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.

Disquiet Junto Project 0191: Held Chord

One chord to rule them all — on several instruments.

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Each Thursday in the Disquiet Junto group on SoundCloud.com and at disquiet.com/junto, 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.

This assignment was made in the afternoon, California time, on Thursday, August 27, 2015, with a deadline of 11:59pm wherever you are on Monday, August 31, 2015.

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

Disquiet Junto Project 0191: Held Chord
One chord to rule them all — on several instruments.

These are the steps:

Step 1: Choose a chord you can play on several instruments. You can choose any chord you’d like.

Step 2: Make recordings of yourself playing that just chord on several instruments.

Step 3: Edit those individual recordings into one long continuous track, in which the chord slowly (and smoothly as possible) changes from one instrument to the next. The complete length of the finished track should be about one minute.

Step 4: Upload your completed track to the Disquiet Junto group on SoundCloud.

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

Deadline: This assignment was made in the afternoon, California time, on Thursday, August 27, 2015, with a deadline of 11:59pm wherever you are on Monday, August 31, 2015.

Length: The length of your finished work should be approximately one minute.

Upload: Please when posting your track on SoundCloud, only upload one track for this assignment, 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.

Title/Tag: When adding your track to the Disquiet Junto group on Soundcloud.com, please include the term “disquiet0191-heldchord” 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, and link to (and identify) the two SoundCloud pages for the source audio you selected:

More on this 191st Disquiet Junto project (“One chord to rule them all — on several instruments”) at:

http://disquiet.com/2015/08/27/disquiet0191-heldchord/

More on the Disquiet Junto at:

http://disquiet.com/junto/

Join the Disquiet Junto at:

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

Disquiet Junto general discussion takes place at:

http://disquiet.com/forums/

Image associated with this project by Max Nathan, and used thanks to a Creative Commons license:

https://flic.kr/p/3aL7nK

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Irritant in the Haze

João Ricardo dissects techno from Porto, Portugal

There’s a fly in João Ricardo’s ointment.

The ointment is a dense, flowing expanse of minimal techno. It is all churning, elegantly desiccated haze. There are whorls within whorls, and a thudding backbeat that is as cloudy as it is fierce.

The fly is a little bit of noise, like a bad seam in a looped sample, or the click of a turntable where the needle is stuck at the record’s end, or a bit of static on the phone that makes you think someone is listening in. It’s a tiny little irritant that turns the haze — the track is titled “Fugue” — into something more foreboding, more anxiety-provoking, more compelling.

Track, from his album Soon off the Arctic Dub label, originally posted at soundcloud.com/ocp. Ricardo goes by ocp, an acronym that expands to “operador de cabine polivalente.” More from him at joaoricardo.org. Get the full album at davewesley.bandcamp.com. Both Arctic Dub and ocp are based in Porto, Portugal.

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What Sound Looks Like

An ongoing series cross-posted from instagram.com/dsqt


At the end of every video shoot, the recording engineer calls “room tone” and everyone sits or stands in place, in silence. Usually there is someone on the shoot who doesn’t know what “room tone” means. They know enough, though, to stay silent until the engineer announces that enough audio has been captured, enough of the space’s inherent sound, its sense of space, its echo, its ambient foundation. I like figuring out who is unfamiliar with the term “room tone” and then discussing the concept with them. It isn’t, by any means, difficult to grasp that such a tone would be useful. Say you want to place a title card in the video. If you have no sound, then the viewer would experience a sudden drop in sound when the title card appears and a sudden sonic jut when the footage cuts back in. Discussing these two different silences — digital silence and room silence — always makes for a good conversation starter. In the right company, it extends into a broader consideration of assumptions about the concept of silence, how it is a platonic ideal, not a physical reality, as well as to how various types of silence — an echoing space, the light chatter of a workplace, the random intrusions of street noise — lend their own meaning.

An ongoing series cross-posted from instagram.com/dsqt.
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Can You Hear the Arctic?

And can you play the arctic? Ask Karen Power and John Godfrey.

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For some reason, the track page for this live improvisation by Karen Power and John Godfrey isn’t allowing me to embed it here. So, to hear it, head over to Power’s SoundCloud page, at soundcloud.com/karenpower.

Earlier this year, back in January, Power worked with Joyce Majiski on an installation at the Yukon Arts Centre titled Inside the Glacier. Both of the women were part of an Article Circle Residency Program expedition to the Yukon to collect sounds and develop art from them. This recorded performance teamed Power with musician John Godfrey, and together they, through live improvisation, developed a sonic response to the Yukon soundscape that emanated from another room in the gallery where this was all recorded. Their initially tentative plucks and whirs emerge from the winds and watery sounds of the arctic audio documents. At times the sounds are distinct from the sourced audio, but much of the time their playing achieves a naturalistic presence: strange birds in strange weather.

There is a host of images from her arctic trip at karenpower.ie, depicting the use of omnidirectional microphones inside a wooden boat, microphones inside the remains of a locomotive, hydrophones inside icebergs, and much more. Power produced this half-hour documentary, Can You Hear the Arctic?, about her acoustic experience in 2013:

Track originally posted at soundcloud.com/karenpower. More from Power, who has a PhD in acoustic and electroacoustic composition from SARC (Sonic Arts Research Centre) in Belfast, Ireland, at karenpower.ie. More on the installation at yukonartscentre.com. Photo up top by Tina Kohlmann, from the British Library site at britishlibrary.typepad.co.uk.

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The Eternal Life Aquatic with Laraaji

An interview with the ambient grandmaster in his 72nd year

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In recent years, there has been much discussion about distinctions between “ambient” music and “new age” music. It is quite likely that the primary distinction between the two is a matter of just how foregrounded are spiritual matters — in the music’s conception, and in its presumed consumption.

If anyone can weigh in authoritatively on such distinctions, it is Laraaji, the longtime, holistic-minded musician whose most prominent release, 1980’s Ambient 3: Days of Radiance (Editions EG), was produced by a world-famous skeptic: ambient godfather Brian Eno. As has been well documented over the years, Eno came upon Laraaji playing his electric-enhanced zither in Manhattan’s Washington Square Park. That chance encounter helped introduce Laraaji to the world, and to this day he travels widely and records and performs frequently, often as part of spiritual conferences.

Born Edward Larry Gordon in 1943, and later taking the name Laraaji as part of a spiritual awakening, he studied music at the historically black college Howard University and then moved to New York City to pursue a career in standup comedy. The impetus for this interview was the announced release of three of his archival cassette tapes by Leaving Records, dating from just before and just after Days of Radiance.

The collection is titled All in One Peace, and it contains the lush, aquatic, and deeply trippy Lotus Collage (1978), Unicorns in Paradise (1981), and Connecting with the Inner Healer Through Music (1983). They are being made available as cassettes not simply because the audience for cassettes has expanded in recent years, but because cassettes — easy to transport, inexpensive to reproduce — were the medium on which Laraaji originally sold his music when he busked in Washington Square Park.

all-in-one-peace

In advance of the interview, which was spurred on by Boing Boing’s Xeni Jardin, with whom I share an enthusiasm for Laraaji, I asked her and several musicians I admire if they had any questions for Laraaji. To begin with, his name is pronounced as three straight, even syllables, none of them emphasized. In addition to Jardin’s question about the connection between music and healing, I asked for Scanner (aka Robin Rimbaud) about Laraaji’s thoughts on melancholia in music — this due to Laraaji’s profound emphasis on laughter — and for Greg Davis I asked about the origins of a specific record album, Essence Universe.

In the interview, Laraaji talks about many things, including what Washington Square Park was like back in the day, how he achieves his watery sonics, bridging the spiritual gap with the great skeptic Brian Eno, finding peace in the process of tuning the zither’s 36 strings, and his early career as a standup comic.

Marc Weidenbaum: How did this reissue collection, these three albums, come to be?

Laraaji: I think it stared with a gentleman named Douglas Mcgowan of Yoga Records who, maybe two years ago, when he was releasing an LP of mine he mentioned some people in California who might be interested, as an independent company, to release my music. Over about a year or two, eventually he connected me with Matthewdavid McQueen, in Los Angeles. Well, actually, I met David and his wife at an event that myself and a partner and music collaborator gave in Los Angeles — I think a year and a half ago, in October. And he met me there and handed me a CD and I met his wife, and maybe about a half year later he contacted me and mentioned that he was very much interested in checking out my early music on cassette, and asked if I sent him out whatever I had he would go over them and examine them and take it from there, on what to do with them. I sent him out a bunch of my old cassettes and he found three that he wanted to release immediately and he got my approval, very easy agreement, and he began to work on preparing the cassettes as close to the way they looked back when I did them myself. With Leaving Records and Stones Throw and all of our connections since I met him in Los Angeles, about a year and a half ago, have been through email and phone.

Weidenbaum: It’s a beautiful collection, and the packaging is gorgeous. I was familiar with two of the albums through YouTube, but of the three cassettes, one I had never heard of before. It’s titled Connecting with the Inner Healer Through Music

Laraaji: For that one I had a limited release on it because it was really for the people who are familiar with that annual excursion conference that takes in Greensboro – the South Eastern Spiritual Conference. I occasionally presented workshops for music for these conferences over the years. One year, 1983, I offered a three-day workshop called “Connecting with the Inner Healer,” and I prepared music for the people in the class. This is the music that came out of that experience. So I hadn’t tried to release that set too widely, mostly for people who are familiar with my workshop programs.

Weidenbaum: It’s incredible how little mention of it there is on Google as of now, just nine search returns as of today [July 21, 2015], several of which are for the phrase but have nothing to do, actually, with your album.

Laraaji: Yes, I’m not a great big promoter. I delegate that to other qualified people. I’m surprised there’s that many mentions.

Weidenbaum: I’d imagined it must have some sort of unique provenance. Please elaborate on Connecting with the Inner Healer. I want to also talk about your music and life, but because of the timing of these re-releases, I want to focus first on these albums, especially this one, about which so little is known. Was the music recorded at the conference?

Laraaji: It’s either I did the conference and it inspired me to do the music, or at the time I was preparing to give the workshop this recording happened as part of my preparation. I don’t remember the exact sequence. It was 1983. If I knew the month that would tell me more. The conferences were usually in July. The theme of this particular conference was healing, consciousness, and transition. My music was always being invited to be shared at these conferences. Connecting with the Inner Healer was a way for me to get deeper into the therapeutic side of music. These kinds of conferences offer many different speakers around the idea of spirituality, altered life, consciousness — so, I was constantly being exposed to ideas of healing, ideas of healing, healing lifestyle. I’m being reminded that my music had healing qualities, which I wasn’t surprised by, because it grew out of my experience with meditation in the early ‘70s. It grew out of my exposure to imageries and visions of altered states of consciousness in the mid-‘70s. That started me exploring for a music experience, or musical sound, on this side of the veil that would complement what I heard in altered states. The result was through yoga, meditation, metaphysics, and other modalities. My music began to reflect an inner sense of reality that I contacted through meditation, an inner sense of constant stillness, quiet, harmony, peace and serenity, and universal oneness. These themes found their way into my musical expression, along with, still I did jazz and bop and jam-alongs when I lived in Park Slope, New York. Coffee house jams, loft music jams. We’d go through the whole gamut of music, but my electric zither at that time was surfacing and the music that I offered into all these experiences was usually this flowing ambient textural continual kind of atmospherical space music. That was around the late ’70s. Read more »

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