ELUVIUM – SHUFFLE DRONES
Now here’s an interesting new concept of listening/composing:
For Shuffle Drones, Eluvium (Matthew Cooper from Oregon) constructed 23 short fragments of string music (each of them 32 seconds long, with two exceptions), meant to be played continuously in random order for as long as you wish.
Each fragment seamlessly merges with every other of the 22 remaining. There is a clear beginning, but from there there is no end – until you manually stop the music playing.
In its most orthodox form of listening to this album, listening to the 23 tracks in the presented order, the album is only 13 minutes long.
But then you’re missing the point completely! The correct way of listening is made clear by the track ‘titles’ that read as a listening instruction:
“simply put / the suggested manner/ of listening / to this work / is to isolate / the collection / and to randomize / the play pattern / on infinite repeat- / thus creating / a shuffling / drone orchestration / -the intent / is to create / a body / of work / specifically designed for / and in disruption of / modern listening habits / and to suggest something / peaceful, complex / unique, and ever-changing / thank you”
Put the track order on shuffle and the album on full repeat … and what you get is an infinite composition of beautiful soft string ensemble music in endless permutations!
I’m not very good at math myself, so I used the permutation calculator to find that there are 4.116.715.363.800 possible combinations of 23 items chosen randomly.
It’s safe to say that no-one will ever get to hear all combinations – and of course it’s no use at all to get thát extreme.
With a concept like this, the release can of course only be digital: no physical edition would ever allow gapless randomized playback. And you have to make sure that your digital music player supports gapless playing of tracks (most of them will, but the online Bandcamp player doesn’t. And the Spotify play cannot play gapless either so that won’t work very well (*)).
It is an amazing thing to hear these tiny fragments come together into a moving composition, flowing softly in and out of themes and changing focus continuously for as long as you leave it on.
(By the way: if you’re a last.fm ‘scrobbler’, this might easily move Eluvium to the top of your most-listened artist lists, since every fragment counts as a single track).
Before listening myself I assumed that the piece would probably get a bit boring rather quick, because it was made of short repeating fragments. The opposite turned out to be true: I could easily listen to Shuffle Drones for hours.
A fascinating example of ‘chance music’ and thinking out of the (CD-)box!
(*) Edit 14-12:
This is not quite true, actually. The Spotify desktop player cán play gapless if you turn on crossfade (in advanced settings) and set it to 0 sec. (Thanks to Dave Michuda for mentioning this).
I still recommend buying the album from the artist when you intend to listen to it more than once, though.
(*) Edit 14-12:
Works in iTunes with crossfade preferences set to 12 and random play. (Thanks to Janek Schaefer for this tip)