“Chorus” begins with minimalist electronic sounds and ethereal snippets of vocals that play intermittently until one can make out a hint of a beat. This hint then builds slowly and gracefully to form a true beat, overlaid with ethereal vocals that hit consistently throughout the duration of the song. Ultimately, this work can be described as a post-minimalist music combined artfully with techno. Kirn, Peter (January 23, 2014).
This song was inspired by the time we as a society spend on our devices and online. It explores the mundane, everyday activities associated with work and leisure time spent online, including email and Skype. The vocals for this project were samples of random Skype conversations Herndon participated in.
In an interview with Create Digital Music, Herndon spoke about a sinister sub-narrative of the song that focuses on surveillance of our online activities, particularly conducted by the NSA. There has never been a moment in time where we have been more intimate with technology, but at the same time never before have our activities been able to be scrutinized and monitored so easily. Though many of our online activities seem banal and routine, these actions are still the subject of searches performed by those that survey the happenings of the internet. This begs the question; what communications do we believe to be private are actually that?
“Writing about such things is always hard, of course; it’s better to just listen to the stuff than waste time reading what I’ve written some of the time. But now, Herndon gives us a visual. “Chorus” finds surreally-beautiful visuals spun from the mundane, Skype chats and cluttered desks transformed through the looking glass into point clouds, bump maps, pixellated 3D models. It’s our reality seen through the eyes of Kinect and depth scanners.” Kirn, Peter (January 23, 2014).
“The laptop can do things that no other instrument has ever been able to do, and I also think that it’s the most personal instrument that the world has ever seen.” Herndon, Holly via Mark Baynham, (November 15, 2012).
The idea of commenting on surveillance and our infatuation with technology through the medium of sound is a very innovative and interesting; it seems that many of the conversations being had about such things take shape in the form of data visualizations or written word articles. Sound is an interesting avenue as it requires a different sense than any of the visual manifestations of this topic require. It changes the perspective, and is perhaps even disarming. Disarming due to the fact that this is not an expected form to communicate these ideas; this song has no lyrics, it has not physical words to tell you what it is about, instead you are informed by the kinds of sounds emitted from your listening device, created by, more than likely, a device similar to the one you are listening to. It brings the conversation full circle and gives depth to Herndon’s intended message.
This work can be compared to her earlier work, “Fade” that is found on the Movement album. Again, Herndon utilizes an electronic musical base but amplifies and differentiates the work from her contemporaries by incorporating interesting sound effects she has created using Max/MSP. The vocals are minimalist in nature, serving as an instrument rather than conveying a spoken message. In a review done by The Quietus, the writer states that the music holds similarities to such musical acts as Aphex Twin, Coil, and Laurel Halo, but is able to stand alone as an innovative piece due to her inclusion of new instruments and sounds within her compositions. (Gibb, Rory (December 17, 2012).
Within “Fade” and the rest of the album, Herndon is also speaking about the intimacy people have with their laptops, a conversation she continues and augments in “Chorus”.
Jlin’s piece, “Erotic Heat” was cited by Herndon in an interview with Peter Kirn for Create Digital Music. Herndon spoke of the piece and how it had inspired her to reach out to Jlin to work on a collaboration, “it was really fun and easy, so now I’m investing in FruityLoops … and again, we’re going to make a little EP or something together.” Herndon, Holly via Rory Gibb (December 17, 2012).
“Erotic Heat” is different yet complimentary to Herndon’s “Chorus”; the song incorporates minimal lyrics, repeated sporadically throughout the composition that consists of a highly repetitive, hypnotic beat. This beat’s intensity waxes and wanes throughout the song and is then punctuated by vocals that have been changed to create an instrument that is used to give depth to the electronic beat that is perpetuated throughout the piece. This track is more reminiscent of “popular” music, which is to say this could easily be played in a club somewhere without being thought of as an experimental sound piece.
This piece can be heard here:
Their collaborative track “Expand” can be found here:
Resources can be found at these addresses:
Holly Herndon’s music can be found on Spotify, and a more robust sampling can be found at her SoundCloud at this address: