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mu [BHR AE 008]

1. mu 68:26

mu is a piano and electronics installation originally composed and recorded in 2003.

It was released in 2004 as a short run of bespoke CDs.

mu was composed by Bill Thompson (2003) and remastered in 2023.
Composition, mastering and album design by Bill Thompson (2023)

© 2023 Burning Harpsichord Records

Original release notes:

"mu: initially created as an installation, mu involved several tracks of sine wave bass tones that were, for the most part, below the pitch threshold of human hearing. the sine waves were designed to randomly rise and fall in frequency and were played by three cd players set at random. the players were connected to speakers aimed at the underside of a prepared grand piano. as the frequency of various bass tones crossed and resonated with the strings of the piano, sympathetic vibrations would occur causing the piano to play arcs of sound rolling up and down the prepared strings. the title mu is a japanese zen term roughly translated to 'nothingness' or 'emptiness'. it does not translate well since it implies that any linguistic expression limits its true meaning. it was chosen as the title for that reason, in that any other title for the installation seemed to color/limit the experience of the piece."

Additional notes (2023):

As with many of my early works I am indebted to my friend Brent Fariss. It was he who suggested that I keep a notebook to write down my ideas as I was complaining about not having enough time to realize everything I was imagining. This alone would have warranted a mention as this piece came from notes that I had written down years before. But Brent is also owed a special thanks for allowing me to set up several speakers and microphones in his parents’ house aimed squarely at their family grand piano – something his father is probably unaware of to this day.

Back then we had to make do with whatever equipment we had and so I brought over my Event 2020 monitors and Brent lent me some SM58s (the worst microphone for this type of recording) and we routed the entire installation through 3 CD players, a Behringer mixer and a minidisc recorder. None of this was ideal. I’m fairly certain one of my monitors blew by the end of the session, the SM58s were noisy as hell and the Behringer mixer (that we all seemed to have in those days) only made things worse.

What’s more, the piece was almost a complete failure from the get-go. We spent hours setting everything up, placing the speakers, microphones and CD players in just the right position only to realize that although the strings resonated as I had imagined, they were inaudible to our microphones. In disgust I flung one of the CD covers into the piano and a deep roar erupted into the room as the it rattled across the vibrating strings due to the ultrasonic frequencies of the installation.

We cheered like we had won the lottery.

This was followed by preparing the piano with more CDs, CD covers, bits of foil and (possibly) other items, though the details are lost to me now.


from mu, released May 5, 2023


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