February 13, 2014, is the official release date for my 33 1/3 book on Aphex Twin's 1994 album Selected Ambient Works Volume II, 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.

Disquiet @ SETI (April 22)

I'm speaking at SETI in Mountain View

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Tomorrow night, April 22, at 7pm I’m giving a guest talk at SETI, famously the acronym for the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence. It’s free if you’re in the neighborhood, by which I mean Mountain View, California, not our galaxy. April 22 happens to be Earth Day, and what better day than Earth Day to address people who study the universe?

I’ll be the opening act for Ed Frenkel, Berkeley math professor and author of the book Love and Math, whom I’ve gotten to know a little over some recent dinners. I’ll be speaking on my experience in the weekly Disquiet Junto music projects, and on what I’ve learned about networked creativity. After Frenkel and I speak separately, we’ll participate in a discussion with Charles Lindsay, the artist-in-resident at SETI who invited us to speak. SETI holds weekly colloqium with invited speakers. Frenkel and I are talking as part of an occasional series of “artist talks,” beyond the normal scientific scope of the SETI colloqium.

The event will stream live and be archived at plus.google.com.

More on the event at seti.org. You can register to attend at eventbrite.com.

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From Stonehenge to Lucier

Trevor Cox knows who they were and what they were doing.

This isn’t new, but it’s worth a listen, especially if you’ve (1) never participated in a soundwalk or (2) not yet read Trevor Cox’s sonic travelogue, Sonic Wonderland: A Scientific Odyssey of Sound. Cox visited the offices of the Guardian and proceeded to take the editors on a blindfolded guided tour — except he was the one in the blindfold, gauging where he was based on what he heard. He also provided an example of how the acoustics of Stonehenge might have impacted the way ritual music was experienced on site, and talked about the evolutionary role of listening and of music:

More recently, just earlier this week, Cox posted an experiment in which he recreated Alvin Lucier’s “I Am Sitting in a Room.” The extravagant reverberation of his rendition is owed to its locale. The recording was made in Inchindown, Scotland, oil tanks, which were recently granted the Guinness World Record for “longest echo”:

Track originally posted for free download at soundcloud.com/guardianbookspodcast. Video at youtube.com.

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Disquiet Junto Project 0120: Readymade Rhythm

Write a song based on the heartbeat of Marcel Duchamp.

20140417-duchamp

Each Thursday at the Disquiet Junto group on SoundCloud.com 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.

Tracks by participants will be added to this playlist as the project proceeds:

This project was published in the early evening, California time, on Thursday, April 17, with 11:59pm on the following Monday, April 21, 2014, as the deadline.

These are the instructions that went out to the group’s email list (at tinyletter.com/disquiet-junto):

Disquiet Junto Project 0120: Readymade Rhythm

The image at the following link shows the hearbeat of the artist Marcel Duchamp. Study the image closely and from it make the “rhythmic foundation” of a track. Then add two elements, one “tonal” and the other “melodic.” The result is your finished work. You may, of course, loop the hearbeat to achieve the desired length. Given the date of the recording (April 4), you should assume the beat is in 4/4, though deviations are certainly welcome. The image is located in this post:

http://blakegopnik.com/post/81699274569

Background: This image was posted earlier this month by the insightful art critic Blake Gopnik. He explained that the heatbeat of Marcel Duchamp was recorded on April 4, 1966, by the doctor and artist Brian O’Doherty.

Deadline: Monday, April 14, 2014, at 11:59pm wherever you are.

Length: The length of your recording should be between one and three minutes.

Information: Please when posting your track on SoundCloud, 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.

Title/Tag: When adding your track to the Disquiet Junto group on Soundcloud.com, please include the term “disquiet0120-duchampbeat″ in the title of your track, and as a tag for your track.

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, please be sure to include this information:

More on this 120th Disquiet Junto project — “Write a song based on the heartbeat of Marcel Duchamp” — at:

http://disquiet.com/2014/04/17/disquiet0120-duchampbeat/

More on the Disquiet Junto at:

http://disquiet.com/?p=16588

Join the Disquiet Junto at:

http://soundcloud.com/groups/disquiet-junto/

Photo associated with this Junto project sourced from the following URL, which notes “Image – margins cropped for clarity – is courtesy the artist, P! and Simone Subal Gallery”:

http://blakegopnik.com/post/81699274569

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Scanning the Background

A reworking of Alan Dunn and Martyn Rainford

20140414-colonize Scanner’s reworking of a track by Alan Dunn and Martyn Rainford is the latest in a series of efforts by the duo to explore the idea of “background.” The source audio for their remix is their A History of Background CD. This remix by Scanner is part of a dubplate made for an exhibit currently going on in Jamestown, New York, under the name Colonize. It’s a rich, constantly shifting piece, snatches of dubby static and gadgety fragments heard over a compelling electronic-tribal beat, bits of vocal tweaked and layered, filtered and muffled, until they’re just beyong ready comprehension — leaving them lingering in, as it were, the background.

Track originally posted for free download at 67projects1.bandcamp.com. More on the originating project at alandunn67.co.uk. The Jamestown exhibit was funded thanks to a kickstarter.com campaign. A previous remix in the series is by Dr Cyclops, and it is also available for free. Scanner promoted this on both his Facebook and Twitter pages, which are highly recommended.

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The Virtuous Circle of Aphex Twin Fandom

An interview with Joyrex, whose WATMM forum rescued a lost Richard D. James album from 20 years ago

20140410-caustic

Last month, March 2014, marked the 20th anniversary of the release of the landmark 1994 Aphex Twin album Selected Ambient Works Volume II. I wrote a book, also out last month, about that album, as part of the 33 1/3 series. A main thesis of my book is that the Aphex Twin album’s extensive cultural afterlife has significantly shaped our understanding of its music, has changed the way it sounds, how it is appreciated. Much of that post-release change is the result, I argue, of the role played by fans of the music. This process has taken time, but it began almost immediately upon the release of the album, when a member of an email mailing list about electronic music took it upon himself to give names to the tracks on Selected Ambient Works Volume II. Those tracks on the record are, with one exception, essentially title-less. That is, they have no “word names” but are instead associated with cryptic photographs. The responsible fan on the mailing list, whom I tracked down and interviewed for the book, recognized the images in the photos and assigned names to each of the tracks based on those photos. Those fan-determined track names stuck, and in fact are to this day readily disseminated by such systems as Gracenote, which populates media services with record-album track metadata.

And now, just a month after the Selected Ambient Works Volume II anniversary, again Aphex Twin fans have not only played a significant role in an album by Richard D. James, the British electronic musician behind the Aphex Twin mask — they have quite literally taken an unreleased album and made it commercially available for the first time. And the album in question dates from the same year as Selected Ambient Works Volume II: 1994.

The story has been widely covered in the past 48 hours or so, following the April 8 report on factmag.com, and what follows is an interview I conducted via email earlier today, April 10, with the individual behind the effort to make the record widely available. That person goes by the name Joyrex and he is the founder of WATMM.com, which takes its initials from the track “We Are the Music Makers” off Aphex Twin’s 1992 album Selected Ambient Works 85–92. The track samples Gene Wilder uttering the words of 19th-century author Arthur William Edgar O’Shaughnessy in Mel Stuart’s film Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, adapted from the Roald Dahl book. Like Richard D. James, O’Shaughnessy was a British citizen of Irish extraction. The movie came out in 1971, the same year that Richard D. James was born. (Joyrex takes that avatar name — also the name of a website he founded prior to WATMM — from a handful of recordings that Richard D. James has released under the name Caustic Window. He gave me the option of employing his given name here, but I’ve decided to stick with Joyrex.)

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