Damon Holzborn & John O'Brien
In the spring of 2020, as the Covid-19 lockdown got under way, we started talking about ways to collaborate remotely after realizing that we both owned a Make Noise 0-Coast semi-modular synthesizer. By sharing patches—the state of the synthesizer, including the positions of the knobs and how the signals are routed from one part of the synthesizer to another—we created pairs of solo pieces that shared a common configuration. Each week, we made two recordings: one based on an original patch—the Prompt—and then a Response based on the other person's patch.
The title, Exquisite Coast, is borrowed from Exquisite Corpse, a collaborative image or text game, developed by the Surrealists, where a work is created either by using some set rule that all of the participants have to follow, or by revealing to the next participant only one part of what the previous person contributed. In this spirit, Exquisite Coast uses a tight set of technical constraints as an artistic challenge that encourages a deep exploration of the instrument. The guidelines are designed to foster creativity, provide a useful method to get to know the 0-Coast, and engage with a wider community of music makers. Exquisite Coast One and Two are the first in a series of releases employing this concept. Future releases will explore various ways to expand upon the initial idea.
More Exqusite & Less Exquisite is an evolution of this game. The instrument has been expanded — the 0-Coast is now augmented by the Moog Werkstatt and a handful of Eurorack modules. In addition, for Less Exquisite, we've added a conceptual constraint. In the original Exquisite Coast we had defined only the instrument and a rough time limit. For Less Exquisite we came up with a textural/formal constraint that we came to call "slower."
You can play Exquisite Coast too! If you and a friend have any of the small semi-modular synthesizers from Make Noise or Moog and would like to play the game yourselves, we have publicly released the web app we used to notate and share patches. Visit ec.rustle.works to learn more.
Cover art by Andrew West