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.

Listening to Yesterday: Light and Truth

A tale of mundane synesthesia

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“What is that sound,” Billy Bragg once sang. “Where is it coming from?” He was not describing the room in my home where something, yesterday, was ringing. For awhile I thought it was just my ears — allergies, age, perhaps a cold. I heard the ringing, but figured it might be internal. Then someone else came in and asked what the sound was. Aside from my laptop, there was nothing on that might emit sound. The guitar amp was off, the modular synthesizer was off, a handful of musical gadgets were off. Even the power strip into which most of them were plugged was off. This was all self-evident in the bright room.

I turned off the light switch on the wall. The room went dark, except for the bit of sunlight that made it through the drawn blinds. The room also went silent. The sound had something to do with the light fixture that hung from the ceiling. I turned the light switch on, slowly, and the room began to become more visible. The sound was gone. The room, however, was darker than it had been. Minutes ago two incandescent bulbs had filled the room with light and sound. Now one of the bulbs was dead. That whine, that electric buzz, had had something to do with the now dead bulb’s last moments of function. I pictured its filament, close to the breaking point, the tension in its failing, spring-like connection, before it finally had given way.

(Photo by Dave Crosby, used via Flickr and a Creative Commons license.)

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Listening to Yesterday: Avoiding Claustrophonia

That droning feeling

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There was a hum in the air, a fast-cycling white noise that filled the room. The room’s one door was closed, and its windows, in order for the machine making the noise to have its full effect. The machine was a powerful air purifier, an allergy-related device designed to pull dust from the room and adhere it to an easily removable filter, a robust one that could last months before disposal. The hum wasn’t merely a presence in the room. When turned on, the device’s fuzzy droning consumed the room. Like a quiet talker who draws in listeners, the machine seemd to pull the walls closer, an impression furthered by the closed door and windows. The outside world lost any presence. Not a siren or a bird or a passing bus was heard for the duration. The use of the machine was never a claustrophobic experience — never a claustrophonic experience. There was an intimacy to it, womb-like, comforting. The therapeutic purpose of the machine provided a positive association with the hum. I wondered if the company that manufactured the machine had worked to tune it, to give it a hum that was pleasant despite being so present, one that felt ameliorative rather than threatening. I wondered if, over time, the hum might alter — erode, degrade — and someone, the equivalent of a piano tuner, would have to come to my home and adjust it.

(Photo by Kent, used via Flickr and a Creative Commons license.)

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Disquiet Junto Project 0243: Synth Trial

The Assignment: Share the best track from your audition tape for Blade Runner 2.

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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 morning, California time, on Thursday, August 25, 2016, with a deadline of 11:59pm wherever you are on Monday, August 29, 2016.

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

Disquiet Junto Project 0243: Synth Trial
The Assignment: Share the best track from your audition tape for Blade Runner 2.

Please pay particular attention to all the instructions below, in light of SoundCloud having closed down its Groups functionality.

Big picture: One thing arising from the end of the Groups functionality is a broad goal, in which an account on SoundCloud is not necessary for Disquiet Junto project participation. We’ll continue to use SoundCloud, but it isn’t required to use SoundCloud. The aspiration is for the Junto to become “platform-agnostic,” which is why using a message forum, such as llllllll.co, as a central place for each project may work well.

And now, on to this week’s project.

Project Steps:

Step 1: As you now know, Jóhann Jóhannsson was selected to score Blade Runner 2. The news means, among other things, that you didn’t get the gig. Please reconcile yourself with this.

Step 2: Please share your favorite track from the audition tape you sent to Ridley Scott.

Five More Important Steps When Your Track Is Done:

Step 1: Per the instructions below, be sure to include the project tag “disquiet0243” (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: This is a fairly new step, if you’ve done a Junto project previously. In the following discussion thread at llllllll.co post your track:

http://llllllll.co/t/disquiet-junto-project-0243-synth-trial/4288

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.

This project was posted in the morning, California time, on Thursday, August 25, 2016, with a deadline of 11:59pm wherever you are on Monday, August 29, 2016.

Length: The length is up to you. Three minutes seems like a good maximum.

Title/Tag: When posting your track, please include “disquiet0243” 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 243rd weekly Disquiet Junto project — “Share the best track from your audition tape for Blade Runner 2” — at:

http://disquiet.com/0243/

More on the Disquiet Junto at:

http://disquiet.com/junto/

Subscribe to project announcements here:

http://tinyletter.com/disquiet-junto/

Project discussion takes place on llllllll.co:

http://llllllll.co/t/disquiet-junto-project-0243-synth-trial/4288

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

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Forum Digging and the Fate of Netlabels

I was interviewed for WFMU's Radio Free Culture podcast.

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Radio Free Culture WFMU exists to, per its credo, “examine issues at the intersection of digital media and the arts.” I was excited to be interviewed for the podcast by Erik Schoster, aka the musician He Can Jog. We talk about a wide range of subjects, including the role of netlabels in the age of streaming, listening strategies in our age of sonic abundance (forum digging as the new crate digging), the benefits and challenges of platform agnosticism (in light of the Disquiet Junto’s shifting dependence on SoundCloud), the imminent 250th weekly Disquiet Junto project, the imminent 20th anniversary of Disquiet.com (December 13, 2016), and the return to active duty of Aphex Twin.

I can’t seem to sort out how to embed the audio here, but you can listen at prx.org.

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What Sound Looks Like

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


In contrast with many home-brew domestic doorbell fixes, this one is easily understood. The black void where there was once a button for apartment number four has been addressed, so to speak, with a newer-model plastic standalone item. The photo may not make this clear, but that isn’t duct tape around the newer button. It’s a metal sheath of the same material as the gate. Despite what the varied buttons suggest, someone is in fact concerned with design continuity at this multi-unit building. If the broken button wasn’t easily rewired, the question lingers as to whether up in apartment four this new button is mirrored by a new bell. Perhaps every time it rings, it echoes through the building as a reminder to neighbors of other petty differences.

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