WOBBLY – Monitress


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Wobbly is the recording name used by Jon Leidecker since 1990. He is currently a member of Negativland and the Thurston Moore Ensemble. He has worked with Zeena Parkins, Dieter Moebius & Tim Story, People Like Us, Matmos, Laetitia Sonami, Fred Frith’s Gravity Band, Thomas Dimuzio, Porest, Tim Perkis & Xopher Davidson, Tania Chen, Sue C., The Freddy McGuire Show, Sagan and the Chopping Channel. Radio Web MACBA commissioned a nine hour podcast overview on the history of recorded collage music entitled ‘Variations’ in 2008, and related lectures have been presented at Mills, Oxford, Peabody, & Stanford. In 2015 he inherited Negativland’s long-running Over The Edge radio program, broadcasting from KPFA FM in Berkeley.

‘Monitress’ is a piece for multiple mobile devices, each one running a pitch-tracking app and a synthesizer.  Each is sent an audio signal, which the tracking app converts to MIDI data which is then used to drive the synth. Using an analog mixer, the sounds of one mobile can be routed / cascaded among the others.  Feedback loops similar to acoustic or electrical feedback occur when you close the circle.  The pitch-tracking apps are prone to errors, especially when presented with complex multiphonics or polyphonies;  they get quite a few notes fascinatingly wrong.  But more striking is the audible reality of their listening to each other.  Unison lines are an elemental sign of musical intelligence;  we are entrained to emotional reactions when hearing multiple voices attempting the same melody.  These machines may not meet our current criterion for consciousness, but every audience I’ve played this piece in front of quickly realizes they’re not listening to a solo.

The result is best heard in live performance, with 3-6 devices singing along.  For the album version, studio improvisations on keyboards & touchscreens were recorded and then used to trigger an additional two or three layers of pitch-tracked response.  But there’s still only one initial human performance, embroidered on all sides by detailed machine listening.

The technology used to create these sounds existed before the mobiles, but this music would not have been made on earlier equipment — it’s a result of the relationship developed with a machine that is always present, and always listening. This was the project I dug into as we woke up to the true owners of these tools, a frame to make the relationship between ourselves and our machines audible while we think about the necessary steps to take next.

Live performances of Monitress frequently utilized the following iOS apps: Sonnus G2M, Midimorphosis, TC-11, Phawuo, GrainBender, Manetron2, PPG WaveMapper, djay Pro, Animoog, Virtual ANS, Cube Synth, microTERA, Tera Synth, iVCS3, iLectric Piano, NeoSoul Keys, ComboOrgan, Ondes, Ruckers 1628, VoxSyn, iMonoPoly, World Scales, Moog Model 15, ODYSSEi, M3000 HD, Sopranotron, tardigrain, Korg Module, Dedalus, SampleWiz, Shoom, Thor, Poseidon, bitKlavier, iSEM, SoundyThingie, DXi, Optigan, FM4, iCathedral, SingingFingers, Galileo, iMini, Stria, iPulsaret, 76 Synthesizer, iPolysix, Burea, Turquoise DS, SeekBeats, bent.fm, Alina, AUFX: Dub, MegaCurtis, MicroTones, Moon Beam, Photophore, Nature Oscillator, Samplr, Audio Reverb, Drums, Impaktor, Argon, AD 480 pro, Attractor, Movement I-V, Drumatron, Wilsonic & aardvark.

Performed and edited 2015-2018
Mastered by Xopher Davidson.
Design elements by Amy Freibertshauser.
Front cover and design by Max.

Instant Entity 4:35
Welcome Away 4:06
Respectables 3:39
Solved 3:09
One Trillionth 5:13
Forced Affinity 1:10
Best Necessary 1:03
Edits 1:17
Microaccident 0:10
Medieval Refrigerator 2:49
Multiplet 2:05
Information Free 6:14
Monitress 10:29
Operant 5:01

Additional information

Weight 2.5 oz
Dimensions 5.5 × 5 × .3 in