︎ play "ggglitch?"
"ggglitch?" explores how “glitch” exposes both sonic and digital materiality. The composition itself is almost entirely composed of glitch, or rather, of a 3 second recording of my voice saying the word “glitch.” In terms of editing, I edited this basic source material mostly by means of cutting or splicing, with stretching, compressing, and transposing also serving as key techniques. With respect to composition, "ggglitch?" is rooted in a minimalist style in order to emphasize the complex patterns that arise from various fissures in sonic material. In streamlining the available audio content, editing functions, and compositional style, "ggglitch?" focuses on the simplest foundations of glitch production, delving deeply into the materiality of its sonic content, my “glitch” recording, and of digital space, Ableton Live as a digital audio workstation.
In my investigation of glitch aesthetics, I’ve come to understand glitch as a style which highlights ruptures, breakages, and fissures of material realities, whether in sonic, visual, or even digital forms. If in its traditional meaning, glitch denotes technological error, sonic glitch aesthetics are an intentional means of embracing said “error.” As its name indicates, glitch music is made of chaotic, broken sounds, with heavy use of pitch modulation, distortion, and other jarring electrical sounds. In this sense, glitch can also constitute a multisensory experience, as glitch isn’t simply seen, or heard, or felt. To understand glitch, I’ve come to believe that you must understand how glitch encompasses material reality, breaking through space, time, and the body.
“Much of Steve Reich’s music likewise suggests the possibility of being in time without the necessity of striving violently for control. Philip Glass often plays with the same two qualities of motion…that is, both the cyclical and the teleological–and he even executes comparable collisions.” – Susan McClary
In "ggglitch?", I primarily took inspiration from minimalist composers Steve Riech and Philip Glass to experiment with Susan McClary’s concept of “being in time.” Primarily, I wanted to relate a sense of “being in time” to how glitch radically alters time in terms of both rupturing rhythm and creating rhythm (also through rupture…); however, I also want to acknowledge “being in time” ultimately nods to being, embodiment, or the way we physically process the feeling of time. This mode of being is also notably reminiscent of Jack Halberstam’s “queer time” as that which diverges from normative conceptions of time-processing on a larger scale, as the path of queer life breaks from the expected from cis-gendered, heterosexual milestones.
Although this overall style and structure differs from most contemporary glitch-heavy electronic music, I found it more suited to zeroing in on the various ruptures, fissures, and tears in sonic material that glitch makes possible. I first noted my intent towards this shift in my own glitch-based composition away from a more recognizable structure in my listening journal, where, throughout this semester, I’ve become increasingly drawn toward attempts to listen for the unique “grain” of particular sounds, as per Roland Barthes’ “grain of the voice.”
As Barthes describes, “grain” is, “the cantor's body, brought to your ears in one and the same movement from deep down in the cavities, the muscles, the membranes, the cartilages…as though a single skin lined the inner flesh of the performer and the music he sings.” In this project, I argue that the “glitch” signifies a similar emphasis to the materiality of the digital platform. If “the ‘grain’ is the body in the voice as it sings, the hand as it writes, the limb as it performs,” then glitch is the digital system as it functions, whether with the intent to make sound or as a byproduct of computerized functions. In other words, I believe glitch in electronic music can be understood as a “digital grain,” or the sounding of the digital form. In my decision to use my own voice as the basis of the track’s content, I hoped to set a foundation for "ggglitch?" within the sound of my own body, exploring the possible grain of my own voice through glitch as a digital grain.
In this sense, I also took inspiration from Milford Graves, a percussionist, Professor Emeritus of Music, researcher/inventor, visual artist/sculptor, gardener/herbalist, and martial artist, who focused his attention on exploring the sonic potentials of the human body and the interaction between body and machine. As my own interest in glitch has also taken on a very interdisciplinary approach, I continue to look to Graves as a model for art inspired by various aspects of sound, technology, and the human body, which together constitute material reality. In the process of production, Graves also served as an ongoing inspiration as I discovered how many sonic textures revealed by my experimentations sounded not unlike a beating heart, forcing me to more philosophically ponder the patterns of material reality within sound, body, and the natural world.
Throughout the process of producing “ggglitch?,” I worked to balance elements of order and disorder, both in particular sonic articulations, rhythmic sections, and the scope of the track’s structure as a whole. In general, this project encouraged me to more deeply understand glitch as fundamentally dependent on ordered structure. Without some kind of regular rhythm or structure, can there be an interruption, or glitch, when it is defined as the very rupture of order? Ultimately not, I’d say. In this sense, I attempted to leverage minimalist composition style yet again in order to construct a semi-regular rhythm within my piece, conditioning listeners to expect said rhythm, before defying this rhythm by means of various interruptions, or glitches, in the pattern. Also key in this balance was my decision to construct the intro and outro of “ggglitch?” so that the track loops.
As I worked to highlight glitch as a digital grain more specifically, I attempted to situate “ggglitch?” first in an uncertain sonic space, sparse and droning with some ambient texture, totally unrecognizable as sound constructed from the original sample track. Then, through various assemblages of patterns and articulations, I wanted to slowly reveal (or rather, unravel the sonic material to show) the source material (just me simply saying “glitch”), before once again playing with various fissures of that sound. In this gradual and cyclical unfolding pattern, I also hope that multiple loopings of “ggglitch?” will encourage users to listen for the various inversions and reinversions of original source material beneath seemingly random articulations.
Every time I returned to “ggglitch?” in this way, I found that in a process of co-creation more akin to improvisation with the computer and DAW, I revealed new assemblages of sonic possibility. While the scholarship I did prior to “ggglitch?” informed my approach, the actual process of producing this track only reaffirmed so much of what I had learned. I had already believed in glitch aesthetics as a wealth of creative possibilities, but getting able to interact with those possibilities first hand certainly added another layer of inspiration to my greater project.
Throughout production, I also found myself increasingly drawn to composer George Lewis’s Voyager project, wherein Lewis engaged in live improvisation with an interactive computer system, as I came to more intimately understand the improvisational process of glitch production. Particularly, I came to understand how processes of “emotional transduction [are] not always led by the human musician. Emotional currents [can] also flow from Voyager [or otherwise, digital audio workstation] to the performer… to confirm the new texture.” In my initial attempts at glitch production, I was surprised to find how often particular patterns and textures arose without my intentional or conscious molding. Instead, many glitch articulations within my composition arose out of an improvisation process between myself and the digital audio workstation as I manipulated content with an experimental mind, without knowledge or concern for any particular outcome. In this way, I also found myself thinking deeply about the “aesthetics and ethics of open improvisation” related to glitch in this project in a way I had never considered before in my exploration of glitch.
It is my hope that “ggglitch?” serves as somewhat of a backing track for users while browsing on my site. As I hope that users will spend longer than 7 minutes on this site, producing the track to loop naturally was also key in my hopes “ggglitch?” will augment user experience. As I always intended this track to be consumed in this way, alongside my website, I’ve considered multiple different iterations of this track in order to most effectively augment my project. As it stands, this track is available for streaming on various pages of my site. I highly encourage you to play it alongside your interactive experience.