The three-letter term IDM, for “intelligent dance music,” is used often enough to describe a broad array of music, from Aphex Twin’s jerky ambience to Kid606’s digital acts of agitation. Another three-letter word, ECM, as is the estimable label ECM Records, run by producer Manfred Eicher, might lend itself to a more precise subset of electronic-oriented recordings — music that is compositionally open-ended, and whose deeply sedative aspirations are not technologically dependent. Drummers as fit as Joey Baron and Tony Allen likely couldn’t play two-hour equivalents of drum’n’bass if their lives depended on it; the music, with its high-wire feats of metrical aggression, pretty much requires a machine to make it happen — not that there’s anything wrong with that. However, there is a brew of quietness, of soulfulness, that is as sure to echo from Bill Frisell’s deeply digitized guitar as it is from Arvo Part’s a cappella chorus. The band Rothko makes this sort of music, and its new album, A Continual Search for Origins, with a mix of softly intoned instrumentation and documentarian field recordings, evokes a spirit of profound reflection. The field recordings were made by Rothko leader Mark Beazley, who taped various background sounds during a trip to Switzerland. In the album’s brief liner note he explains that those raw tapes became the “starting point” for a variety of instrumental settings, including percussion, sleigh bells, trumpet, guitar and much more. The first and last track feature prominent vocals by Caroline Ross, who sings plaintively over the slow tide of music. Nine tracks in between overlay delicate compositions on top of sounds of rain, wind and, again, according to Beazley’s note, “the sound of just sitting quietly.” The album was released on the label Too Pure on June 4, 2002.
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- December 20, 2014 - January 4, 2015: Social-media blackout.
- January 28, 2015: First spring-semester class meeting of the 15-week course that I teach on the role of sound in the media landscape at the Academy of Art in San Francisco. I'm only teaching it one semester this year, just to make time for other activities.
- February 13, 2015: Speaking engagement in San Francisco. Details to follow.
- February 13, 2015: First anniversary of the release of my book on Aphex Twin's landmark 1994 album, Selected Ambient Works Vol. II, published as part of the 33 1/3 series, an imprint of Bloomsbury. It can be purchased at amazon.com, among other places.
- February 22, 2015: Final day of the exhibit Momentum at the San Jose Museum of Art, featuring my three-screen, 21-track installation "Sonic Frame."
- May 13, 2015: Last spring-semester class meeting of the 15-week course that I teach on the role of sound in the media landscape at the Academy of Art in San Francisco. I'll next teach it in spring 2016.
- December 13, 2015: The 19th anniversary of Disquiet.com.
- Ongoing: The Disquiet Junto series of weekly communal music projects explore constraints as a springboard for creativity and productivity. There is a new project each Thursday afternoon (California time), and it is due the following Monday at 11:59pm: soundcloud.com.
disquiet juntoThe Disquiet Junto is an ongoing weekly collaborative music-making space in which restraints are used as a springboard for creativity. It's housed at soundcloud.com. Subscribe to the announcement list at tinyletter.com/disquiet-junto. There is an FAQ. ... These are the 10 most recent weekly projects: 0146: Make a short piece of music based on a typographic symbol for the word "silence." • 0147: Record 8 seconds of white noise in your own personal style. • 0148: Make music inspired by and suitable for listening to while reading William Gibson's novel The Peripheral. • 0149: Take a walk around the block and make something from it. • 0150: Record a subtle personal mobile score. • 0151: Score a segment of George A. Romero's Night of the Living Dead using the movie's audio as source material. • 0152: Record your own cover version of the "song" sung/emitted by the comet Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. • 0153: Record a short sound intended to be set on repeat. • 0154: Create a track from two locked grooves • 0155: Take a track and its remix and meld them into something new. ... There is a complete list of projects here.
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