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BRUCE MOWSON - STATIC TONES
cajid 002CD
$AU25



An intricate, yet unchanging mass of sound comprised of tiny repeating fragments. Although unchanging, the static tones create an illusion of movement and change, with perceptual distortions generated by the listener.

“The psychoacoustic effect of the music was like a mirage, with details of the sounds emerging and receding even though there were in fact no changes in it at all. A worthy successor to Jim Tenney’s For Ann (Rising)."
Ed Osborn - Stretcher Archives (www.stretcher.org)

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track 3 [excerpt]- 1:04 min 757k mp3

What are “Static Tones”?

Bruce Mowson’s "Static Tones" project explores perception through static or near static time-based media presentations. Spaces are filled with an intricate yet unchanging mass of sound, comprised of tiny repeating fragments. These Static Tones seek to create perceptual distortions – a dreamy and nightmarish experience of the ceaselessness of time and the fleeting touch of sound in space. Bruce is interested in sounds from “below the radar” of consciousness - from the "silent" world of fan, computer and motor drones in a modern city, to the sculptural mass of rock music. In this project, he is interested in how this particular combination of time, space and mass can create a states of feeling.

Artist Statement

The psycho-acoustic space that I wish to create, through Static Tones, feels like a detached absorption. I'm aware of myself hearing, identifying, measuring, zoning in and out, and hearing again. Even though I know that the music is static, I perceive change - the volume appears to be swelling, there appears to be a rhythmic sound coming from behind me, a beeping note appears to be in the foreground. I find this sensation, or awareness, compelling. With Static Tones, I have tried to open up this space of perception, and in the nature of an experiment, the control is that the music doesn't change - if you perceive change, it is from you.

That said, the sounds have been partly selected for the way that they tend to work with the acoustics of a room, creating a phenomenon though which you hear different details of the mix as you move your head. With limiting the scope of the music in so many ways, it's nice to be generous with this spatial, or physical, dimension.

For me, in life, it is difficult to stop and identify exactly what is... is it me, my environment... how can I change the past/present/future... is it my attitude, or my actions? The space of these notions and feelings, about being and the passing of time, hopefully find their way into Static Tones...

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REVIEWS

Paris Transatlantic
Splendid ezine - Walt Miller
Cyclic Defrost - Bob Baker Fish
Phosphor Magazine
&_notes 10 (ampersand)
vital weekly

Paris Transatlantic Feb 2005
Walt Miller

"Headphones not permitted" it says on the record. Don't you fuckin' tell me what not to do, matey! If I want to listen to Merzbow at bernhard günter volume or vice versa (choose Scumtron and you can have both at the same time!) that's my business! Actually, the Cajid Media press release is a little more diplomatic: "headphones not recommended." Anyway, they've got a point. On a set of cans this stuff would be completely without interest, as listener participation (i.e. a slight move of the head left or right, or up and down, or a brief trip to the smallest room to vomit if you play it loud enough) is what Mowson's three pieces are all about. Not exactly a new idea (try it out with any sustained unchanging music and you'll find it works – particularly recommended are La Monte Young, Phill Niblock, David First and Sachiko M, of course) but always good for a few minutes' worth of fun. The first track lasts 12'30" but the music (I'm not sure that's the right for this stuff, but we'll stick with it) stops at 9'00". Similarly track two (total duration 13'05") falls silent, though not for long, after 9'36", and in track three your head stops spinning before the album itself does. Great review, eh? Well, there's not much else to say. If this is the kind of acoustic research that you like to indulge in, this is right up your alley. Here in my smallish living room I can't really push the volume high enough to get the thrill of it all, relations with neighbours being tense enough as it is. I rather fancy I'd enjoy it more in a gallery installation context. But the choice is up to you.—DW

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Splendid ezine Dec 12 2004

Melbourne-based media artist Bruce Mowson is attracted to sounds that fly beneath the radar of consciousness -- the under-noticed ambience that fills modern civilization, and thus the ears of the typical urban dweller. Hence, everything from motor vehicles to the din of your CPU fan serve as inspirations here, where a collection of short, cyclic loops and frequencies are piled electronically into a hulking mass. There's really nothing much more to it: Static Tones falls in the ambient/noise spectrum, but appears to start with but a sliver of an idea and stretch it out over thirty eight hypnotic minutes, separated into three longish tracks. The average listener won't hear much nuance, but it's in there. However, It's hard to tell whether the ear picks up intrinsic movement in the sound or Mowson is gently tweaking it all. The results are akin to taking a stethoscope to a refrigerator, amplifying and EQing its hum until the purr of the cooling cycle is enlarged to freakish, juggernaut proportions. Over his three long vignettes, Mowson repeats these micro-dimensional fragments until they lose meaning; the only contrast comes in the form of sudden quiet -- startling silences that are integral parts of each work.

Released on the Aussie experimental label Cajid, Static Tones, pushes the concepts of minimalism to the edge of the envelope. You can either roll your eyes at the singular vision behind it all (one that brings new meaning to the phrase "beating a dead horse") or you can lose yourself in the grand cacophony of unadulterated trance music. Whether you buy into Mowson's point of view or not, it at least serves as a provocative reminder: music swirls around and through the air, no matter where we are, even when we aren't paying attention.

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Cyclic Defrost Issue #9 (October 2004)
Bob Baker Fish

Static Tones is an apt title for this work by Melbourne sound artist Bruce Mowson, perhaps best known as the co director of the Liquid Architecture Sound Art Festival. Generating an unchanging mass of sound imbued with an internal repetitive rhythm, Mowson has produced three twelve and a half minute plus tracks that though they are in reality as the title suggests static, appear to be constantly though quite subtly changing. This is a project that actively invites your ears play tricks upon you, which they inevitably do when faced with such an unmoveable slab of sound. If you are actively listening, in order to make sense of what you are hearing it seems your ears are drawn to highlight particular aspects of the sounds, allowing the listener to break up the piece and have revealed for the first time previously hidden internal sounds and cadences. Though it’s not noise music as such, Mowson is working with thick deep tones that can become quite intense at high volumes. What may be more disquieting however is the concept behind the work, and the unshakeable feeling that all listeners are somehow just guinea pigs in Mowson’s sonic experiments.

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Phosphor Magazine

After an excellent CD by Thembi Soddell, Cajid Media's second release presents another Melbourne sound artist called Bruce Mowson. He is the co-director of the Liquid Architecture sound art festival. His debut album features a small collection of repetitive tracks built upon one sound. Due to the constant repetition a pulsating structure occurs, creating a hypnotizing effect. This constant flow of sound reminds each time of a machine doing his jobs without a hitch. A minimalistic approach that has a great impact on the mind. Bruce Mowson fills spaces with this mass of sound, creating an illusion of movement and change. And that's true, with just a little imagination one hears much more than there actually is.

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&_notes 10 (ampersand)

A new release from cajid media (www.cajid.com ? based in Bendigo): Bruce Mawson?s Static Tones. This is three longish pieces (around 12 minutes but not all is sound) based on Œtiny repeating fragments? which are repeateddensely and minimalistically in an unchanging seeming sound flow during the length of the track. A quick look at a wave output does show a pretty consistent form. The result is like being inside a throbbing machine ? the tracks are different in their constructs but similar in their construction. As you listen, moving around (headphones are Œnot permitted?) different interactions occur (similar to some of Ikeda?s music) providing an at-home installation experience. To some boring and overdrawn, but to others a fine addition to your atmospherics. - Jeremy Keens

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vital weekly

This is the first time I hear of Bruce Mowson, who is a sound artist from Melbourne and co-director of the Liquid Architecture national sound art festival. His musical approach is with 'static tones': taking a whole bunch of small loops (and I mean really small, maybe 1/10 of a second), which are running at the same time, like an uncontrolled mass, like flies, like insects or bats: loads of black static sound, in which there seems to be hardly any change. Each of the three pieces last around twelve and half minute, whereas maybe one minute would have been enough to do the same time. A loop record - one with endless grooves - would have been maybe even more appropiate. Now it seems to miss the point. Three, fairly similar tracks, both in execution, but also in approach, that start and stop, but without much development or even the slightest minimalist chance. Maybe I just miss a point here and there. (FdW)

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Reviews of “Static Tones” performances

"Bruce Mowson’s work of stark minimalism contrasted forcefully with Priest’s complex multilayering. The affable Mowson presented his piece with a short contextualisation of the piece’s provenance in his Static Tones project–his aim is to produce the most minimal, pared-back "communication [where] very little changes." Mowson’s role in the performance was "limited to pressing start" at the computer console; thereafter, shrouded in the darkness of the blacked out stage, he experienced the piece along with the audience. Powerhouse, created onsite and loosely inspired by Sonic Youth’s Freezer Burn, followed the structure of Mowson’s other work in the long-term project: an aggressive start and finish, with a "12-odd minute plateau" of sound in between. The result was a minimalist triumph: a grainy, gritty, aggressive assault on the senses that brought the listener’s attention ineluctably to confronting the nature and experience of perception."

"As the sounds bore on, distinct sounds emerged from the mix; the frenzied thumping of a power turbine, the crackling of electricity, the humming of conductors. The initial snarl of industrial noise gradually disaggregated as the listener became aware of distinct elements in the mix and their interrelation. Ears attuned to the slightest changes in the hammering, buzzing, metallic drone–the piece became a rebus, inviting constant exploration and reconsideration. As with the experience of viewing certain kinds of optical art, the brain refreshes every few seconds, seeking new patterns or ways of understanding, and the constant internal dialogue produced by the questioning of experience was a uniquely and intellectually stimulating. A few heated arguments erupted at the bar at intermission as to whether the sound actually did change at all. Regardless, the highly specific construction and execution (the whole effect is rather like colour-field painting for the ears) rendered the work a brilliant exercise in percipience that thoroughly deserved its rapturous applause." Danni Zuvela, Realtime, review of Liquid Architecture 4 (2003)


"Bruce Mowson’s severe approach to composition, 12 minutes of complex and unchanging drones, was the surprise of the evening. The psychoacoustic effect of the music was like a mirage, with details of the sounds emerging and receding even though there were in fact no changes in it at all. A worthy successor to Jim Tenney’s "For Ann (Rising)," I look forward to hearing more." Ed Osborn, Stretcher Archives, August 2003

The festival overall, however, was notable for its diversity. Bruce Mowson for example has a technologically-dirty-sounding take on minimalism, looping simple, hissy sounds so that his drones become the aural equivalent of op-art. Aural perceptions generate changes in modulation and emphasis where none objectively exist. Mowson’s short festival offering may not have been his best, but it had the elegant simplicity which informs all of his work. Jonathan Marshall, Realtime, review of Liquid Architecture 3 (2002)

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last updated 17/11/09
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