Extra-curricular Listening pt. 3 - Holographic w/ Composer JP Merz / by Liquid Music

 JP Merz (left) Daniel Wohl (right)

JP Merz (left) Daniel Wohl (right)

As purveyors of contemporary chamber music with a growing and increasingly adventurous audience, we are wholeheartedly committed to the creation and cultivation of new and diverse types of music. An essential part of this process is providing bridges and context for new listeners to discover and appreciate what could sometimes be considered "challenging" music. Context that we will attempt (<—key word) to provide through our 'Extra-curricular Listening' blog series.

For each concert we will provide some extracurricular listening (or watching) and some rabbit holes for LM followers to excavate and discover their own exciting but perhaps obscure corner of the music world.

This week JP Merz, composer, sound artists, and Daniel Wohl super fan shares his playlist for Daniel Wohl's Holographic.

Nic Collins

A lot of the electronic textures and techniques on Holographic could be characterized as “glitch music”. Producing sounds by intentionally misusing software, hardware, and audio files, glitch music is a tradition in which failure and “unwanted” sounds are embraced. In referencing this aesthetic, Wohl exposes the technology, highlighting the agency of humans interfacing within a digital system. One of the earliest concert works to use glitching as a musical element is Nic Collins’ string quartet titled Broken Light (1992) which involves hacked CD players which skip in a somewhat controlled but occasionally unpredictable way. This technique and material lends itself to the repetitive shifting textures with interruptions from wild, erratic flurries of notes. This glitch technique and process is featured prominently on Wohl’s own piece Progression.

Alva Noto + Ryuichi Sakamoto

In Holographic, Wohl seamlessly blends melodies and instruments from the concert hall with sounds and aesthetics from the club. A classic collaboration between classical and electronica music is the album Vrioon by Alva Noto and Ryuichi Sakamoto. Sakamoto, a prominent Japanese contemporary classical composer, recorded light, floating piano tracks and sent them to Alva Noto, a German electronica musician and visual artist, who manipulated them and added his own sounds. On this album, Alva Noto uses a technique called “microsound”, which takes a small, usually microseconds long, audio file and loops it so fast that it produces a new, distinctly electronic sound. The two have come together again, along with The National’s Bryce Dessner, to produce the soundtrack for the 2015 film, The Revenant, starring Leonardo Di Caprio.

Pamela z

On the track Source, Wohl collaborates with Caroline Shaw and Olga Bell, whose voices emerge from and dissipate into the thick electronic texture. Pamela Z is a composer/performer, who also works with vocal manipulations to create electronic textures but in a completely different way. Pamela Z often creates her own tools which utilize gesture and movement to manipulate her live vocal recordings. In this piece, BREATHING, it’s difficult to tell which sounds are coming from her and which are coming from her laptop, creating a blend of the acoustic and electronic that is characteristic of Wohl’s own music.


Holographic is filled a variety of sound sources, from recordings of musicians like the Bang on a Can All Stars (Holographic) to fingernails clacking on a keyboard (Pixel). Electronic duo Matmos is also interested in sound sources, but in a more focused way, often crafting entire albums from just a few sources. Their album California Rhinoplasty primarily uses recordings from plastic surgery. Out of their original context, these sounds take on their own life and can be appreciated for their unique sonic qualities.



Holly Herndon

Laptop performer and composer, Holly Herndon, shares a like-minded interest in the relationship between humans and technology. In Herdon’s piece Chorus, the sound from websites Herndon visits is monitored and recorded, then used to create the sporadic and intense layers throughout the piece. In doing this, Herndon highlights the emotional content embedded in laptops, a device that has become increasingly personal. The manipulations of her voice to create accessible dance rhythms also references this human embodiment of technology and the power of technology to bring people together.

Flying Lotus

Compared to Holographic, Flying Lotus operates more in the world of hip-hop than classical, with altered drum loops rescued from old school funk or jazz albums. But both have an obsession with sounds that move, buzz, shimmer and pulsate, creating intricate, tapestry-like textures that have an organic sense of breath. In Flying Lotus’s music, the beat pushes and pulls and sounds fade in and out, feeling more like a collage than a song with clear form and structure.

The Rabbit Hole

Artists we couldn't fit in, but think are worth mentioning (in no particular order):

Ryoji Ikeda
Aphex Twin

Matmos + So Perc
Boards of Canada
Kaija Saariaho
Brian Eno
Angelica Negrón
Paul Lansky
Tim Hecker
William Basinski
Ingram Marshall
Nina C. Young

Special thanks to JP for his work on this post. Keep up on his goings on here:


Twitter: @LiquidMusicSPCO (twitter.com/LiquidMusicSPCO)
Instagram: @LiquidMusicSeries (instagram.com/liquidmusicseries)
Facebook: www.facebook.com/SPCOLiquidMusic/