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In a nondescript church with high ceilings, listeners assume a wide variety of positions; some sit cross-legged on the floor and some lie on their backs, some close their eyes and some stare catatonically.

Other listeners choose to play iPhone Tetris and check their email but unlike at other performances where such activities might feel impolite or disruptive, here they feel as though they are embraced as part of a collective quasi-religious experience. While social listening is often associated with group movement such as dancing, Daniel Lopatin’s Oneohtrix Point Never produces melodic soundscapes that inspire the same sort of disembodied inward reflection that one might associate with engaging digitally.

The sonic elements that comprise Lopatin’s live composition are familiar in that they evoke natural acoustic sounds, yet there is something artificial about them. While the timbre of the soft, emerging arpeggio resembles that of a church organ, it is identifiable as a digital simulation.

The overall pacing of the composition is irregular and unpredictable. Much like in digital spaces where there is a somewhat randomized relationship to content, Lopatin’s composition transitions in both its tone and sonic content unexpectedly. Employing the “loud quiet loud” technique, Lopatin barrages the listener unexpectedly with bursts of content. However, in this context the effects of the technique feel suspect; every emotional response to the music is accompanied by the feeling that the emotional response is as false as the simulated sounds that induced it. This hyperawareness of the manipulation of emotional response is furthered by the frequency of the attempts.

  • Concert: Oneohtrix Point Never
  • Date: February 7
  • Venue: the Irenic
  • Seats: General admission
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