Sounds Heard: Lazy Sunday

The internet may have ruined the thrill of the hunt for those who already know exactly what they’re looking for, but it has also opened up an entirely new version of this game by allowing people new ways to inadvertently stumble upon what they didn’t even know they were hoping to find.

This is a musical game I find myself playing more and more. Sunday morning internet searches, brought to you by the letter “P” for procrastination, during which one link leads to another and an email reply requires a Google search and before long, well…suddenly you’re obsessed with the music of Kenneth Kirschner. But let me back up.

A recent example of this musical Marco Polo hunt began like this. A few days ago I stumbled onto a track posted on Disquiet.com: A Savage Exhibition by cellist Ted Laderas. It’s a brief, arresting track that I found myself listening to on repeat while searching for more information on the composer, eventually listening to an online version of an upcoming release and downloading both the aforementioned piece and a full album of his past work (available here on the netlabel luvsound.)

A savage exhibition – TOTM 1-2011 by ooray

I was so taken with all that I had heard that I struck up an email conversation with Disquiet’s author, Marc Weidenbaum, about Laderas, music in general, and the exciting things happening with netlabels in particular (a topic on which Marc is quite knowledgeable.) He passed me a list of a few additional labels whose rosters he thought I might particularly enjoy exploring, topped by an outfit calling itself SHSK’H.

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SHSK’H, as it turns out, is a six-release-and-counting netlabel launched in 2007 by musicians Jody Pou and Igor Ballereau. You can listen to what you like from their back catalog via the site’s slick online player. Downloads of the same are pay-what-you-will. I slipped on my headphones and hit play on Vol. 3, a collection of pieces by four composers.

And that’s how I discovered the music of Kenneth Kirschner when I wasn’t looking for it.

In a way, I suppose it found me, in that meet-cute way the internet has of sneaking up on you. Kirschner’s is the first track on SHSK’H’s Vol. 3, but its 13 minutes and the cryptic title January 21, 2009 left me anxious to know and hear more. Google led to a full page of music, all similarly titled, but offering no more background information other than an email address at the bottom of the list. Back to Google I went, turning up short biographies for Kirschner and a few old interviews with the composer before a kind of mental stop sign went up in my mind, suggesting that I quit cluttering the “what” with the “how”. Clearly, after all, that was where the composer of these works seemed to be directing us.

So I’ve quit looking for more or what’s next for the time being and have been spending time with Kirschner’s individual posted tracks. Many have a certain austerity to them that I find entrancing. With each piece free of any unique title implications or related textural trappings, each keeps a certain clarity free of any meaning beyond the sounds contained in each file, and so is perhaps particularly well suited to distribution online.

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Though the date-titling structure might imply a certain uniformity, sonically the compositions are actually rather diverse. A tightly wound rhythmic energy relentlessly drives May 18, 2010, but it’s easy to get lost tumbling around inside the slow electronic morphing of January 2, 2010. Kirschner can make a habit of framing sound with silence, though the absences are often more akin to the turn of a breath, a vital necessity more than an empty void. Some pieces clock in at just a few minutes, others stretch on for an hour or two. Some, thanks to chance procedures and Flash programming, will go on forever if left to their own devices.

Or at least until the listener decides to close a window, and go out looking for something else.

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