My 33 1/3 book, on Aphex Twin's Selected Ambient Works Volume II, was the 5th bestselling book in the series in 2014. It's available at Amazon (including Kindle) and via your local bookstore. • F.A.Q.Key Tags: #saw2for33third, #sound-art, #classical, #juntoElsewhere: Twitter, SoundCloud, Instagram

Listening to art.
Playing with audio.
Sounding out technology.
Composing in code.

Jen Kutler’s Stationary Guitar

A fantasia of droning metallic forms

This living room concert features nearly a quarter hour of Jen Kutler eking a fantasia of droning metallic forms out of a stationary guitar. There are many alternative guitar practices, from playing with your teeth to preparing it, à la a Cageian piano, with paper clips and other small objects. In many ways, an electric guitar can be said to always be prepared, in that it is almost always having its signal routed through various effects pedals. In contrast with a piano, an electric guitar is almost never heard unaltered. For all the perceived rawness and realness of, say, a rock’n’roll guitar solo, that sound is heavily technologically mediated. Kutler’s performance has all the force of a great rock statement, all the roil and ecstasy, but it pursues it without the familiar, orienting substrata of rhythm or melody.

There’s something illustrative about how Kutler situates her guitar. It’s on a guitar stand, at rest. A lot of noise guitarists take a lap-steel approach, holding it sideways. Others telegraph the meditative quality of meter-less sound by placing it flat on the floor, a six-string savasana. Others lay it on a desk amid various cables and effects, akin to a synthesizer or a keyboard. Those horizontal approaches can be read as contrasts to the normal positions: over one’s knee or suspended by a strap. The horizontal positioning matches the ambient/noise approach to sound, that we’re not hearing a song, but instead a song inside out, the material of a song, the sounds not the tune. We’re listening to music from a perpendicular angle. In Kutler’s hands those sounds are akin to a Harry Bertoia sculpture, of thick metal rods swaying amid the very noise they are emanating.

Kutler works with her own homebrew music technology, such as these MIDI-enabled umbrella and sewing machine:



Video originally posted at the YouTube channel of unARTigNYC. More from Kutler at and More from unARTigNYC at

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An Hour-Long Grouper Set

Hosted by Boiler Room

The prolific Boiler Room electronic-music content generation feed machine is often full of fish-eye views of sweaty DJs, but it veers at times down less beat-intensive corridors. This here is a nearly hour-long set of Grouper, aka Liz Harris, performing against a backdrop of footage by filmmaker Paul Clipson. It’s breathy stuff, her voice layered with keyboards, mere snippets of atmosphere given minutes to loop on end, the whole thing like veils giving hints of veils giving hints of veils. It’s all intonation and gauze, but the seeming softness belies a deeper tension. Much ambient music sounds — and is — peaceful, but there’s a tensile quality to Grouper’s music, like just past the threadbare scrim is something tough as nails, an unknowable intensity. The video gives glimpses of her at the mixing board, her fingers lightly adjusting signals, keeping certainty just out of reach.

Video originally posted on the Boiler Room YouTube channel. More from Grouper at this address.

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What Sound Looks Like

An ongoing series cross-posted from


An ongoing series cross-posted from
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Disquiet Junto Project 0251: Soothing Sounds for Parents

Remix some music for infants with parents in mind.


Each Thursday in the Disquiet Junto group, a new compositional challenge is set before the group’s members, who then have just over four days to upload a track in response to the assignment. Membership in the Junto is open: just join and participate. A SoundCloud account is helpful but not required. There’s no pressure to do every project. It’s weekly so that you know it’s there, every Thursday through Monday, when you have the time.

Tracks will be added to this playlist for the duration of the project:

This project was posted in the afternoon, California time, on Thursday, October 20, 2016, with a deadline of 11:59pm wherever you are on Monday, October 24, 2016.

These are the instructions that went out to the group’s email list (at

Disquiet Junto Project 0251: Soothing Sounds for Parents
Remix some music for infants with parents in mind.

Last week’s project involved making soothing sounds for babies. This week the plan is to transform those sounds into something for parents (where Creative Commons licenses or other agreements allow).

Step 1: Listen through and locate a track from project 0250 that (a) is something you’d like to rework and (b) is available for reworking. If it doesn’t have an evident Creative Commons license allowing for re-use, consider contacting the musician for permission. Or just find another track. You’ll find them at

Step 2: Take the piece of music from Step 1, which was, à la Raymond Scott, intended as Soothing Sounds for Babies and transform it into something intended as Soothing Sounds for Parents. (Yes, yes, parents might certainly enjoy the original material, but please push it beyond the bassinet.)

Five More Important Steps When Your Track Is Done:

Step 1: Per the instructions below, be sure to include the project tag “disquiet0251” (no spaces) in the name of your track. If you’re posting on SoundCloud in particular, this is essential to my locating the tracks and creating a playlist of them.

Step 2: Upload your track. It is helpful but not essential that you use SoundCloud to host your track.

Step 3: In the following discussion thread at please consider posting your track. (Assuming you post it on SoundCloud, a search for the tag will help me construct the playlist.)

Step 4: Annotate your track with a brief explanation of your approach and process.

Step 5: Then listen to and comment on tracks uploaded by your fellow Disquiet Junto participants.

Deadline: This project was posted in the afternoon, California time, on Thursday, October 20, 2016, with a deadline of 11:59pm wherever you are on Monday, October 24, 2016.

Length: The length is up to you. Four minutes feels about right.

Title/Tag: When posting your track, please include “disquiet0251” in the title of the track, and where applicable (on SoundCloud, for example) as a tag.

Upload: When participating in this project, post one finished track with the project tag, and be sure to include a description of your process in planning, composing, and recording it. This description is an essential element of the communicative process inherent in the Disquiet Junto. Photos, video, and lists of equipment are always appreciated.

Download: It is preferable that your track is set as downloadable, and that it allows for attributed remixing (i.e., a Creative Commons license permitting non-commercial sharing with attribution).

Linking: When posting the track online, please be sure to include this information:

More on this 251st weekly Disquiet Junto project — “Soothing Sounds for Parents: Remix some music for infants with parents in mind” — at:

More on the Disquiet Junto at:

Subscribe to project announcements here:

Project discussion takes place on

There’s also on a Junto Slack. Send your email address to for Slack inclusion.

Baby monitor photo lightly adapted from one by mrplough, used thanks to a Creative Commons license:

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What Sound Looks Like

An ongoing series cross-posted from

The chandeliers at this hotel I stayed at sure looked like Victrola horns.

An ongoing series cross-posted from
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