Perhaps the first thing I notice about Tristan Perich's newest album is its smell: circuitry, wires and soldering. For a technophile, it's exhilarating, getting under your skin. The aptly named 1-Bit Symphony is not an album in the traditional sense. After its jewel CD case, the comparisons between it and traditional music releases end. What Perich created is not only a work of art from a contextual standpoint, but also a demonstration of the sophistication of one-bit sound.
Composed of a battery, on/off switch, microchip, fast-forward button, volume knob and audio jack, Perich's album is a self-contained device. Plugging in headphones and flipping the switch activates several 1-bit tones that, when orchestrated to play in the left or right headphone and overladen on top of other 1-bit noises, creates a somewhat mesmerizing series of sounds. Any fan of 8-bit gaming will enjoy this masterwork of beeps, boops and growls without ever missing those other seven bits.
The composition itself consists of five movements. The first four range from five to nine minutes with the fifth running to infinity, or at least the battery's 20-hour estimated lifespan. A schematic detailing the parts as well as the unit's simple instruction is included, as well as a foldout of, not song lyrics, but assembly code -- one of the most basic computer languages next to 1s and 0s -- for the production of the album. Perich wrote 1,516 lines of code for the album and says, "It makes it feel like a physical mechanism, shuttling electricity around and
finally outputting it to your headphones." According to the press release, Perich studied math, music and computer science at Columbia university, before continuing at ITP/Tisch for electronic art.
1-Bit Symphony can be pre-ordered now from Perich's Bang on a Can store for around $29. A limited edition run of 50 CDs, which include a silkscreen print of the schematics and source code, is forthcoming. His earlier works include 1-Bit Music and several show pieces. An ensemble of 50 violins and 50 one-bit speakers, among other projects, is planned for an upcoming exhibition.
-- JUSTIN McCRAW
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