Online music streaming has strongly influenced our listening habits over the last two decades. The audio sharing platform SoundCloud is commonly seen as an independent hub for experimental and non-mainstream music. However, by setting the frame for distribution and consumption, every platform facilitates certain types of music and listening. It can therefore be argued that such platforms cause aesthetic mutations of a historical scope potentially more consequential than any living artist’s work. If SoundCloud itself is a covert composer, how could we collaborate with it?

SoundCloud Gazing: website-specific music presents three pieces specifically made for SoundCloud to explore how its features influence the way we experience music.

SoundCloud Gazing: website-specific music at /rosa, Berlin

photos by Merve Cowling and sakrowski

When playing music on SoundCloud, it is a common habit to look at the volume envelope (Hüllkurve) and anticipate the music’s further development. Its loudness and therefore climaxes, fade-outs, pauses and build-ups are visualised by 273.5 orange-turning bars. Conversely, I composed the sound to give the envelope a specific shape. Assigning each bar the length of 1s, Track has an overall duration of 4’33 min and half a second. With frequencies beyond the auditory threshold and sounds too short for the website to detect, Track enters into a dialogue with the expectations of listening.

PLAYLIST takes SoundCloud’s playlist feature to a liminal extreme by aligning the highest possible number of tracks (500) of the shortest possible duration each (around 50ms). Due to this shortness, the buffering between the tracks becomes noticeable as the silence in-between the sounds. Because these buffering times depend on the internet connection, the server and other unstable factors, the playback speed varies accordingly: SoundCloud itself “determines” the speed and rhythm of each rendition, or, in other words the conditions of online music streaming become themselves noticable in sudden glitches and tempo changes.

Each track is equipped with an individual image, which by the unusually fast playback then turn into a “low frame-rate film” akin to a digital flip book. The images are based on three different sources: a video shot by a camera falling from the sky, screenshots of SoundCloud’s interface and AI generated images reinterpreting the website’s visual appearance. Together they form a metaphor for the fragile relationships between speed, perception and technological malfunction.

short excerpt played on a phone and on a tablet from the SoundCloud app:

Stream consists of around 20 profiles which follow each other, share similar hashtags and like each other’s tracks, thereby forming an opaque and open ended network. The user browses through their over 100 tracks like an open form composition. Once a track is played, the auto-play function furthermore leads the listener from track to track and profile to profile by itself. Thus, Stream intervenes in the interactivity/interpassivity of the everyday experience of clicking through music online.

Stream’s 5+ hours of music were made possible thanks to the contributions by: 

Lukas Moritz Wegscheider, Jorge Boehringer, Oliver Weber, Keru Not Ever, Corporation, Hunjoo Jung, Andy Cowling, Merve Cowling, Bienoise, DeRayling, Demetrio Cecchitelli

and visual contributions by:
Merve Cowling, Hamed Mundi, Lain Iwakura