Microtonal Archive


Ben Luca Robertson, co-founder of Aphonia Recs with New Ensemble Release

Natricinae is the first official release by Aphonia Recordings co-founder, Ben Luca Robertson’s microtonal chamber group, Dancing for the Flesh. The group is composed of a revolving lineup of musicians & multi-disciplinary collaborators. The roster for this recording features vocalist & multi-instrumentalist, Amy Denio, Emily Pothast (voice) & Timm Mason (aka Mood Organ; bass) of Midday Veil, Riding the Slow Wave of Death’s Jackie An (violin), Ian Ackerman (violin) & Gabriel Will (viola) of Problems, Emma Mortensen (violin), Derek M. Johnson (cello), & Nathan Westlund (cello), as well as Ben Luca Robertson performing on an array of homemade instruments, electronics, & interactive software; which he designed and built for these pieces.

A collection of three chamber-drone pieces (recorded over the last five years), Natricinae merges the composer’s interest in spectral music, ‘just’ tuning systems, & autonomous processes with distinctly biological themes, such as taxonomy & regional herpetofauna (A glance through an Auduban field guide sheds immediate light to the track titles: Thamnophis sirtalis, elegans, & natricinae). As is the case in much of his work, Robertson addresses these subjects by supplanting narrative structure with an emphasis on the physicality of sound, the use of extended durations, & musical structures that occupy the cusp between algorithm and improvisation.

Perhaps just short of channeling the cantankerous specter of Harry Partch – all be it, by way of transducer & algorithm – Robertson’s obsession with charting the upper reaches of the harmonic series necessitates the creation of new instruments and approaches to performance. Consequently, instruments constructed from re-purposed aluminum channeling (i.e. The Alumi-tone), steel strings & rods, electromagnets, digital projections, and resonant spaces make their way on to this recording.


Series 4 Podcast: The Precambrian

A little late this month, The Precambrian performs at the Gallery 1412 on April 4th 2008.

Series 4 Podcast: The Precambrian


Aphonia Recordings Monthly Series Pt. 5

Aphonia Recordings Monthly Series #5:
Friday, May 2nd
Gallery 1412
1412 18th ave – Seattle


-Ben L. Robertson + Gabe Will

KRGA is the project of Seattle area musician Kristian Garrard. Drawing upon a background in software synthesis, jazz drumming, voice, and guitar, Kristian aims to combine the sounds of any and all instruments around into thick, swarming clouds of tones using home-made software. Despite KRGA’s capacity for aural density, the vast majority of his pieces are performed using only one or two instruments as source material. KRGA has recently released two recordings (“Magic Wand & “June”) on Aphonia Recordings.

Additionally, this series will debut a collaboration between Aphonia Recordings co-founder Ben L. Robertson (‘The Precambrian’) & violist Gabe Will of Olympia-based microtonal drone-band ‘Problems’. United by a mutual fascination with just intonation & chance operations, each collaborator finds his niche within a single, software-based performance environment. Through a battery of microtonal pitch recognition algorithms & probability-based functions developed in Max/MSP, discreet notes & found sounds alike are distilled into a single resonant mass.



Problems LIVE at the Gallery 1412

Time to catch the Problems set at Gallery 1412 on Feb 1st, 2008. You can download this show via the iTunes Music Store. Just type “aphonia” into the search field and you will be able to “rock the party.”

Problems, Paintings for Animals and the Precambrian will have new releases available for sale on the Aphonia Recordings online store.

In other news, an official Aphonia Recordings compilation CD will be released at the next Aphonia Recordings showcase taking place on March 7th, 2008 at Gallery 1412. We hope to see you there!

Problems LIVE at the Gallery 1412


Myello & Problems Commissioned for Upcoming Installation Series

OKOK Gallery Presents:
Environmental Aesthetics

Installation and site-specific sound compositions
from the 2007 Satsop Residency

Receptions to be held at the OKOK Gallery (5107 Ballard Ave. NW seattle, wa) Jan. 9th, 7pm – 9pm and Jan. 12th, 7-9pm

Seattle, WA” OKOK Gallery proudly welcomes arts collective Environmental Aesthetics as it presents three site-specific sound compositions from its inaugural Satsop Residency Program.

In 2006 Environmental Aesthetics founders Gabe Bacon and Paul Schrag were granted access to Satsop Development Park, which operates on the site of a would-be nuclear power facility in Elma, Wa. In the late 1970s, Satsop was a component of the largest nuclear power plant construction project in U.S. history. The project comprised plans for five nuclear power reactors to be built in Hanford, and Elma WA, located 25 miles west of the state capitol. The project was cancelled after the budget swelled into the billions and nuclear energy fell out of favor with the general public. At the time of the cancellation, construction of the Satsop site was near completion.

Today, massive remnants of the project remain, including Cooling Tower No. 5, which was selected as the site of the Environmental Aesthetics residency program. The concrete tower rests beside the Chehalis River, rising nearly 500 feet in the air, its 15-foot-thick concrete wall encircling four acres of grass covered soil. To date, the structure has remained gated and largely unused. The Satsop Residency aims to reinterpret this epic monument as a sublime environment with the potential to function as an all encompassing artistic medium, emphasizing the interplay between site-specific sonic art, seemingly obsolete industrial architecture and the natural environment.

The three artists awarded the first annual Satsop Residency include: Seattle artist Yann Novak, Olympia artist Myello, and Olympia quartet Problems. In September 2007, the artists were invited interpret the tower sonically. The artists used on-site recordings to produce sound compositions representative of their individual responses to the tower’s form and acoustic qualities. These compositions and an accompanying sculptural installation will be presented at Ballard’s OKOK Gallery.

About Environmental Aesthetics:

Environmental Aesthetics was established in 2005 by Gabriel Bacon and Paul Schrag. The organization aims to foster the reinterpretation and re-contextualization of particular human and natural environments by initiating shifts in accepted historical and conventional classifications.

About The Artists:

Yann Novak is a Seattle based sound artist and founder of Dragon’s Eye Recordings. Novak uses field recordings and digital manipulation to produce compositions. These works offer Novak’s interpretation of the emotional effect of specific physical environments and emphasize the expressive nature of time and place.

Problems is an Olympia based group composed of Ian Ackerman, Joe Kuta, Warren Lee and Gabe Will. Through sound, the group actively collaborates and engages with the specific interiors in which their compositions take form. Focusing on sustained tones and the phantom melodies that arise within them, they expose microstructures and rich polyforms found within sustained pitch.

Myello is Olympia based composer Daniel Farrell. Farrell identifies his works as non-narrative associative sound poems, which are strongly informed by Surrealist philosophies and compositional strategies. Using significant and familiar sounds, and digital manipulation, Farrell’s compositions aspire to invoke the ecstatic nature of the human spirit against the backdrop of what he describes as the technological totality.

click here to preview tracks from and/or purchase Myello’s latest Aphonia Recordings release, ‘Composites & Variations On Forms’.

Also, stay tuned for an upcoming collaboration by Gabe Will (problems) & Aphonia Recordings co-founder/microtonalist, Ben L. Robertson.


Aphonia Podcast Part One – A Chat with Ben L. Robertson

I hope this works. Enjoy us fluffing our feathers in this half informative conversation with Aphonia artists Ben L. Robertson and Andrew Senna. Enjoy their ramblings on psychoacoustics, acoustics, tuning systems, microtonality and other lofty sound/music related nerd stuff.