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Myke Atkinson in his natural environment: surrounded by CDs.
the Gauntlet

Caught beneath the Tides of music

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Sitting cross-legged in his zebra-print bean bag chair, Myke Atkinson is letting me listen to his latest work, Moments Of A Red Sun (In D Major).

The music and video art installation -- video provided by Manny Golden -- debuting at the Cantos Music Foundation on Wednesday, May 20, is composed of eight different CD players and 16 speakers. Each disc has approximately 40 minutes of music and 20 minutes of silence, with tracks ranging from 30 seconds to two minutes long.

"The reason why I put the silent tracks in was because it was this wall of sound," explains Atkinson. "That's not the music I make. So I said, 'How can I make this breathe?' and so I was trying to create things that were quieter. I realized that I needed things to just disappear, so I put the silent tracks in and it [was] totally one of those 'Of course!' moments."

Each CD player is set to random, the many tracks becoming one piece of music. This is the only time that this specific musical experience will be shared. It's a little daunting to think of the logistics, but the end-product is incredibly beautiful.

As the music decrescendos, for one second teasing absolute silence, Atkinson smiles.

"These are the parts I like," he says a hint of excitement in his voice. "I was thinking of recording these events on cassette and date-stamping it."

Atkinson, under the Beneath These Idle Tides moniker, is hard at work preparing his latest project. Even though it's in the final stages -- he emphasized that he was still mixing the project together -- it didn't show.

On the trip to his home studio, waiting patiently on the University C-train platform as cars buzzed by on Crowchild Trail, Atkinson revealed a few of the sources of inspiration for Moments Of A Red Sun.

One was the Flaming Lips' four-disc album Zaireeka, where all the discs are meant to be played simultaneously, and a little musical box called the Buddha Machine.

"It's is a little player that has nine different ambient loops on it," explains Atkinson. "I thought that what it did was play the loops randomly and randomly compose a new piece of music at the time. It's not layering them . . . I found out that you press a button and it goes through them one at a time in sequence, not even randomly."

Sun creates a musical wave, ebbing and flowing naturally, even though everything is arranged at random.

The most beautiful moments aren't the swells, but the silences -- one of Atkinson's favourite parts -- a peaceful second of tranquility before the tide rises again.

Of the eight discs, two contain the musical foundation of each song and two contain melodic tracks. Further musical accentuation is provided by the two discs of various field recordings and other sounds.

"I have two discs which are noise, field recordings and me fucking around with tape players and creating textures, basically," says Atkinson.

The last two CDs contain tonalities which, Atkinson explained, are sub-frequency rhythms which, while undetectable to the human ear, are important to the overall functioning of the exhibition.

"I started out with the idea that I would create some audible rhythms, but that didn't work," he says. "That was one of the many failed experiments. So I created these things that were really low and you couldn't hear it. But when you play it with music, it creates a certain accent . . . It's an inaudible frequency, but ends up affecting the audible frequency."

"Moments Of A Red Sun" debuts at the Cantos Music Foundation Wed., May 20 at 8 p.m.

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