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Sounds & Spaces 001: Max Cooper & The British Museum

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Sounds & Spaces 001: Max Cooper & The British Museum


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Shaun Bloodworth

When you find yourself lost in a labyrinth-like museum, strolling through a grand lobby, or spitting from the 40th floor of your favorite skyscraper rooftop, your senses become tuned to architecture in ways that are not so easily explained, but nonetheless relevant to our appreciation of it.

What does this have to do with electronic dance music?!

If you haven’t noticed by now, EDM is presently being mainlined into our culture. The bleeps, booms and hi-hats are outgrowing their “underground” cage, and it is about time we expand EDM’s horizons. As an experiment, Magnetic Magazine is challenging some of EDM’s most talented DJs and producers to render their own acute perceptions of an architectural space by way of a medium that we hold so dear, the DJ mix. Rather then limit your experience of a distant piece of architecture to a Google image search, Sounds & Spaces will establish an archive of EDM that will contribute to our perception and understanding of the built world’s most exalted gems.

For the first installment, we have engaged London based electronic musician Max Cooper. More of a “rhythm scientist” or soundscape engineer than a mere producer, Max, who has been producing music since 2007, has a PhD in computational biology from Nottingham University and became a geneticist at University College London. He has released over fifty original tracks, and has remixed the work of avant-garde composer Michael Nyman, Hot Chip, Agoria, Dominik Eulberg and many more. Needless to say, there really isn’t a better person to set the bar for this elusive task.

Sounds & Spaces 001: Max Cooper & The British Museum

I mixed it in a way to be like a journey though the museum, turning corners and regularly coming across something totally different and unexpected, with each track being like a different exhibit.

According to Blesser and Salter, the authors of Spaces Speak, Are You Listening?, “...aural architecture refers to the properties of a space that can be experienced by listening.” And it “...can stimulate anxiety, tranquility, socialization, isolation, frustration, fear, boredom, aesthetic pleasure and so on.” Tuning in to this aural architecture leads to “auditory spatial awareness,” and can affect things social behavior, our perception of space, our ability to navigate and “enhance our experience of music and voice.” It is this awareness that appears to be the initial point of departure for Max whose mix is inspired by the British Museum (established in 1753) featuring a rare combination of 12th century Tibetan monks, one of the first ever recordings of music made by Thomas Edison in 1888, poetic spoken word, a 9th century Gregorian Chant, some unreleased exclusives, 9/8 techno, traditional Chinese music, rude glitch and a few of his released staples.

Sounds & Spaces 001: Max Cooper & The British Museum

The British Museum, established in 1753, has been expanded numerous times over the past two centuries, and contains eight million separate works. One of the most significant architectural moments is the central quadrangle which was renovated by Foster and Partners during the late ‘90s, and is better known as the Great Courth. With a tesellated glass roof designed by Buro Happold, it is the largest covered square in Europe.

In Max’s own words...

“When I was doing my Post-Doc at UCL I used to go to the British Museum to relax, and work in the beautiful library there, so I chose the space for the mix. I wanted to capture the ambient atmosphere in the central courtyard, so I did some binaural recording to include in the mix. I also wanted to make the mix something of an exploration through history and ideas in line with the contents of the museum, so I brought in lots of disparate music spanning the centuries and continents. I also mixed it in a way to be like a journey though the museum, turning corners and regularly coming across something totally different and unexpected, with each track being like a different exhibit. Hence the name of the mix, in that, each piece of music almost has a visual content.”

[Note: Max’s additional notes on each track can be seen in the playlist below. –ED]

Synesthetes Museum: A Mix By Max Cooper

1. Max Cooper “Binaural Museum”

“The people are the exhibits in this audio museum. Recorded in the British Museum hall using binaural mics, which record the sound from inside the ear, thereby capturing the interaction of the sound between the physiology of the head and ears. The result is a more convincing 3-dimensional sound space than a normal mic can provide. Listen with your headphones and close your eyes, the sounds render a vivid scene of activity. I love all the different things going on in the space and the acoustics deliver an amazingly soft mesh of human sounds.”

2. A Winged Victory For The Sullen “Steep Hills of Vicodin Tears” (Erased Tapes)

3. Max Cooper “Woven Ancestry” (Unreleased)

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“This track was my attempt to represent musically, the idea of our cultural, mental and genetic ancestry woven together in a complex manner and yielding each living individual. For this purpose I chose three ancient instruments from different parts of the world. You can hear the West African Kora, the East African Nyatiti and the European Harp. I then set each instance of the corresponding instrument playing varied and undulating rhythms to yield an intense interaction of sounds from disparate regions, analogous to the ancestral tapestry of every living being.”

4. Adam Johnson “Anex” (Merck)

5. Peiyou Chang “Song of Gu Qin” (Peiyou Chang)

“This piece comprises a solo of the ancient Chinese instrument, the Guqin, whose origin dates from approximately 1000BC or earlier.”

6. Vaetxh “Randolph Pactali” (Unreleased)

“This track features one of the earliest known recorded pieces of music, by Thomas Edison, using a wax cylinder in 1888 to record ‘4000 voices singing G.F. Handel over 100 meters away.’ This recording sits in unaltered form in there amongst Rob’s 9/8 genius.”

7. Bonobo “Cirrus” (Ninja Tune)

8. ThermalBear “U Love” (Last Night On Earth)

9. Rockwell “Fluf” (Shogun Audio)

10. Xu Zhengyin “Dragon Boat” (China Record Corporation)

11. Unknown Origin “Gregorian Chant” (Edit)

“I found a nice Gregorian Chant written by an unknown composer from around the 9th century. I pitched the chant down to make it less recognizable as human, making it into more of a drone.”

12. MMOTHS “For Her” (Max Cooper Remix) (SQE Music)

13. Unknown Origin “The Call to the Lama from Afar” (Jade)

“This is a traditional Tibetan chant, maybe from around the 12th century.”

14. Rrose “Waterfall” (EAUX)

15. Nils Frahm “Peter” (Max Cooper Remix) (Erased Tapes)

16. James Yorkston “Woozy With Cider” (Jon Hopkins Remix) (Domino)

17. Max Cooper “Binaural Museum”

Sounds & Spaces 001: Max Cooper & The British Museum

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