Marsen Jules – Shadows in Time

Generative music is music that is created using algorithms that chooses from a defined set of parameters. A random factor means that – theoretically – the music is never exactly the same. It may sound the same, but it isn’t. A bit like a fire in a fireplace may look the same, but never is.

This poses a problem when recording generative music: a recording isn’t generative by nature.
Brian Eno, who has experimented a lot with generative music with his music for installations, tackled this problem by releasing his music to be played on a (now obsolete) soundcard using Koan Generative Music software (now also obsolete). Or by releasing it as Apps for mobile devices.

For his latest release Shadows in Time, Marsen Jules chose a different approach to present the generative nature of his composition: it is released in 300+ different unique variations!

First, there’s the static version, released on CD (including download). “Static” means that all CD’s contain exactly the same version of the 49’26” piece.
But there are also unique variations, each one recorded separately to (great looking) USB-flash drives – so each USB-drive is containing a different version of the piece (in high quality WAV as well as in MP3 format).
And, for the extreme collector, there is also a limited edition (of 10) transparent vinyl 12″ pressings available, each one featuring a different 12 minute recording of the piece. Which means that each of these vinyls is a unique pressing of which only one exists… !

Unique as they are, for the listener they are of course still ‘fixed’ recordings of the piece and thus not ‘true’ generative versions.
But the idea of a different, unique version for every single vinyl or USB copy is still a fascinating approach to the concept of Generative Music!

“As unique every single moment might be, in the end it’s only a shadow in time. But to experience this uniqueness over and over again, is entirely up to the one who is experiencing it.
What, on the surface, conveys the impression of steady repetitions, in detail turns out to be a constant variation of continuous uniqueness.”

These are strictly conceptual musings, of course, not relevant for those that simply buy the (CD- or download) version to enjoy the music.
Shadows in Time is a lovely piece of ambient music, gently evolving and revolving, making you lose your sense of time: the 50 minutes could also have been a few hours. It is non-distractive music that fills the background with the bright and pleasing atmosphere that is the trademark of Marsen Jules’ sound.
Listening to this music is exactly the same as staring into the fireplace: you either stare into the fire and let your thoughts drift, or you’ll constantly shift focus and start seeing/hearing many different details.

It’s ‘an artful ode to the uniqueness of the here and now’.


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