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First Watch: Bill Baird's 'Facial Disc' Gets Swallowed By Internet

Bill Baird's video for "Facial Disc" creates a world of patterns and scenes as abstract as the noise he makes on guitar and synthesizers. Baird describes the video as "me getting 'swallowed by the internet,' trapped inside a multi-dimensional cube, and transformed into an owl and then an 'owl priest.'"

The video for "Facial Disc" is derived from this longer album-length video. It sounds a bit weird, but that's the point. I prefer unique videos that allow a full journey into the imagination. It's still kind of rooted in reality though. Getting sucked into the internet? That's no joke... it's most of my life. Trapped inside a multi-dimensional cube? Well, we spend most of our days inside boxes. It's become our native habitat. The owl was a somewhat arbitrary choice (no more arbitrary than humans living in 90-degree angled rooms). I will say, the arbitrariness allowed me to focus on texture and color, rather than conveying a plot or narrative flow.

Bill Baird is an Oakland musician via Austin, someone we've featured on an Open Mic segment for All Songs Considered10 years ago when he had a project called {{{Sunset}}}.His music is more sound than song and can be heard in immersive sound and visual installations in museums and festival around the world. Even this song title reflects his obsession with sound.

The term "facial disc" refers to an indention on an owl's face that helps it collect sound as it flies. I laughed when I learned this — it hits close to home, as my lifelong love and pursuit of music has shaped my head, my heart, my soul, and anything else there is to shape. The words are a very basic incantation about how music's changed the shape of my head... in a metaphorical sense. For the "Facial Disc" video, I wanted to depict a nocturnal journey, but from my perspective rather than an owl's. So I incorporated some footage I took driving along Interstate 5 between San Francisco and Los Angeles. The visuals also incorporate a Mandelbrot set, one of the more famous fractal patterns. This is meant to tie into visions of "sacred geometry" shown earlier in the album-length video. It's also kind of poking fun at those who sit around staring at "trippy" internet videos. There's a whole YouTube rabbit hole waiting for you to fall into.

Bill Baird performs this music in a cube he's constructed "out of PVC, fabric, clamps, and gallons of sweat and coffee. I've been performing inside of this structure for live performances. Each surface of the cube is projection mapped and, well, it's pretty cool. I like it. During these live performances, I project my virtual cube onto my real cube and I project the album length video onto myself as well. I happen to love recursive patterns."

Owl is out now viaDangerbird Records. It's part of "Arthur King Presents," an experimental album series.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

In 1988, a determined Bob Boilen started showing up on NPR's doorstep every day, looking for a way to contribute his skills in music and broadcasting to the network. His persistence paid off, and within a few weeks he was hired, on a temporary basis, to work for All Things Considered. Less than a year later, Boilen was directing the show and continued to do so for the next 18 years.