital media and algorithmic composition—there’s plenty of playing too, Frank manipulating his Make Noise Shared System in real-time and building pieces out of what he discovers. He’s modest about the process, saying that much of it was based on “randomly generated curves that emulate real world type playing—basically, I programmed a knob-twiddler” into pieces like “Tines Psilocin” and “Intrums.” But there’s more to it than that, these are deeply creative and discerning pieces that have a live feeling, and indeed show a side that most only get to experience live in Frank’s performances as part of an improvising duo with saxophonist Chet Doxas.
“Tines Psilocin,” opening side B, has a chattering sonic bed of what could be metallic insects, the wash of vehicles passing by. Situated somewhere between George Crumb’s Black Angels and Blade Runner, Frank manipulates palpable, buzzing oscillators from the Shared System. The synthesizer sings in this new, artificial world.
released September 20, 2022
All sounds by Micah Frank
Mastered by Taylor Deupree at 12k
Artwork by John Whitlock
It's a great exercise to see what a piece of software ( in this case, the 'small winters' plug-in ) .... It shows how something so readily available to everyone can shine in the hands of a master....ss/am editions vaché