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.

Monthly Archives: July 2010

Past Week at Twitter.com/Disquiet

  • Next Tuesday, the "MP3 Discussion Group" at Disquiet.com will yap about Thomas Köner's Permafrost @_type reissue. Stream: http://is.gd/dV0cs #
  • Artificial light allowed for "nightlife" & was later deemed a "moral force" by FDR. Elizabeth Royte on Jane Brox's study: http://is.gd/dTRkq #
  • Philly instrumental hip-hop day: 1st @whyarcka – then Small Professor, then Hustle Simmons tracks by Tha S Ence. Now: Aeon Got Beats Vol. 1. #
  • I left New Orleans seven years ago next week, and still have the same 504 cell number. It's my information age tattoo. #
  • Fennesz coming to U.S. in September (SF, LA, NYC, DC, Philly, Boston, Austin, Vancouver, Chicago, Seattle) http://is.gd/dT4zQ A rare tour #
  • Great news on Urbanized by @gary_hustwit (Helvetica, Objectified). Soundtrack cues? Maybe Einstürzende Neubauten, Future Sound of London? #
  • Dig Inception's glacial Piaf slowdown? Check out Alan Morse Davies; here's his "Gloomy Sunday" (Whiteman, not Holiday) http://is.gd/dT2MD #
  • Beautiful realization: major Inception orchestral theme is Edith Piaf song slowed down http://is.gd/dT07J #
  • Morning sounds: hard drives, shower, bus. #
  • Bland uniformity of @soundcloud pages (as service expands in scope) proving to be navigation detriment; Twitter-style backgrounds would help #
  • Maybe treacly @starbucks music is meant to reduce length of one's visit the way received wisdom has it about uncomfortable @mcdonalds seats. #
  • Incredible number of emails from music publicists with nary genre nor adjective in 'em. "Here's a great record. Please listen." #
  • When you're indoors and nextmuni.com tells you that your bus is "Arriving," hearing it arrive at that moment is just laying it on. #
  • Time-lapse phonography; sounds like abstract Girl Talk: http://is.gd/dQW64 by @soundplusdesign #
  • My idea of #idosing — wandering around city listening to Shane Carruth's score to Primer, keeping an eye out for quantum timeslips. #
  • I hope someone's collecting and cataloging all these automobile sounds before the hybrids take over. #
  • Cantina Band pondering move to new @creativecommons galaxy-spanning license; Meco hopeful to follow #wookieleaks #
  • Forget fidelity. Few things lost as quickly in shared music than transitions between tracks — well, that and liner-note information. #
  • ♫ Afternoon audio stream: live analog-synth activity from Keith Fullerton Whitman http://is.gd/dMRKt #
  • Unintended definition of techno music: search Google for "4/4" and it tells you the answer is "1" http://is.gd/dME6k #
  • So many of my Mac-centric friends use Microsoft mice, and now I'm hoping for Win7 support of the new Apple Magic Trackpad. #
  • New issue of Applied Cognitive Psychology ponders if background music is deleterious to intellectual pursuits http://is.gd/dMzvu #
  • Ah, silly me. Primer score via @amazon, just buried in search listings after heap of file-sharing spam-site gobbledygook http://is.gd/dMo9h #
  • Multi-hyphen Shane Carruth's lo-fi sci-fi mind-fu Primer streaming free http://is.gd/dMm53 via @io9 — but how to get ahold of his score? #
  • RIP, trumpeter Harry Beckett (b. 1935), veteran of Jah Wobble, David Sylvian, Adrian Sherwood & many jazz greats (Charles Mingus among 'em). #
  • Listening to Dave Gruisin's score to Three Days of the Condor while pondering the potential of last night's promising Rubicon premiere. #
  • Scored 18 of the first 19 issues of Cabinet Magazine yesterday. #
  • Mysterious afternoon outdoors drone again. Let's assume this time it isn't to be followed by another off-shore quake. #
  • Test your noise-blocking earbuds: can you enjoy @douglasbenford remix while rest of cafe's stuck with ELO & Stevie Nicks? http://is.gd/dKmZs #
  • RIP Morris Pert (b.1947) Brand X alum, score composer/contributor (Man Who Fell to Earth, Killing Fields), session player http://is.gd/dJW0P #
  • Will the Carolinian/Piedmont Amtrak line (NYC to Duke) sport uptick in old-school graffiti come start of Sept? LP-as-art: http://is.gd/dIwG5 #
  • RIP, Willem Breuker (b. 1944), Dutch jazz figure http://is.gd/dH5o0 #conceptual #improvisation #avant #
  • Sound design in Salt has pleasingly noisy Messiaen-ic church scene, but also one of James Newton Howard's most paint-by-numbers scores. #
  • Got @firefox .0.1 upgrade (3.6.7 to 3.6.8): "single stability issue affecting some pages containing plugins"; hopefully less crashtastic. #
  • A cold, early, summer Sunday is the quietest daylight time in San Francisco: fewer buses, no birds. #
  • Stumbled on these these beautiful mid-century teak Griffin speakers while looking for a credenza: http://is.gd/dEV1a #
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Floppy Disk Memories (1997)

A package arrived in the mail recently containing the above artifact, a floppy disk labeled “epulse 1997.” It contained most of the issues of epulse published that year. Epulse was a zine I founded in 1994 at Tower Records, where I was an editor from 1989 through 1996. I left the company in 1996 to join Citysearch.com, and continued writing freelance for the magazines (in addition to epulse, there was the flagship, Pulse!, and a magazine I co-founded, Classical Pulse!). Epulse, somewhat advanced for its time, was published only via email: 1997 was its third full year of existence, and it ran through 2002.

Anyhow, I flipped through the issues and located seven stories I’d written that hadn’t yet been archived here at Disquiet.com, so here they are, all from 1997, reviews of: (1) a split single by Asian Dub Foundation and Atari Teenage Riot, (2) a soundtrack album of work by Toru Takemitsu (Woman in the Dunes), (3) a Chicago Hope episode that nodded heavily, and self-consciously, in the direction of Dennis Potter, (4) a single by early Rephlex artist Kiyoshi Izumi, (5) an album (Sci-Fi Cafe) of sci-fi theme covers including Loop Guru doing Star Trek and Electric Skychurch doing a Brian Eno track from Dune, (6) Gianluigi Trovesi Octet‘s album Les Hommes Armes (on Soul Note: “trad jazz elements … fused with electronic noise”), and (7) a reissue of the David Foster Wallace and Mark Costello book Signifying Rappers (Ecco).

Thanks for the disk go to Jason Verlinde (of fretboardjournal.com), who took over the editing of epulse when I left the company (years later I took it back on as a freelance project).

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Death, Sound, Words (Scanner MP3s)

A car honks twice, and then what follows is an inundation of descriptions of a grisly automobile accident that has taken the life of a loved one, as well as of the detached bystanders who snap mobile-phone pictures of the splattered corpse.

A rector talks at length about the intense, the unknowably demanding, emotional requisites of his funeral work, and as his measured tones come to a halt, church bells seem to ring out in the distance, muffled by solemnity and space — and, no doubt, by some manner of digital processing.

The processing is courtesy of Scanner (aka Robin Rimbaud), who produced the work, titled “Sighs, Wonders,” with writer Sukhdev Sandhu on a commission from the Spitalfields Festival London earlier this year. Two versions are available for free online. There’s a nearly 20-minute “instrumental” take (albeit with a few brief spoken passages) he posted yesterday:

And there’s a shorter excerpt (MP3), about half that length, at the website of the sponsoring festival:

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Scanner and Sandhu previously collaborated on the hypertextual “nocturnal journal” nighthaunts.org.uk, with visuals by the digital studio Mind Unit. For “Sighs, Wonders” they again plumb matters of urbanism and mortality. As Scanner’s characteristic ambience unfolds, voices are heard intoning about the history of the land, matters of flesh and spirit, of “Roman bones” and “paupers’ bones” and everything in between.

Scanner’s early career involved using words he snatched from the ether (hence his name), the candid words of others unwittingly sewn into his sound art, but he also works with dramatic efforts, such as these texts. In one of the many “Sighs, Wonders” spoken bits, the following is uttered:

“For the upscale slummer, it’s a peepshow picturesque. For the missionary, it’s a chance to play imperial redeemer, tamer of beasts, a human chandelier radiating the darkness.”

Sandhu could be speaking of the unwashed masses of an urban setting. Or he could be speaking, more self-consciously, of the tension inherent in Scanner’s practice. The instrumental version of “Sighs, Wonders” is a lovely thing, a mix of moody synthesized noise and occasional field recordings, punctuated by brief utterances. The spoken version, naturally, brings the narrative concerns to the fore. The rector’s words are spoken not by Sandhu but by an actual local Shoreditch rector, whose presence blurs the space between documented and constructed reality. (Such a quintessentially British place name, Shoreditch, the sort of deeply mundane, semi-oxymoronic term that had it not existed, surely China Miéville would have created it for one of his novels.) We experience the piece (in either its instrumental or verbalized editions) simultaneously as a virtuous art, and as an archive of deterioration.

The instrumental track is at soundcloud.com/scanner (from which the above photo is taken). The track with extended vocals is at spitalfieldsfestival.org.uk. Scanner announced the instrumental’s availability at twitter.com/robinrimbaud and facebook.com/scannerdot. More on Scanner at scannerdot.com.

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Stephen Vitiello’s Collage Enviroment (MP3)

All field recordings are alien, even the most familiar. A close-up recording of a bug or an ice cube has sonic resonances, inherent threat, surprise facets, that are utterly apart from daily experience. To bring a microphone close to something is to witness it at an unprecedented level of detail, and to listen to it closely is to hear things that one simply doesn’t associate with the object at hand.

This is no less true of environments than of objects. As an experiment, record your daily commute and listen back to it later; you’ll be astounded by the sounds you hadn’t noticed. In many ways, the more familiar the place or object recorded, the more dissociated the experience, because as time passes we take sound for granted; we listen through the familiar, and our ears focus on the occasional unfamiliar.

Stephen Vitiello, the musician and sound artist, frequently employs field recordings in his work, both sonic and visual. For an exhibit earlier this year at the Davis Museum and Cultural Center in Wellesley, Massachusetts, he took sounds from three diverse locales — “Australian outback, the Canadian wilderness, and New York City’s streets,” according to the museum, as well as “Virginia marshes” according to a story in the local newspaper — and created an installation score that is all of those places and none of them. Elements of the real world are ever-present, from rough noise to ambiguous jangling to industrial whines to what may be moving water andor traffic, but they’re less snapshots or documentation than they are just that: elements, parts of a whole given meaning through manipulation and context. The work is a collage lent a semblance of constancy thanks to what appear to be added effects, tones like those from a dying organ, and whirring buzzing like the sound design of a science-fiction film.

The idea of sound design is central to the score, because it served as part of an immersive environment, titled “Something Like Fireworks.” The Vitiello music was composed to be played in a lit space designed by artist Jeremy Choate (see the photo above). Theirs is a staged place, an unreal place, a fictional reality created by artists.

Track originally posted at soundcloud.com/stephenvitiello.

More on the exhibit at davismuseum.wellesley.edu and metrowestdailynews.com.

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Images of the Week: The LP as Art

Don’t be surprised if the Carolinian/Piedmont Amtrak train line starts sporting an uptick in old-school graffiti tags at the beginning of September.

That’s the route that connects New York City with Durham, North Carolina. Durham is home to Duke University, where on September 2 the Nasher Museum of Art will be hosting The Record: Contemporary Art and Vinyl; the show is scheduled to run through February 6, 2011. It collects work by 41 artists, from the contemporary videos of Robin Rhode to modern classics by such artists as Ed Ruscha and Jasper Johns. Bridging that gap will be work by people like Christian Marclay, who took vinyl as an occasional subject of visual interest and turned it into a full-fledged art-world natural resource.

The show will overlap for 24 tantalizing days with Christian Marclay: Festival, which has run since July 1 at the Whitney in Manhattan.

Here are four images from The Record’s promotional website, at nasher.duke.edu/therecord, in descending order by Meredyth Sparks, Dave Muller, Su-Mei Tse, and Gregor Hildebrandt.

Hildebrant’s, in case it isn’t evident from the detail photographic, is a vinyl LP created using tape from a cassette.

Judging by the age of the participants, the vast majority were at least in their adolescence by the time the CD began to challenge the LP for music-distribution supremacy — which is to say, even recent work, like Muller’s, is by people for whom the record isn’t pure retro nostalgia. The exhibit itself may serve as something of a pop-culture post-mortem, but it’s essential to keep in mind when looking at, say, this still from Marclay’s “Ghost (I Don’t Live Today)” (1985), that the experimentation, the play, was occurring then the LP ruled the record-retail roost.

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