Michael J. Schumacher
Weave
CD (E78)




Michael J. Schumacher is a composer, performer and installation
artist based in New York City. He works predominantly with
electronic and digital media, specifically computer-generated
sound environments that evolve continuously for long time
periods. These environments are created using multiple speaker
configurations that relate the sounds of the installation to the
architecture of the exhibition space. Architectural and acoustical
considerations therefore become basic structural elements.
  In 2007 Schumacher and Nisi Jacobs began DRAW, an audio-
video performance group. They create immersive live sets based
on collaborative compositions.
  Schumacher was founder and director of Diapason in Brooklyn,
a gallery devoted to sound art. Since 2001, it has presented the
work of over 300 sound and media artists, including premieres
by David Behrman, Jacob Kirkegaard, Stephen Vitiello, Leif Inge
and others. Diapason presented Colour Projections by Theo Burt
and Hands in the air, reach for the laser, a new installation piece
by EVOL’s Roc Jiménez de Cisneros, in March 2010.

About Weave

Loom is an exploration of song form: intro, verse, solo,
verse, outro. Sounds include recordings of various motors,
pumps, musical ensembles drastically sped up, traffic,
guitar, organ, synth.

Malaise is a set of unrelated improvised recordings played
simultaneously and unfolded in time through algorithmic
processes.

Part Music is an algorithmically edited (distorted) version
of an algorithmically manipulated two-part acoustic guitar
performance.

ErosIon was commissioned by the 2008 Ear to the Earth
Festival organised by the Electronic Music Foundation in
New York. It was presented at the festival in eight-channel
surround with a four-channel video by Nisi Jacobs. The
piece is built up from an array of field and object record-
ings: traffic, power tools, a cement mixer, a revolving door,
staples, hammering, a cafeteria in Princeton, New Jersey,
an elevator, the composer pushing a large subwoofer across
a wooden floor, as well as a ‘found’ drum track and an
extended guitar improvisation.

Refrain is composed of similarities, punctuated by ‘causes’.
Sounds: recordings of a children’s birthday party, a windy
day in Estonia, an old bicycle, out-takes by a well-known
pop band, a blues musician, the composer rapping on the
body of a piano, plucking its strings, etc.

The CD also includes two DRAW videos:

Two Weeks: “Somewhere, a motor played.” Dialogue.
A man, a girl, an audience. The title, whispered.

A Dream I Had: A ten year-old’s dream and yet... not
failure, not self-realisation. Thanks to Jane Rigler. Nisi
Jacobs used spectrographic analysis to generate the raw
material used in the videos. These moving heat graphs
turn sound into drawing. The size, palette, density and
speed of sound files are the stars of these movies.

See also
Michael J. Schumacher/NMD (E109)

Edition of 300 copies





Reviews

Schumacher focuses his research primarily on electronic and digital
media, computer-generated sounds that iterate over fairly long
periods of time, serialising sequences from multiple physical sources
and structural elements. In Weave there are sampled engines, pumps
and urban field recordings, in addition to sounds of traditional instru-
ments, such as guitars, pianos and organs. Among the techniques
used, we find improvised recordings, carried out simultaneously and
then spread through time using algorithmic processes. There are also
more intimate and everyday ‘captures’, such as voices — those of
children at a birthday party — or atypical field recordings, which were
selected not only for their frequencies and tones, but also for their
‘narrative’ empathy; for their emotional contiguity and character.
The CD also includes two interesting videos, in which the concrete
parameters of the sounds are rendered into stylised graphic designs.
(Italian version)

Aurelio Cianciotta at Neural

My first encounter with Schumacher dates back to 1999, when I
nearly became an addict to the guitar-driven Fidicin Drones. But the
man is not one who stays on a ground for long, and nowadays his
idiom is mainly computerised, much less static, always inexplicably
fascinating, its scope widened to range between the universe of
installations and membrane-tickling acousmatics (the latter aspect
symbolised by the percussively zesty, rock-ish ErosIon). [Weave’s]
six audio and two video tracks... testify once again to the versatility
and the multihued qualities of this artist’s conceptions. In the magni-
ficent Loom we meet the ebb and flow of low frequency, the aquatic
character of certain impulses, the incessant jangle of concreteness,
synthetic signals coming out of anywhere. Malaise is a chain of
obsessively repeated fragments including percussive knocks, scalar
exercises on a piano keyboard and misshapen easy melodies. Part
Music investigates the hidden traits and the resonant features of
an acoustic guitar (with special preference for the textural tissue of
pinched harmonics); the conclusive Refrain utilises micro-flashes of
famous songs amidst autumnal urban ambiances and solitary chords
and pitches on the piano, the whole interspersed by snippets from
old vinyl and ‘familiar’ found sounds that can’t actually be deciphered
(someone is definitely playing tennis, though). Great stuff, like the
bulk of this stimulating CD.

Massimo Ricci at Touching Extremes

The music on Weave is choppier (funkier, even, if the subtle back-
beats on ErosIon are anything to go by) than previous Schumacher
outings this century (remember, those gnarly sonic dogpiles with
Donald Miller were released before the millennium bug failed to
bite). Schumacher is responsible not only for the algorithmic hi-
tech wizardry that he uses to sequence his material, but also, here,
for the instrumental source sounds themselves — piano, guitars,
field recordings — though help is also at hand from flautist Jane
Rigler and Polwechsel’s Michael Moser on cello. Schumacher wisely
credits himself with ‘composition’ too – rightly so, as it’s clear that
music as coherent and structured as this is the result of human
intervention. Indeed, he describes the opening 17-minute cut Loom 
as ‘an exploration of song form: intro, verse, solo, verse, outro’ —
though if you’re expecting The Ramones you’ve got the wrong
album. Complexity, more often than not of the kind of polymetrical
nature that would have Elliott Carter’s centenarian blessing, is the
name of the game in Schumacher’s music, and there are several
ways to hear the abovementioned form in the music itself. The
most impressive track in this regard is ErosIon, an 18-minute tour
de force
featuring guitar, percussion and loops of ‘traffic, power
tools, a cement mixer, a revolving door, staples, hammering,
a cafeteria, an elevator, the composer pushing a large subwoofer
across a wooden floor’ commissioned by the Ear to the Earth festival
in 2008. The listening experience is not always comfortable — in
fact, Malaise, with its piano scales bludgeoned into submission by
dull thudding percussion or hacked to pieces by vicious scything
synthesizer, is, as its title suggests, decidedly unpleasant at times —
but it’s consistently fascinating and always musical. I see that
my worthy constituent Brian Olewnick [Just Outside; see below],
compared Malaise to Herbie Hancock’s Sextant, but I think he got
the wrong piece — I suspect it’s the one after he was thinking
of, the four-minute scherzo Urge, with its Patrick Gleeson bleeps
and bips scattered across a grid of racy pulsing polyrhythms.
Schumacher describes the track that follows it, Part Music, as
‘an algorithmically edited (distorted) version of an algorithmically
manipulated two-part acoustic guitar performance’ — but don’t
let that fool you into thinking he’s taking a back seat. You can
buy the snazziest food processor on the market but that won’t
make your soup taste better: it’s the ingredients that count, and
Schumacher’s ear for melodic, harmonic and rhythmic hooks is
as sharp as George Clinton’s.

Dan Warburton at Paris Transatlantic

Six top notch instrumentals. The first, Loom, is undoubtedly the
most convincing: it groups together ordinary or almost ordinary
instruments (guitar, organ, motors, samples) in an atmospheric
music which instantly grabs the listener. Part Music focuses on
the guitar (wherein Schumacher reappraises finger picking) while
Refrain recalls the work of Four Tet, before abandoning itself to
the whims that are rhythm and noise. As for the other compo-
sitions ,Schumacher seems to stroll through light structures,
with Malaise turning to the anecdotic and Urge sounding refresh-
ingly and sarcastically like experimental pop, à la Stereolab.
Yet, the truth of Michael J. Schumacher is elsewhere, in all that
Weave does not have the time to say but leaves in its wake.

Pierre Cécile at Le son du grisli

I often use the term ‘loopy’ to describe a kind of synth approach
that generally rubs me the wrong way and, to an extent, that’s
the case here. Some of it, like the track Malaise, reminded
me strongly of Patrick Gleeson’s work circa Hancock’s Sextant;
I vacillated between thinking of that as a good or bad thing, but
overall, nah, I’d rather hear the original. When he reins things
in a bit, as on the lovely Part Music, the results are enchanting
while still retaining enough glitchiness to provide a welcome
itch. Finally, on ErosIon, Schumacher manages to up the loopy
energy to an insane enough degree (and add synthesised per-
cussion) that the stew begins to bubble ’n’ boil. Pretty rockin’,
actually, good stuff. Worth it for these 18 minutes alone, the
intensity and giddiness strongly maintained over its length.

Brian Olewnick at Just outside