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Dawn of Midi

Thursday, August 29, 2013 - 06:00 PM

In this short, Jad puts on his music hat and shares his love of Dawn of Midi, a band that he recently started using on the show.

Midi, for those of you who don't know, is sort of like a computer language for music. But the band Dawn of Midi seems to exist at the intersection between acoustic and electronic sounds. Jad talks to Aakaash Israni, Amino Belyamani, and Qasim Naqvi about how they met and how they ended up creating their latest album, Dysnomia, an album filled with heavily layered rhythms that feel both mechanistic and deeply human at the same time.


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Comments [73]


I definitely recommend Larry Fisherman's Run on Sentences Mixtapes (2 volumes). I'm listening to Dysnomia now and it's the same sort of experimentation (Although ROS is heavily electronic). Really good, artistically structured study/trance music

Jan. 04 2017 03:56 PM
monica carrillo from Bellingham WA

I was struck by the similarities of concept presented by Aakrash Isrami on your Dawn of Midi show, about his band
"The computer showed us a world of possibilities and now we...We didn't know how far the biotech of our mind could go until the machine sort of showed us" and David Rothenberg in regard to humpback whales, "they are interested in new sounds...the whale seemed to change what he was doing...the whale was trying to play a more steady note" like the clarinet. Perhaps the whales sounded very different before the age of trans-oceanic mechanical transport.

Jan. 25 2016 05:42 PM
Tim from Taiwan

Thanks Radiolab for introducing this band!

On the vein of computer music paving the way for new sounds, have a listen at drummer Jojo Mayer and his Nerve outfit, which, from what I have gathered, started with Jojo editing electronic drum samples and realizing as a drummer, he could try to reverse engineer those sounds on his acoustic drumset. This led to live improvisations with keyboards and bass guitars and horns and real-time sound effects, etc. Super cool and highly recommended~

May. 31 2015 01:28 AM
Nicolas from Hong Kong

Really cool stuff!

Have you heard of 'Brandt Brauer Frick Ensemble'? Reminds me a bit of them :)

Love all your stuff Radiolab!!

Apr. 30 2015 02:38 AM
Gabriel Nunez-Soria from United States

Awesome review of the album! I am so excited to have found (been shown) this album and this band. Thank you!

Jan. 07 2015 02:12 AM
Brian from Colorado

Yes! Just heard the podcast and discovered the band... I agree with those that also mention Reich and Glass... they were definitely composing minimalist/trance music similar to this 40 years ago... but no, this is a great band too... however, my mind would be blown if they weren't listening to a lot of Reich or Glass as inspiration for this music

Dec. 09 2014 12:56 PM

This band has a great vibe. I've never heard anything quite like Dawn of Midi. I agree with Jad in that the song has a juxtaposition of ancient and new, as well as mechanical and deeply human. Their sound is rather mesmerizing and deeply relaxing. The fact that everything is acoustic is amazing. I really enjoy them.

Apr. 19 2014 09:56 PM

Hi, there!

When i heard this guys i make the direct connection with The Necks, amazing band.

In the same mood you should hear Canto Ostinato of Simeon ten Holt ( a dutch composer.

Thanks to everybody (included Jad, Robert, and Radiolab Team, of course) for sharing so amazing music!

Mar. 06 2014 02:50 PM

Jad names Aphex Twin. Back in 2005, Alarm Will Sound did an entire album of Aphex Twin covers titled Acoustica, replicating the insanely complex, syncopated drum rolls, bizarre squeaks and eerie melodies using instruments you'd find in a symphony orchestra. It's certainly novel, but also very, very good in its own right.

Feb. 28 2014 10:48 AM
GAlaska from Alaska

Chronos Quartet's equisite classic "Pieces of Africa" makes some similar effects... but it builds into more melody.

Feb. 27 2014 02:03 PM

I would definitely second Gary's recommendation of the Necks. Great stuff, and definitely in the same vein.

Feb. 25 2014 08:09 PM
Sebastiaan from Montana

I am surprised Bitches Brew wasn't at all mentioned. The godfather of this style. I love this music though, so brilliant and entrancing. Thank you radio lab!

Jan. 30 2014 01:03 PM

I was going through my backlog of missed Radiolab episodes and this one came up -- these guys are stellar. Between the discussion about music more as an experience and accompaniment to time and Robert's mention of Rothko, I felt like this episode was made just for me! I have a hard time communicating the kind of music I make and I felt a deep understanding of what was being mentioned.

Jad (and everyone else) should check out The Fun Years for similar aural explorations. A baritone guitarist and turntablist create amazing textures and long, enveloping soundscapes.

Jan. 09 2014 08:15 PM

I was hoping this was going to be an interesting story about how and why MIDI was created. I wish they had mentioned that in the story. Still, a great show, as usual!

Jan. 08 2014 10:56 AM
Gary Fawle from Bristol UK

Great stuff. Anyone who hasn't should listen to The Necks too, very expansive minimalist instrumented pieces, each one around 30 mins, theres a lot of stuff as they've been around a good while.

Dec. 19 2013 05:13 AM
Pam Posz from Sacramento

As someone else already mentioned - Terry Riley does similar stuff in a more "classical" style.
Check out "in C" for example.

Dec. 12 2013 01:26 AM
BigDog from Boston

Phenomenal music. Thanks for introducing me to this. I will be listening to this during my long runs and long coding sessions.

Oct. 24 2013 07:51 AM
Adam Hruby from Czech Republic

Jad and lovers of reapproaching the classical,
check out Brand Brauer Frick. The're more approachable, but the idea is the same. Good for introducing more conservative listeners to the genre :)

Brandt Brauer Frick Ensemble (varous pieces)

Brandt Brauer Frick - Bop (a tongue-in-cheek music video)

Oct. 13 2013 10:32 PM
Dan King from Cambridge, UK

I enjoyed this episode because I really dig the tunes that Dawn does.

It needs to be said that WNYU's Beats in Space program has many available free podcasts with music at least as mesmorizing


Oct. 05 2013 02:16 PM
Martyn Heyne from Germania

Lovely program! If you dig this look up Nik Baertsch's Ronin, keep thAT groove going

Oct. 03 2013 11:45 AM

Self-Transforming Machine Elves

Oct. 02 2013 11:30 PM
Sharon from the Midwest

For some reason, listening to this short made me really want the Radiolab guys to do an episode on the Uncanny Valley, where instead of humans sounding machine, it's the machines sounding human -almost. I'd really like if they covered Vocaloid technology in that, too, but that might just be because I enjoy that music.
But, yes, the Uncanny Valley, essentially the flip-side of this short, I think would make an interesting and entertaining episode.
There, there's my 2 cents.

Sep. 30 2013 02:25 PM
Matthew from San Jose

Of course the ideas here are not new -- composers and musicians have seemingly always had a love affair with stasis in some way or form. There must be something biological about the way this kind of music can just grab your brain and keep you in one slowly moving place -- especially when most of the things in our lives are so transient and instant. But it still is quite beautiful the way these guys perform and it's nice to get this kind of focus from radio. It's not often you get a spotlight on this space in the music world, and it's always nice to hear of new groups contributing to the art form in this way.

Listening to it reminded me so much of Rod Poole, Evan Ziporyn's gamelan music, Hamza El Din, Brian Eno, Nate Wooley, and of course Steve Reich.

Sep. 22 2013 06:30 PM
Dan from Charlottesville, VA

You guys should introduce these dudes to Zoe Keating, whose music you also featured. There are a lot of similarities in the music, and I'd *love* to hear a collaboration. Layer upon layer of acoustic goodness, slow but huge progressions, etc.


Sep. 22 2013 05:33 PM
Colin Roe from lawrence, ks

"the computer showed us a world of possibliity & now we are sort of almost realizing that that world is inherent to us and not the machine"

this vibes with me

Sep. 22 2013 02:37 PM
Megan from Colorado Springs

So, I was going to chime in about Steve Reich too, but others have before me. Jad, you might like Violin Phase in particular, which is the piece that got me into minimalist music. But the Africans go much further back than even Reich and Glass. Traditional music from Zimbabwe, played on the Mbira (a version of the instrument which we here in the US call the "thumb piano") has an interlocking melody produced by many individual players repeating the same stanza but shifted from each other by one note--the song gradually changes by players introducing variations to the original stanza when it moves them. Check out Soul of Mbira for some great examples.

Sep. 22 2013 01:00 PM
Jason from Vancouver, BC

I just took some really good headphones off of my head after having them a full to listen to Dysnomia and have to say the best listening experience I can remember ever!
Thanks guys

Sep. 19 2013 12:47 AM
JT from VT

check out the band "The New Deal"... instrumental trance

Sep. 17 2013 01:48 PM
Scott from United States

Layer Music for Airports by Brian Eno over the top of this and send me back to my art school days! I love it! I'll definitely be checking them out some more. Reminds me a little of Directions In Music as well...

Sep. 12 2013 03:43 PM
Andrew from CA

I'm not sure I understood what you were trying to present in this episode. The music is rhythmically nice, but I didn't hear the connection to synthetic or artificial "midi" sound. It all sounded very acoustic. I was waiting for the music to be a segue to a larger topic, but it seems like this was more of a review of the band than a topical discussion with interviews and studies.

Sep. 12 2013 01:31 PM
Cliff Jones from Windsor, UK

I loved the way this programme worked. What a great way to introduce new music. It's like listening with friends.

Sep. 10 2013 04:47 PM
Steve from Milwaukee

Would love to hear this episode expanded to discuss the use of Polyrhythms in Music and how the interplay of digitally created music has not only influenced the way music is written and performed today, but how it affects and enhances the functioning of the human brain. My personal favorite is the popular swedish polyrhythmic math metal band - Meshuggah, whose music is so rhythmically complex it took me years to begin to process the beats.

Sep. 10 2013 01:21 PM
Adrian from London

I liked Dawn of Midi and it is good to see them featured.

As others have remarked, what they are doing is very similar to The Necks and Nik Bartsch Ronin, both of whom have been doing this for many years (in the case of The Necks for more than 25 years over 20 albums) and have much more fully realised their sound.

A typical Necks' piece will last for 45 mins to an hour with a few exceptions.

All three (Bartsch, Necks, DoM) have clearly heard Steve Reich

Sep. 10 2013 06:33 AM
TheSkeptic? from US

I'm sure I'll get panned for this, but here goes...

I like Radiolab but I'm sorry, this emperor wears no clothes. I guess I'm the "boy" in the crowd that doesn't know to keep up the pretense? And I really did try - I listened to this many times. Is the goal to be put to into a trance followed by sleep? This reminds me of Pootie Tang's chart-topping hit single: 4 minutes of silence. Now THAT'S minimalism. Having said all of that, someone once said that the arts are subjective; what did they know. :)

Sep. 09 2013 04:18 PM
Robin The Fog from London, UK

Wonderful. That's all I have to add! God bless you, Radiolab!!

Sep. 09 2013 01:19 PM

Not my cup of tea. I don't much like trance-ish music, since I find it annoying more than hypnotic. I listen to music for power and emotional energy, and I don't get that from this any more than I do from today's pop music. It makes great background music for a show like Radiolab, but it doesn't say much to me without Jad and Robert weaving a story over it.

Now, unlike some listeners, I've got no problem with Radiolab talking about non-science stuff or about music that I don't dig. It's enough for me to hear the excitement in Jad's voice. However, it would be interesting to hear them give some time to something a little harder-hitting. I need those heavy guitars. I need some emotion. Guitar feedback, imperfect execution, and untrained vocals.

And curiously, I am, in fact, a geologist.

Sep. 09 2013 01:02 AM
Leon from San Francisco

The assertion that the horizons of what is possible in art have expanded as artists mimic, or perhaps compete with, mechanical technologies is not without merit. However, I think it is a narrow insight to consider this phenomenon to be some kind of ultimate frontier in creative expansion. Technique is part of, but not the entire, picture. And as our lives mire in the constant onslaught of our plugged-in world, the more important it is for there to be that essential seed of our shared humanity, one that includes room for emotions and ideas, narratives that transcend the mechanical repetitions, and leave room for something messy and imperfect. However, I could be wrong.

Sep. 08 2013 03:02 PM
Rachel from Michigan

This also reminds me of Bark Psychosis.

Sep. 08 2013 03:14 AM

I second @Dejan's recommendation of Nik Baertsch's Ronin. The Dawn of Midi sound is really reminiscent of him. I saw him perform a fantastic set with his trio at the Montreal jazz fest in 2007 and then solo in his native Switzerland in 2011. Similar piano-rhythmic grooves.

Sep. 06 2013 01:43 PM

Next, I want to hear Robert coerce Jad into listening to something from his collection!

Sep. 06 2013 01:30 PM
Penny Woolf from Austin, TX

Really enjoyed the show :)

Check out composer Morton Feldman, his work is very inspired by the slow evolution of patterns over long periods of time. Interestingly enough, he composed a piece for the Rothko Chapel (as you mentioned! I thought for sure his name would come up). His work is very beautiful, but requires endurance for not only the performers, but the listeners. I recently performed his work "Crippled Symmetry" which last about 90 minutes. The performers do not play "together"; the score calls for time signature shifts each measure thus making is impossible for the performers to keep exact time with each other. However, everyone cycles through similar patterns which weave in and out of each other, sometimes together and sometimes not. Many of my friends who attended felt like they had completely re-organized their minds!

Sep. 06 2013 02:05 AM
Mat from California, USA

The music reminded me of running. I like to hear the rhythm of my feet touching the ground together with my breathing and surroundings. The repetitive sounds evolve over the duration of a long run. I don't listen to music while running but choose to hear my body and environment. That music is similar.

Sep. 06 2013 12:02 AM

I have to say, I think I'm with Robert on this one. This is a little too... cerebral? Crazy? Monotonous? Whatever it is, it's not my thing. Glad you like it, though. :-)

Sep. 05 2013 03:34 PM
Sana from New York, NY

Thanks for the recommendation Jad! Had never heard of them before and now I can't stop! Went to their show last night and it was one of the most incredible things I had ever experienced. I wish I could watch them at least 3 times to be able to focus on each artist individually. They are all so amazingly talented.

Sep. 04 2013 05:25 PM
ZumoLimon from NYC

Thanks, sounds amazing!

Sep. 04 2013 11:20 AM
Alex from Sydney, Australia

Thanks for switching me onto Dawn of Midi, Jad -- exactly the kind of sounds I like to listen to when I'm focussing on a difficult task.

In return, may I suggest you listen to Aussie jazz band The Necks, who have been doing their piano, bass & drums slow-shifting jam for more than two decades.

I'd be surprised if the Dawn of Midi lads haven't heard of, and been influenced by, The Necks.

Sep. 03 2013 09:00 PM
Justin from Twin Cities, MN

Great band to feature, Jad! You can find them on Spotify.

The show also made me want to also listen to Milosh, who makes much more structurally ordered music, but a bit reminiscent of Dawn of Midi.

Sep. 03 2013 02:51 PM

Thanks for the recommendation Jad! The band sounds great.

The influences of Aphex Twin and African trance music reminded me of James Holden's newest album (along with the influences that other people in the comments have named: minimalism, krautrock, etc.). It's called The Inheritors, and it's really fantastic. Here's a track off of it:

Sep. 03 2013 12:03 PM

Hello Jad,
Have you ever listened to Nissennenmondai? You may really like them - same sort of slowly-evolving-within-the-song style.

Sep. 03 2013 10:34 AM
smo from Brooklyn, ny

isn't the musical term for this ostinato? fun piece guys.

Sep. 03 2013 09:40 AM
dan from Sydney

I'm also thinking of The Necks. Spent an hour being (en)tranced by them at the Spiegletent in Sydney a few years back.

Definitely worth checking out. Especially if you can get to see them live, because the power of this music is letting your mind go. I wouldn't recommend driving.

Sep. 02 2013 06:04 PM
Mike M from Pittsburgh, PA


Steve Reich's "Drumming" is also in this vein.

Sep. 02 2013 01:21 PM
J from Toronto

This episode was really weak guys.

It seemed a little pretensious, mingled with a whole lot of drivel.

Sep. 02 2013 12:30 PM
Karen Bamonte from Italy

This was a very thoughtful show but you really did miss the chance to bridge the gap between the incredible impact the minimalist movement had 30 years ago to what is happening now. The lack of mention of Reich, Glass and Reily, then much later Adams was a lost opportunity to connect generations through similar thought patterns. Listen to some really early Reich, like the handclapping piece and you will be astounded by how evolved the thoughts were back then. And check out the concept of phasing which is just about the most essentiia principle at work back then and now in the music you played.

Sep. 01 2013 06:01 PM
Gus from Canada

I'd love to know more about the Trance music mentioned as an influence for these guys - the African/Moroccan origin stuff. If anyone has any recommended places to start looking/listening I'd appreciate it :-)


Sep. 01 2013 02:10 PM
Clifford Hill from Santa Rosa, CA

I'm excited to check out these other works mentioned! The band that came up for me is The Necks. One of their more accessible and driving (er, throbbing maybe) albums is simply titled "Sex." It's an hour of slowly shifting rhythmic patterns by a jazz trio played live. Interesting to note that The Necks's intent and instrumentation is similar but completely lacks the "computer" quality.

Sep. 01 2013 06:58 AM
Maggie Marriott from Grampians Australia

This music reminds me of a frog chorus as it seems to have the individual song melded into something which is whole. It has the primitive and beauty of the natural environment.

Sep. 01 2013 06:14 AM
rebecca e. from San Francisco, CA

Funny that Robert mentions Rothko Chapel because I was thinking of Morton Feldman's "Rothko Chapel" (1971). Quite a bit less rhythmic than Dawn of Midi, but still focused on the slow, methodical building of textures and voices.

Sep. 01 2013 03:51 AM

I'd also recommend Nik Bartsch Ronin trio. Very minimal groovy jazz which gradually develops.

Sep. 01 2013 02:45 AM
IOLO from UK

I concur with the comments mentioning Steve Reich and Terry Riley - who were in the vanguard of what we now call the "minimalist" movement in Music, which Philip Glass later joined. But if you want a real treat - listen to the music of 'Nick Bärtsch's Ronin' - particularly the album "Holon". This is a great improvement and already highly evolved version of what Dawn of Midi are only beginning to try to do! Bärtsch describes his music as "Zen Funk". I think you will like it even more than Dawn of Midi, Jad.

Aug. 31 2013 03:16 PM

Knowing these guys personally one of the biggest influence was music from the Ewe speaking people in Ghana. Reich himself was heavily influenced by this music too, which is where most of you are finding that relation.

Aug. 31 2013 12:40 PM
Jeff from Colorado

I'm with Rebecca. I kept waiting for Steve Reich's work to be mentioned.

Aug. 31 2013 08:41 AM


This is definitely heavily influenced by Can, one of my favorite bands, but i wouldn't say Can was already creating Dysnomia. This album is much more percussive and has its own unique vibe. They took music like krautrock, steve reich, autechre, jazz, and even Battles and made their own sound. Really cool album in my opinion. Definitely isn't derivative of any one band.

Aug. 31 2013 03:50 AM

I kept thinking of the Moritz Von Oswald trio.

Aug. 31 2013 03:46 AM
Carl from Denver, CO

Also reminds me a lot of minimalist music, especially Steve Reich's. Maybe call this style "minimalist trance?" There's a Connecticut band called "So Percussion" that performs and records stuff like this by Reich and others.

Aug. 30 2013 02:43 PM
kim from NYC

Thanks for bringing this band to light! Can't wait for the show on Tuesday!

Aug. 30 2013 11:14 AM
Philippe Tisserand from Gatineau, Canada

"Midi" is also the French word for "noon"; I don't know if the dichotomy was intentional, but it is interesting nonetheless.

Will get the album for sure.

Aug. 30 2013 07:34 AM

The whole album is streaming here for a few more days:

Aug. 30 2013 12:20 AM
Rebecca from Brooklyn, NY

To me it's quite derivative of Steve Reich, e.g., "Piano Phase," for starters.

Aug. 30 2013 12:11 AM
Luke Frishkoff

Reminds me a lot of Philip Glass. Metamorphosis in particular.

Aug. 30 2013 12:00 AM

Some of that reminded me of Terry Riley.

Aug. 29 2013 11:02 PM
Duane from Boulder, CO

Not to mention the German band Neu! (pronounced 'noy' and, yes, the exclamation point is part of the name). Their initial album is from 1972.

Aug. 29 2013 10:49 PM
Lawrence LaFerla from Japan

Dearest Jad Abumrad,

Did you know that CAN was already creating Dysnomia in 1973, the year you were born?

Search YouTube for "can future days" to listen.

Note: Future Days is the name of both the album and the track. I'm referring to the track.


Aug. 29 2013 08:24 PM

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