[syzygy] – [escape]

[syzygy] – [escape]

syzygybnr.bandcamp.com

It is with great excitement that I present my latest work, [escape]!

This album is an exploration of the concept of escaping. Escaping difficult personal circumstances, escaping reality, escaping self-imposed limitations, escaping wider social disaster, etc.

On a lighter note, it also explores the concept of “escaping” the confines of the predominant musical tuning system in the world today.

Like my previous [syzygy] releases [xendeavor one], [ouroboros], and [loiterer], my Yaeth album MMXX, Melopoeia’s ongoing Valaquenta, and my web app Color Horizons, this album explores microtonality, the spaces between the notes found in 12 Tone Equal Temperament (also known as 12 Equal Divisions of the Octave [also known as 12edo]). This release focuses on one particular alternative system, 10 Equal Divisions of the Octave (10edo).

Earlier on in my microtonal experimentation, I commissioned a custom 24edo neck from Metatonal Music. I thought it would be a great way to dip my toes into alternate EDOs — 24edo contains all the normal 12edo notes, plus every pitch exactly in between. I was very happy with the craftsmanship of the custom neck, but I quickly discovered that I found the guitar was pretty difficult to play due to having so many frets to keep in mind (some people can play 31edo guitars with precision, I don’t know how they do it!) Also, most of the new extra notes create rather dissonant harmonies. I was struggling to do anything I found worthwhile with it.

Later, I made [xendeavor one], which had one song in 10edo, The Katechon. While composing that song, I was surprised by how consonant I found the tuning. In my experience, when hearing a new alternative system to 12edo, there’s always an adjustment period — initially the tuning sounds strange, but after listening to it for a period of time it can end up sounding as “normal” as 12edo… just… different. I found my ears normalized 10edo very quickly compared to some other tunings. Later, I made MMXX, where I experimented with 10edo further on the song Rise. Again I was particularly intrigued by it as a tuning.

After much consideration, I decided that I wanted to try 10edo on guitar. Firstly, I knew at this point that I loved the sound that 10edo offers. Secondly, where 24edo is more complex due to having twice as many notes, trying 10edo would go the other direction — in theory, it would be simpler to play than 12edo, due to having fewer frets to keep in mind. Thirdly, while playing my 24edo guitar, I found I was always still mentally locked into 12edo thinking due to the fact that all of the 12edo notes are still present. 10edo shares only one interval with 12edo, the 600 cent tritone (which is present in all even-numbered EDOs). Other than that, it offers entirely different potential harmony. (Though due to having 2 fewer frets, it offers a more limited palette of scales with which to experiment…)

Once again, I began the process of getting a custom neck fabricated. As with my 24edo guitar, I was highly pleased with the result. The big difference was that with this guitar, I was immediately able to pick it up and play things that I found usable/worthwhile. The songs on [escape] are each the result of picking a particular mode of a 10edo scale and seeing what comes naturally from exploring it on this guitar.

One interesting side effect of playing the 10edo guitar for a while is that I now find it much easier to play my 24edo guitar than I did before. Where I used to play the 24edo guitar and get stuck thinking in terms of 12edo with extra notes, playing the 10edo guitar helped break the habits built up by more than 2 decades of 12edo guitar thinking. Now that I can comfortably play the 24edo guitar, there will definitely be some quarter-tone work coming in the future that will feature it.

Other Notes:

This is my first complete solo release in over 2 years. Between the pandemic, having a second baby in our family, and spending every single personal free moment I had for a year on a career transition, I had very little time or energy left to produce musical projects. The effects of the pandemic on daily life have lessened, our baby is growing up, and I’ve settled in comfortably in my new line of work. This has left me with much more time and energy to make music. But once I had free time again, I found my musical momentum was low. I have had 6 projects in various stages of completion that have built up (the oldest of which was begun in 2016), but I couldn’t bring myself to actually open Pro Tools and do any work on any of them. This album is an active refreshment of my creative process. I used it to rebuild my momentum. Now that this is done, I am finding much joy in picking those other sessions back up. I look forward to sharing each one of them as they reach completion.

On another note, this is the first release on which I felt inspired to do fully sung vocals since my 2014 math rock offering, Vanishings. For many years I had only felt inspired to make instrumental music or music with harsh vocals… but I’ve always loved singing. Now that I’ve removed that mental block I will definitely be releasing more music with sung vocals as time moves forward. It was especially fun to sing on something microtonal! I’ve wanted to try that since first experimenting with alternative tuning systems.

Thanks to Ron Sword of Metatonal Music for the alternate-EDO neck fabrication, installation, and setup.

Thanks to Jack Shirley of The Atomic Garden for his mastering work on this EP.

Thank you to my wife Laura for the cover art.

Gapless w/ Lyrics on YouTube:

Stream or Download/Purchase (name-your-price) on Bandcamp:

Melopoeia – Tolkien – Valaquenta

valaquenta cover

Melopoeia – Tolkien – Valaquenta

melopoeia.bandcamp.com

Here is an unusual project for which I am playing drums. It falls under the classification of scriptophonic microtonal black metal.

For anyone unfamiliar, in scriptophonic music, the artist designs an algorithm which converts text into musical notes.

Again for anyone unfamiliar, microtonal music utilizes pitches that fall outside of the standard twelve tone equal divisions of the octave musical system (12edo). In this case, we are dividing the octave into 26 equal parts (26edo), one for each letter of the alphabet.

We are converting the entirety of Tolkien’s Valaquenta into music via an algorithm that Dave Tremblay programmed using Python. The algorithm generates the guitar parts from the text, which are played by Dave on a real 26edo guitar and bass. I am then given free rein to write and record drum parts that support those guitar parts. Finally, Brian Leong is providing the vocals, placing the words that were used to generate the guitar parts on top of each section.

There are 29 pieces total and we are recording and releasing them one at a time. The scope of this project is very large and so it will probably take a long time to finish!

26 more to come.

 

 

[syzygy] – [loiterer]

loiterer cover

[syzygy] – [loiterer]

syzygybnr.bandcamp.com

In 2017, I was experimenting with algorithmic composition using Pure Data. I made two songs, Key West and Adrift. I intended to make many more and to eventually put the collection on Bandcamp but other projects took precedence. I have finally decided to rectify their absence on the page.

More information about Key West (a brief writeup):
jonlervold.com/loiterer-key-west/

More information about Adrift (a thorough writeup, with video of the exact playthrough found on this release):
jonlervold.com/loiterer-adrift/

Yaeth – MMXX

yaeth-mmxx-cover

Yaeth – MMXX

yaeth.bandcamp.com

This album is a look back at the hellish year behind us with its attempted authoritarian takeover of the US government, mass death brought about by a bungled federal government response to a deadly global pandemic, crushing misery and isolation brought about by that same pandemic, severe civil unrest due to deep-seated racial inequities, and massive natural disasters fueled by the poor environmental choices collectively made by humanity. It is a prayer for a better world ahead.

Like my album [xendeavor one] from February 2020, this album explores ways of dividing the octave other than the standard 12 equally spaced notes, which is the system that the vast majority of music in the world utilizes. These alternate systems can result in strange and otherworldly tonalities. I had been wanting to make a microtonal black metal album for a few years, and I began this album in early March. As we all know, this is right when the year’s events really kicked off, and so the creation of this album is intimately tied to and influenced by these world events.

Yaeth is the pseudonym I use in my band Bull of Apis Bull of Bronze. This album turned out stylistically and thematically similar in many ways to that project. Once I finished work composing the album I realized that, due to those ties, Yaeth was the only fitting name for this project.

Cover art by Laura Lervold.

Available on cassette via Bandcamp – BNR2020.

Destiny Theft – My Life With Closed Eyes

dtcover

Destiny Theft – My Life With Closed Eyes

destinytheft.bandcamp.com

 

My Life With Closed Eyes is an EP long in the making. As many people who have followed my releases over the years know, I like to invent a set of musical rules and then see what compositions come about when following those rules. For years my good friend Mike Thompson and I had joked about starting a project called “Basses Loaded,” which would feature every member of the band except the drummer playing bass.

In January 2018 I decided to play around with that formula. These songs were the result. Once I had the bass parts all written, I was struck by how video-game-music inspired it sounded, and decided that it made sense to use my v-drum kit for the kick, snare, and toms, to further lean into that sound. (The cymbals are real.)

Originally, I planned to sing on this release, but only bits and pieces of lyrics and melodies were coming to me. I had a mental block. I knew exactly why: every time I listened to the instrumental recordings, I imagined the voice of my old bandmate Buddy Hale. Buddy was the singer for my first reasonably-successful band, Phantom Float, way back in 2008. I have always been a fan of his work, and I felt like this EP would only be what it was supposed to be if I could get him to sing on it.

I was elated when he agreed to participate! I sent him the instrumentals and waited for a while. He would send me bits and pieces… an isolated vocal harmony here, the sound of scissors clipping there. I had no idea what to expect. Then one day, unexpectedly, a bounce with completed vocals appeared in my inbox. And I loved how it had all come together.

Then we spent a long time working on the mix, art, and release details. And here we are today. I could not be more excited to finally share this with the world.

Cover art by Laura Lervold.

 

Liminal Veil

lvcover1200

Liminal Veil

liminalveil.bandcamp.com

My 2014 release Bird Surgeon – Vanishings is a math rock album that was heavily influenced by screamo. Ever since putting that out, I’ve wanted to do the inverse and write some music that is primarily skramz but heavily influenced by math rock. This is that.

This EP was inspired by the corruption and ineptitude of the Trump administration, the smoke-filled-room political dealings that took down the Sanders campaigns in the 2016 and 2020 primaries, and the bungled pandemic response which has resulted in millions losing work while the billionaires continue to rake in unconscionable profits. Our representation in this country is bought by the mega wealthy and the big corporations to protect profits for shareholders above all else. This is an indictment – not only against the cartoonish evil of the Republican party leadership but also against the complicity of the Democrats in maintaining this system. It is a call to fight, to do what you can with what you have in order to make change to this broken system.

Available on cassette via Bandcamp – BNR2001

 

Planetary Scale

theplanetaryscale

Planetary Scale

jonlervold.bandcamp.com/track/planetary-scale

This musical sketch utilizes Dave Tremblay’s The Planetary Scale, which takes the planets’ relative distances from the sun and converts them into (you guessed it) a scale.

0.00 ¢: Sun
11.77 ¢: Mercury
21.98 ¢: Venus
30.40 ¢: Earth
46.31 ¢: Mars
158.18 ¢: Jupiter
291.36 ¢: Saturn
583.34 ¢: Uranus
913.31 ¢: Neptune
1200.00 ¢: Pluto

[syzygy] – [xendeavor one]

xendeavor one cover

[syzygy] – [xendeavor one]

syzygybnr.bandcamp.com

Once again, I present a [syzygy] album. Once again, it has an entirely different sound than anything that has come from the project before.

What ties [syzygy]’s albums together is an approach of minimalistic experimentation and a musical atmosphere of unease. In the case of [visitor], the experiment was to see what I could do with just my untuned piano and a fretless bass. In the case of [ouroboros], it was to see what could be done with only a mixing board plugged into itself. With [xendeavor one], the experiment was to delve headfirst into the world of microtonal* electronic music.

The vast majority of Western music uses the 12 equal divisions of the octave tuning system (12edo). These songs use 7 other possible EDOs (10, 11, 15, 19, 31, 37, and 85), an overtone scale, and an undertone scale.

The term “microtonal” tends to conjure expectations of extremely dissonant, noisy, and/or unstructured music for some people because a lot of music labeled “microtonal” fits those descriptions. But it doesn’t have to! There is plenty of melody and harmony available to utilize within these systems. And you get the bonus of unique intervals and chords that are impossible in 12edo.

Since I discovered microtonality a few years ago I have really wanted to make this album. I tried to start a couple of times and was never happy with my results but this time it all clicked. I am very excited to share this with the world.

* If after reading this you have no idea what I’m talking about here, see the “Microtonality” section of my Loiterer – Adrift writeup for some further explanation. Or check out the Wikipedia article.

Listen gapless on YouTube

syzygyx1tape

Cassettes were made in the print shop and are available via Big Name Records and through the Bandcamp.

Yoga Fire! – San Francisco Rush: Extreme Racing: A Tribute Album

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Yoga Fire! – San Francisco Rush: Extreme Racing: A Tribute Album

yogafirewa.bandcamp.com

***This album specifically covers the N64 version. Sorry PS1 and arcade fans. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯***

Rush is a classic game. When it was released on the N64, reviewers said that it was brilliant – one of the top three games available on the system. Today it seems to be mostly forgotten. In my opinion it’s still an incredibly fun game whether you have never played before or if you’re someone who has been refining their skills on the game’s tracks for years.

The style here is a departure from my earlier Street Fighter 2 cover album. This album is more straightforward, and at times significantly more absurd. That’s a function of the source material. As with the previous album, I kept the melodic content mostly spot on to the game while altering the percussion to my own taste. I hope there are a few people out there who have the same kind of nostalgia for this game and its music that I do.

In the rare bits of spare time I’ve gotten this year I’ve been playing the heck out of Rush again trying to master the tracks. One day last April I picked up my guitar and plunked out a few of these songs absentmindedly. Turns out they’re pretty fun to play. Fast forward 6 months and this album exists.

Thanks to my wife Laura for the awesome watercolor replication of the game’s cover art.

Next up (without a 6 year gap between) will be the N64 classic Goldeneye, which will return more to the vein of the Street Fighter 2 album.

Listen gapless on YouTube