Tristan Perich, 1-Bit Symphony

Tristan Perich

Cantaloupe Music, microchip in cd case, Ca21042, 2009-2010

Coming a few years after the first Perich’s 1-Bit Music “circuit album”, this 1-Bit Symphony never ceases to amaze. The first problem is: how to define such a musical product (electronics in a transparent jewelry box which “executes” music)? The only reference that quickly comes to mind is the Buddha Machine, but that was made on top of something already used for other purposes. Despite its familiar cd case, this is an electronic object that performs every time the listener turns the switch on. And it’s an official (and affordable) label release, although manually assembled by Perich. Its 1-bit digital microchip produces the lowest possible quality of digital audio, but its symphonic intensity and the emotional involvement comes through the intentional harshness of audio. Listening to the music requires plugging in headphone or speakers and once it starts to play the only controls are a button to change track (only in one direction, and with no way to pause) and a small wheel to regulate the volume. The whole programming code (pure Assembly for both software and music) is printed in the folded booklet and the smell of electronics in use (similar to old analogue hi-fi systems) reaches the nostrils once the case is open. The five symphonic movements are exquisitely constructed and the last one functions as an infinite loop. It’s a brilliant work, intimately playing with contrasts (like the sumptuousness of the symphony composed in 1 bit), and fragility (glued electronics fed by a 20-hour battery).