Marcus Rubio

music for microphones

duet for processed contact mic
duet for contact mic and practice amp movement 1
duet for contact mic and practice amp movement 2
requiem for microphone and beer bottle
sonata for contact mic feedback and electronics movement 1
sonata for contact mic feedback and electronics movement 2
concerto for bowed microphone and electronics

All pieces composed, performed, and recorded by Marcus Rubio

Thanks: Richard Kamerman, Mark Trayle, Michael Pisaro, Ulrich Krieger, Graham Lambkin, Derek Rogers, Joe Reyes, Hanna Campbell, Tiny Mix Tapes, CEMEC, and my family.

glass-mastered CDs in full color digipacks
edition of 150 copies

A good amount of my work in recent years has been focused on the idea of fully exploring/exploiting the physical properties of various sound sources. Usually this is manifested through either hyper-specific notation for non musical objects or non-scored processes that utilize electronics/additional instrumentation to further exploit/highlight the acoustic anomalies of a particular sound producing object or instrument. music for microphones is very much a continuation of this work utilizing the latter group of methods. The ideas for these pieces were born out of a desire to explore the implicit concept embedded in Steve Reich’s “Pendulum Music” of the potential for microphones to be used as an instrument in and of themselves. These works employ the “playing” of a wide group of mostly inexpensive contact and condenser microphones through techniques such as alternating points of physical contact between the performer and the instrument, differently EQ-ed feedbacks, and instrument specific “extended technique” (i.e. bowing, hitting, placing of different surfaces, etc…). Each work is united by the common goal of utilizing the sonic anomalies of each microphone as a musical source itself. Additionally, various electronics (Supercollider, Ableton, amplifier settings…) were used to further highlight/manipulate these sounds. - MR

Rubio writes that he took as a starting point the classic (but relatively little known) work by Steve Reich, "Pendulum Music", where speakers were set swinging alongside one another generating semi-unpredictable results. Rubio takes matters a few steps further, using mics--their adjacency, contacts, abrasion, etc. to create an impressively wide range of noise. The first of seven cuts raised expectations with some great, watery pinging set amid rougher, drier soundage. To my ears, there's something of a loss in focus during the remainder of the first half of the disc; I found myself yearning for a more interesting structure to house the sounds, which have the danger of simply coming across as effects. But about halfway through, Rubio lowers the intensity level a bit and a fine, tensile lattice seems to emerge, the sounds--which continue to be marvelous--hanging in a kind of web that has its own fascination and enhances the hums, dings, ghostly flute-like tones and more. The last two tracks, including the final one where he becomes much more active but retains a fantastic sense of elastic structure, are excellent. This is my first exposure to Rubio's music (he says, cautiously)--eager to hear more.

- Brian Olwenick, Just Outside

I first came across Marcus Rubio’s work through his collaborative release Only the Imprint of an Echo Remains with poet and Kendra Steiner Editions label head, Bill Shute. Rubio used select spoken word pieces read by Shute as the raw materials for his electronic compositions that found him manipulating and time-stretching Shute’s voice beyond recognition and, interspersed throughout with the direct unaccompanied readings, into something hypnotizing and utterly arresting. There was something about Rubio’s electro-acoustic arrangements that were abstract yet playful, foreboding yet tranquil, droning yet undeniably musical. An investigation into Rubio’s recorded output shows that this former Texan-cum-Angeleno has been creating a captivating body of work that is equally as elusive as it is difficult to peg.

Now pursuing an MFA in composition at CalArts, Rubio often deals in highly conceptualized and sound-specific work like that heard on Only An Imprint of an Echo Remains. His recent album Music For Microphones for Copy For Your Records, for example, explores the sonic possibilities of various microphones and microphone feedback. Building on the ideas in Steve Reich’s “Pendulum Music,” wherein the legendary minimalist composer used swinging microphones as the main “instrument,” Rubio uses his microphone sound sources as compositional building blocks, shaping and manipulating these sounds through minimal electronic treatments and extended techniques. Regarding Music For Microphones, Rubio states that, “Since starting at CalArts, I've slowly come to realize that a lot of my work deals with specificity. I've always been interested in extended technique and doing very instrument/sound-specific things in a non-Classical/”new music” fashion. Last fall, I started realizing that I could apply these ideas to most sound-making objects, and as a result, I wrote a lot of pieces that utilized the acoustic anomalies of things like portable fans, beard trimmers, and walkie-talkies. Music For Microphones definitely draws on those ideas but also utilizes some fairly simple patches I built in SuperCollider that help sustain and amplify different sounds. SuperCollider was also something that I learned as a result of studying at CalArts. Initially, I wanted to use those SuperCollider patches for processing guitar but I was testing one of them with a cheap contact microphone and started getting such insane results that I knew I'd stumbled across something that was far more exciting and relevant to my work! As a result, I composed a bunch of pieces combining those ideas about specificity with various electronics to make the album.”

- David Perron, Decoder