Steve Roden
Forms of Paper (Remastered)

LINE_053 | Digital | Open Edition | October 2011

“Like the object that it takes as its point of departure, Forms of Paper unfolds from a nominally two dimensional plane into a space shot through with hidden depths and cavities, each one a wormhole leading to a realm as full of possibility as silence itself.”
( The Wire, UK )

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Forms of Paper was originally released on LINE in October of 2001, the seventh release on LINE and the first solo release on the label by sound and visual artist Steve Roden. LINE is proud to reissue this work in time for its 10th anniversary. Forms of Paper has been lovingly remastered by Bernhard Günter.

Please download the accompanying 8-page essay “on lowercase affinities and forms of paperby Steve Roden to learn more about this release’s history and its reissue.

Forms of Paper was created for the “Art in the Libraries Exhibition” and installed in the Frank Gehry designed Hollywood Branch of the Los Angeles Public Library in August, the work was created with the quiet space of the library as a major consideration, amplified at a very low volume level. All of the sounds in the composition are the sounds of book pages being handled. This cd version has been expanded and re-worked into a one hour composition. Roden says of the CD “I imagine the work as something of a folded piece of white paper sculpture; where shadows, folds, and light enable one to see not only the white of the paper, but a full spectrum of grays as well.”

Forms of Paper (54:00)

Steve Roden is a visual and sound artist from los angeles. his work includes painting, drawing, sculpture, film/video, sound installation, and performance.

Roden’s working process uses various forms of specific notation (words, musical scores, maps, etc.) and translates them through self invented systems into scores; which then influence the process of painting, drawing, sculpture, and sound composition. These scores, rigid in terms of their parameters and rules, are also full of holes for intuitive decisions and left turns. The process allows Roden’s inspirational sources to become a kind of formal skeleton that the abstract finished works are built upon.

In his sound works, singular source materials such as objects, architectural spaces, and field recordings, are abstracted through humble electronic processes to create new audio spaces, or ‘possible landscapes’. The soundworks present themselves with an aesthetic Roden describes as “lowercase”—sound concerned with subtlety and the quiet activity of listening.

Roden received a BFA from Otis Art Institute in 1982, and an MFA from Art Center College of Design in 1989. From 1979-82, he was the lead singer of the Los Angeles punk band Seditionaries. He has been exhibiting his visual and sound works since the mid 1980’s, and has had numerous exhibitions internationally, including: Susanne Vielmetter LA and Berlin Projects, Studio La Citta Gallery (Verona, Italy),  the Mercosur Biennial Porto Alegre (Brazil), Centre Georges Pompidou (Paris), MCASD (San Diego), UCLA Hammer Museum (Los Angeles), Museum of Contemporary Art EMST (Athens), and the Singuhr-Horgalerie in Parochial (Berlin). Performances include: the Serpentine Gallery (London), the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Walker Art Gallery, the DCA (Dundee, Scotland), Redcat Theater (Los Angeles).

Roden has also released over 20 cds of audio works on labels worldwide under his own name, as well as in be tween noise.

Recent & upcoming projects include: Steve Roden: in between, a 20 year survey at the Armory Center for the Arts (Pasadena California), curated by Howard Fox, a sound piece for the Palais de Tokyo website, a performance of John Cage’s Cartridge Musicwith Mark Trayle at the Norton Simon Museum, group exhibitions at the Sculpture Center and CRG Gallery (NY), an installation for Daniel Libeskind’s new building for the University of Hong Kong, and a book project, i listen to the wind that obliterates my traces, published by Dust to Digital.


Forms of Paper was released by Line in 2001, remastered by Bernard Guenter and reissued as a high quality download.  While it was one of the heralding works of the "lowercase" genre (a genre of which the boundaries and parameters I never fully understood), there is far too much complexity for it to be pigeonholed into a label that would imply that nothing happens in the recording.

In fact, quite the opposite is true:  although the piece takes a while to make itself known, Roden's processing of the sound of book pages becomes a world of subtle beeps and tones, with a greater focus on textures.  While there is a more significant shifting between busy and sparse, it is a more repetitive work in comparison to Proximities.  Not surprising since, in the accompanying essay, Roden points out that this was his first work utilizing Pro-tools rather than just analog tape, and that at the time he was quite fond of using copy and paste in composition.


Pour les dix ans de sa première sortie (déjà sur LINE), paraît une réédition remasterisée de Forms of Paper. Steve Roden y traite électroniquement divers bruits de feuilles de papier (ce qu'il explique ici). De son action naissent des événements : des 0 et des 1 apparaissent sur un écran blanc, un traîneau passe dans la neige, des puces à la voix tremblotante crissent et craquètent… Dix ans après, on comprend que le papier de Roden est la partition d’un orgue de barbarie muet et beau comme le silence.
(le son du grisli)


Roden’s 2001 album Forms of Paper became, for many, the exemplary lowercase record. And it does seem to fulfill Roden’s own definition as well: “Lowercase resembles what Rilke called ‘inconsiderable things’ – the things that one would not ordinarily pay attention to, the details, the subtleties.”Forms of Paper was commissioned by the Los Angeles Public Library system as an installation in its Hollywood branch. Roden used contact mics to record himself manipulating paper in various ways, then effected these recordings and played them through a series of speakers so that they would subtly infiltrate the surrounding space.

Unfortunately, as he explains in the press release for last year’s re-release of the record, Roden was unable to listen to the mastered version of the recording before it was sent to the CD manufacturers. The original sound installation had to be made much louder in order to be played on a conventional CD, which made certain sounds audible that Roden himself could not hear in his own mixes. Forms of Paper, then, really is the exemplary lowercase record, not by virtue of its dedication to a set of generic conventions, but because its dissemination was wrested from Roden’s control just as the term “lowercase” itself was, and then made to mean something quite different. That the record still means so much for its listeners more than ten years after its release attests to the importance of Roden’s work. And he eventually came around as well – the liner notes to the re-release end with his confession that “remarkably — with all of the distance between us — this piece of mine and me, seemed to feel as if we might finally be able to get along.”


Die Entwicklung elektronischer Musik schreitet so rasch voran, dass sogar die Nischen schon Geschichtsschreibung betreiben: 2001 fütterte Steve Roden seinen Computer mit Geräuschen, die er dem Reiben, Kratzen und Umblättern von Buchseiten abgerungen hatte, und destillierte daraus eine Welt aus knisternden Frequenzen und knackender Feinheit. Schon bald fand sich unter dem von ihm eingeführten Begri´  "lowercase" eine Avantgarde zusammen, die das Werk zum Vorbild nahm, mit leisen, zurückhaltenden Sounds arbeitete und aus ihnen neue Strukturen errichtete. Längst ausverkauft, feiert Forms of Paper nun eine Neuauµ age. Keine leichte, aber essenzielle Kost.

reviews of the original release can be found here