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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Late November 2103: Red Bull Music Academy releases in the U.S. the book For the Record: Conversations with People Who Have Shaped the Way We Listen to Music, for which I wrote an essay about Raster-Noton label's Carsten Nicolai and Olaf Bender.
December 18, 2013: Final class of fall semester for the course on sound in the media landscape that I teach at the Academy of Art in San Francisco. The course lasts 15 weeks.
February 13, 2014: The release date for my book on Aphex Twin's landmark 1994 album, Selected Ambient Works Vol. II, published as part of the 33 1/3 series, part of Bloomsbury. It can be preordered at amazon.com.
New: There are now three Disquiet-collated “carousels” on SoundCloud streaming sets of ambient, beat-based, and “other” tracks: disquiet.com. Think of them as fluid, iterative podcasts. I've set up similar stations at Rdio, one ambient, the other beats.
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.
Down the Pike: Concerts in the Disquiet Junto series are in various stages of planning for London, England; Portland, Oregon; and elsewhere.
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Larry Johnson: "A neat, abstract piece. I used samples to created something entirely different which can be found..."
PSR B1257+12: "Nit… intro text shows dates from last week, and might confuse. "
Westy: "Beautiful and gracious words. This track exists in large part b/c of the Junto, with its showcase of..."
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: 92: Use room tone to shape a three-part suite. • 93: Combine music from three different netlabels to create one track. • 94: Record an unlikely vocal trio with the sound of a bird, a kitten, and a pig. • 95: Musicians post recent tracks with the express purpose of getting constructive feedback. • 96: Pay tribute to the late Lou Reed's noise classic. • 97: Decode the music in a phrase from a book. • 98: Combine original three spoken texts into one track. • 99: Compose an 8-bit melody based on the "E G D" startup sound of the Xbox One. • 100: Record the sound of water boiling and make something of it. • 101: Make a phase composition based on the sounds of three switches. ... There is a complete list of projects here.
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