The 126 N Madeira Trilogy was the product of a series of live ambient performances done as a part of the annual Open Studios Tour organized by the School 33 Art Center in Baltimore, Maryland. For three consecutive years, Joe recorded his ambient set at the studio of the artist Maxine Taylor, a local artist making wonderful works in multiple media, and edited the resulting recordings to produce three CDs of the music from each year’s event. The recordings have only been edited for time and selection, cross-faded in and out for each track—no additional processing, multi-tracking, or editing of content was performed. The music here is as it was during each live performance. No pre-recorded sounds, sequences, or processing were used in any of the live sets.
Each performance had a theme, an inspiration, or a metaphor.
1 • The first volume of the trilogy, Hammers & Wires, is the most conceptual, composed and performed with sounds sampled from a piano, from the strike of the hammer to single waveforms of the vibrating strings, transformed in a digital synthesizer to take on new forms, soft and lush and hard and complex. It is a piece almost entirely unlike something you could play on a piano, and yet it is of the piano—an exploration of how that sound could change and mutate when taken from its original context.
2 • The Whole World Rusting takes a different angle, with a broader variety of sounds incorporated with an ear for the more metallic, more urban, more industrial, dreaming of the way cities are on their rougher sides, where metals turn to oxides and return to the earth, and where function turns to sculpture and then to dust in the natural progression of life. The music is meditative, contemplative, and thoughtful, but doesn’t restrict itself to the pastel palettes of new age music, where the darker sides of life are repressed or ignored. The feeling is calm, gentle, and yet true to the edges of life, where things decay and fade away.
3 • The last phase of the group, It’s Always Nowhere Out Here, is a soundtrack for long walks in empty places and moments of quiet contemplation, reflections of Joe’s favorite escape routes and refuges from the chaos of the everyday world, ending at a metaphysical railroad stop somewhere far from here.
The original 126 N Madeira trilogy is no longer available for download, but a cleaned-up, edited version, titled Madeira Street, is available as a pay-what-you-want download (I’m fine with zero or whatever you think it’s worth) at joebelknapwall.bandcamp.com.