At the end of this year I gathered up all the pieces made in the last six months, and “strung” them together to make STRING III. Created by layering and mixing and editing and re-arranging the sound files in ProTools, STRING III is made from sounds I recorded everywhere - intimately close and in huge acoustic spaces. I’m always amazed at the strange variety of sounds one can find. These “taken sounds” are what I’m combining and stringing together as a whole.
Listen in streaming MP3 audio and download "String III" below
My first recordings, where I thought I was making “something new”, were painstaking affairs, taking me years to finish – I was always editing them down, taking things out, adding something new. I worked all day and night in NYC, sound editing and mixing all kinds of crazy things for HBO and always brought things in and out. My sound work had its feet in two worlds, and they merged. I can hear now how I was blending them.
John Wiggins at HBO, mid-1980s — above with Max Headroom
“All The Truth At Once” was finished in 1986. I was processing real sounds I recorded through my mighty Serge Modular, a small computer I programmed in assembly language to play back samples, all recorded on a ½” four track Scully. I would bring the four track into work and mix it down to ¼” through a Neve Melbourne console.
Phillip Seifert was kind enough to ask me if any of my old LP’s from the ‘80’s were digitally available anywhere. I did transfer the ¼” Masters to DAT in the late ‘90’s so I dug those DAT Master tapes out and re-transferred and re-mastered:
Tuned Space (1981)
pARTicle music (1984)
All The Truth At Once (1986)
The Timbre Maps (1992)
ALL NEW (1996)
Hearing Complex (1998 – 2000)
This all was the very best sound work I could make at the time.
Here’s an excerpt from “All The Truth At Once” (1986)
Editor's Note: Anagenic by John Wiggins is available at Bandcamp
In the spirit of Luc Ferrari’s “Far West News”, I recorded everywhere I went on a Baltic Cruise, August 2018. I recorded over 4 hours of sounds in Sweden, Finland, Russia, Estonia and Amsterdam and edited out and used the sounds that brought to mind the strongest memories. I then preceded, film style, to make a “dialog only” track – just voices, speaking, of which I had many. Also recorded in all these countries were musicians playing outside. From a variety of them I made a “music only” track. Then of course a “sound effects” track from all the unexpected sounds you find, everywhere, when you push record. There is an endless supply of sounds in our world. Mixed together I created “BALTIC Film 1” – a movie for the ears made from the sound up.
In the 1980’s I discovered the music concrete records of the INA/GRM label in France. I bought them all and Parmegiani was a God to me. I listened carefully and tried to figure out what he was doing to the sounds so I could apply that to my day job as a fledgling TV sound editor. I bought all the records in the INA/GRM catalog, all of them I thought. But oddly I missed, of all things “Presque Rien” by Luc Ferrari. It hid from me is my guess. I noticed this in 2015 believe it or not and bought everything I could find of Luc Ferrari (it’s a lot) and was immediately struck by the similarity of what I was trying to do today and his sound. I was amazed. I studied Ferrari and really thought I would have made a great engineer/assistant to him. And then last year I was one of the winners of “The Luc Ferrari Presque Rien Competition” organized by his widow, Brunhild Ferrari. Weird, right?
[Editor's Note: You can stream John's piece, "Taken sound" at the Presque Rien link].
When I first heard Viscera in the early 1980s, I wrote to Hal and kidding, I asked if they “recorded outside”, or with the windows open? So much ambient sound. Now we all record outside. We hear our lives in our environments in so many ways and use it to communicate, something. We record and manipulate it easily because we can and it always sounds familiar. It’s almost an ecological movement today; to record the sounds of whereever on Earth you are (on your Zoom or Tascam) and let other people somewhere else in the world experience it. I hear Hal’s life on his new CD (“microcassettology”) and on my new CD, “The Listened To Sound”, you hear MY life. Really. Isn’t that what every great composer tries to do? “Hey, listen to what’s in my head, listen to what I hear all the time”.
I am VERY lucky I get to do this. I feel like I’m a documentary filmmaker, filming a subject or event (recording), then editing it together and mixing it – I love the sound, sonic image, cinema for the ears. There has to be something in sound that draws me in all the time. Makes me hit the record button. I’ve spent my life recording things and I know everyone reading this has also, and also listens. Really listens. You all do and our “sound art” is as radical as serialism or any other breakthrough in music. Just keep pushing record and listening.
is an award winning sound designer for TV and films