All music by Mikael Karlsson and Rob Stephenson.
Composed and recorded in 2002-2006.

Delicate Bob Nine
Violin – Ingegerd Deckert
Pianos, Programming – Mikael Karlsson, Rob Stephenson

Little Rebellious Aspects
Programming – Mikael Karlsson, Rob Stephenson

Clarinet – Joshua Rubin

Piano Duet
Pianos – Mikael Karlsson, Rob Stephenson

Clarinet – Joshua Rubin
Voices, Programming – Mikael Karlsson, Rob Stephenson

Voice – Juan
Programming – Mikael Karlsson, Rob Stephenson

Among Our First Toys
Programming – Mikael Karlsson, Rob Stephenson

Spandex Bubble Space Suit Monkey Dance
Programming – Mikael Karlsson, Rob Stephenson

Custom Hybrid
Voice, text – Rob Stephenson
Piano – Mikael Karlsson

Cello – Jason Wingate

All tracks composed and edited by Mikael Karlsson and Rob Stephenson.

Perfect strangers, Mikael and Rob, sat next to each other at a Diamanda Galás concert near the end of 2001 in New York City. By the encores, we found ourselves screaming together in a standing ovation. When the lights came up and we finished our drinks, a conversation started between us that continues four years later.

In March of 2002 Mikael suggested we learn some Schubert piano pieces for four hands just for the hell of it. Well, we never got around to getting the sheet music, instead we ended up making our own Piano Duet two years later, not to mention that Delicate Bob Nine, our first track has quite a bit of four-hand and even some eight- and twelve-hand piano in it.

Delicate Bob Nine was supposed to fill a whole CD, a forty-five minute piece that included a whole universe of sounds. But just as we abandoned Schubert, we failed Bob. After six months of plotting and scheming, we had reduced the piece to a much smaller universe clocking in at around nine minutes. We needed more pieces, and new ideas.

More than just the music itself, Delicate Bob Nine delivered a way for us to collaborate. Though we both had come from formal conservatory backgrounds, our initial outlooks on compositional techniques and goals were hardly identical. It was a trying time as we learned to work together. Once we stopped trying to exclude each other’s differences, we managed to build a much wider joint palette as our soundscapes started to grow in unexpected ways. We were learning to work together very closely on all aspects of the music.

For Delicate Bob Nine, we collected source material without a clear idea about how we would use it in our piece. It’s more interesting, we reasoned, to chip away at bulk than to build exactly what you set out to do through carefully measured additions. We figured that the more inclusive and uninhibited we were on the collecting stage, the more complex the chipped down product would be. And we’re good chippers, so we weren’t afraid that too much material would give us an unfocused piece.

We decided to do some recording out on the streets. We asked people to talk to us about dogs. Why not? So many city folks have them. That’s when the dog theme emerged. From then on, we noticed the idea of dogness everywhere around us, in even the most unlikely places.

Musically, we found an affinity for open-ended forms. We were attracted to some ideas in systemic organization and games, but let our ears pull us back from them, so they wouldn’t become a leash. We let them run free a bit. Sometimes they ran into each other if they wanted to. Sometimes, we just had to let them go.

We used sketches and plans, but left a great deal of variables capable of surprising us. We applied this to using software as well. By constantly adding new software applications to our list, we were rarely in complete control. Mysterious plug-ins and processors tore our waves into weird little bits of thumps and growls and our violins performed techniques so extended that we couldn’t help but love them. At the end of long exploratory weeks of sound twisting, we threw out most of what we had produced and kept only what really appealed to us.

With that material to guide us, we found possible forms and methods of developing our ideas, and with all available compositional devices, we assembled, straightened out and polished our pieces until only the grit that made the piece remained. Our mistakes often made us laugh, but a portion of them turned into something valuable. Some results of play that initially seemed ridiculous became the basis of our best material.

We sought freedom in the idea of assemblage, of learning how to put icky or unruly sounds into a workable frame with more traditionally lovely ones. Certain short compositions ended up embedded in larger pieces.

Sometimes the noise that we carefully removed from one piece took center stage in another. We discovered beauty in the less obvious, the quirky, and the contradictory.

Four years later, the work is done.

If we had a dog, we’d call it Timbre.