Visual artist and composer Tristan Perich has combined two separate musical concepts: the original performance, and the physical recording. When one purchases a CD (remember those?), it’s a copy of a performance recorded weeks, months, often years before.
Not so with Perich’s latest release. His 1-Bit Symphony comes in a standard CD case. But inside are some very simple electronics that perform the composition when activated. So every time you listen to the work, you’re hearing — not a recording — but a live performance.
The symphony gets its name from the electronically generated square waveform. Its such a simple waveform that it can be represented by a single bit of digital information (and remember: a bit is a bit of a byte). Yet Perich does quite a lot with this primal audio building block, creating complex sound structures that are indeed symphonic.
The following video gives you a brief overview of the work, as the presenter hits the fast-forward button to skip through the various movements. When you hear the work as intended, though, you’ll hear the themes slowly develop as they would in a Philip Glass or Steve Reich composition.
Will 1-bit music become its own school of composition? Perhaps not.
But Perich has created a valid form of musical expression that’s uniquely his own. And that’s a remarkable feat, indeed.