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.

2011 Resolutions: 1. Upgrade Streaming Music

These aren’t quite resolutions, but there are several things I intend to do a better job of on Disquiet.com in 2011 than I have in the past:

1. Feature more streaming-only music. True, there is arguably no such thing as streaming music. It’s all downloadable, since the audio you’re hearing is on your computer (or other web-enabled device) by some means. In many cases, all you need to do is look at a streaming-only page’s source code (Ctrl + U in the Firefox browser) to locate the URL for the streaming media.

But even if the distinction between downloadable and streaming is artificial, an illusion, it is still a distinction made consciously, one way or the other, by people who post their music online. This site honors such decisions, aside from the occasional gray-market tip regarding particularly remarkable items that have long been out of print. This site also favors, to a great degree, downloadable music over that which is only intended for streaming. (There’s a whole department dedicated to it, Downstream, much as there is for commercial music, The Crate, which has far less coverage, and there’s no section for streaming-only.)

Part of this decision to pay more attention to streaming audio is curatorial: There’s an enormous amount of streaming-only music available. Part of the decision is practical: Once upon a time, the distinction between downloadable and streaming-only was a matter of what was and wasn’t portable: downloadable music you could pop onto your iPod (or semi-equivalent MP3 player), whereas streaming music was only available while you sat in front of your computer. With the rise of the smartphone, especially in our age of 4G/Mobile-WiMAX/LTE/etc. connections, it’s arguable that the tables have turned: the downloadable file is now a weighty object that needs to take up precious space on a device, whereas streaming audio is available (allowing for some hyperbole) in any place at any time.

In the past, there’s been this sense that downloadable music is part of a community that takes open-source culture seriously and that non-downloadable (i.e., streaming-only) music can, as a result, have a sense of being promotional, but that divide no longer seems to hold. (Please don’t read anything into this about the fate of the Downstream section — it will continue to exist, a new item each weekday.)

In any case, I’m hoping that in 2011 I’ll spend more time acknowledging, critiquing, recommending, and otherwise paying (and directing) attention to audio that is streaming-only … such as this track by Chris Herbert, titled “Shortwave Study for Scott Morgan.” Scott Morgan is better known loscil, and he and Rafael Aton Irisarri are compiling a compilation titled Air Texture II for spring 2011 release, and this is a rough sketch of something that Herbert is working on for them. It’s a lovely, low-key bit of near-silent ambience, all slow gusts of aether with occasion additional tones and textures and bits of voice.

More on the track on the page where it is hosted, soundcloud.com/chrisherbert.

By Marc Weidenbaum

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One Comment

  1. [ Posted January 12, 2011, at 9:05 am ]

    While I really like soundcloud and the way it works, I still love to download stuff and listen to it offline. I just can’t listen to music in front of the computer as I do on the couch, and the iphone does not really help, since it lacks flash, which is usually needed to get those players working. Downloadable music has the advantage that you have it streaming plus you can download it for later.

    Whatever you will choose to do in the end, I’ll keep on reading (and listening) your blog anyway!

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