The Disquiet Junto is a group I founded on Soundcloud.com. The purpose of the group is to use constraints to stoke creativity. Each Thursday evening I post a clearly defined compositional assignment, and members of the Junto are to complete the assignment by 11:59pm the following Monday. The initial Junto assignment was made on January 5, 2012, the first Thursday of the new year.
The inspirations for the group’s existence are numerous. There are the weekly Beat Battles sponsored by Stonesthrow, and also hosted at Soundcloud.com, in which dozens if not hundreds of participants craft instrumental hip-hop beats from a shared sample. There is the tradition of Oulipo, whose embrace of creative constraints is personified by one of its co-founders, the author Raymond Queneau. Several comics artists with whom I have worked, including Matt Madden, have bonded under the banner of Oubapo, and there is, in fact, a related musical tradition, which goes by Oumupo. (I was reminded that the Iron Chef of Music projects at kracfive.com were also an influence on my thinking. They were for many years a big part of the Downstream department here.)
The word “junto” comes from the name of a society that Benjamin Franklin formed in Philadelphia during the early 1700s as “a structured forum of mutual improvement.” In Franklin’s honor, the third Disquiet Junto project explored the glass harp, an instrument he experimented with in the development of what he christened the armonica.
The idea for the Junto arose after the completion of a Disquiet project at the end of December 2011. That project, Instagr/am/bient, was more loosely curated than other such projects I had commissioned, beginning in 2006 with Our Lives in the Bush of Diquiet. Instagr/am/bient proved quite popular, with over 20,000 listens and almost 4,000 downloads in its first month, and this success suggested to me that I experiment with an even looser format — the irony being that this “looser” format is, in fact, dedicated to constraint. Much to my surprise, the very first Junto project resulted, in four days, in 56 original pieces of music by as many musicians. The assignment was to record the sound of ice cubes in a glass and to make something musical of that recording.
If for the musicians involved, the Disquiet Junto is an experiment in creative constraints, for me it is as much an experiment in what I would describe as “community organizing as a form of curation.”
Visit the group — and, better yet, sign up and participate — at soundcloud.com/groups/disquiet-junto. There’s also an email announcement list for the group. If you would like to be added to the suscription list, you can join up here: tinyletter.com/disquiet-junto.
This page serves as an index of the assignments. They are listed here in chronological order:
These are the weekly projects to date: 0001: ice cubes • 0002: duet for foghorn and steam whistle • 0003: expanded glass harp • 0004: remixing Marcus Fischer • 0005: adding sounds to everyday life • 0006: remixing archival Edison cylinders • 0007: create through subtraction • 0008: rework Benjamin Franklin’s autobiography • 0009: cross-species collaboration • 0010: remix a previous Junto track • 0011: everyday mechanical rhythms • 0012: cut and paste • 0013: remixing wild Up playing Shostakovich • 0014: sonic version of Matt Madden’s Oubapo story • 15: aural RGB • 0016: sandpaper and dice • 0017: transition between field and composed • 0018: relative prominence • 0019: graphic score (photo by Yojiro Imasaka) • 0020: use the NodeBeat app • 0021: the four seasons • 0022: sonic decay • 0023: palindrone • 0024: a suite of sonic alerts • 0025: remixing project 24 • 0026: making music from your trash • 0027: turm the instruction text into sound • 0028: remix a netlabel release • 0029: music from water, inspired by William Gibson’s Count Zero • 0030: sounds from silence • 0031: Revisiting a 1955 Yoko Ono Fluxus piece • 0032: sonify the 2012 U.S. presidential election polling data • 0033: making music with a turntable but without vinyl • 0034: Use the theme song of the Radius broadcast as the source of an original composition • 0035: Make music from a sample page of Beck’s Song Reader sheet music • 0036: Reworking Bach into abstract expressionism • 0037: The sound of commerce • 0038: Make a fake field recording • 0039: Combine three tracks from the Nowaki netlabel into one • 0040: Turn a Kenneth Kirschner duet into a trio • 0041: Dirty minimalism • 0042: Record a “naive melody” with your oldest and newest instruments • 0043: Make mechanical roars from the sound of a retail space • 0044: Transition from storm to calm using field recordings from Sandy 2012 • 0045: Combine material from the public domain adventures of Sherlock Holmes and Tom Sawyer • 0046: Investigate a recording of the voting process for its “sonic fingerprint.” • 0047: Turn the muffled voices of a distant party into the foundation of a recording. • 0048: Celebrate the Creative Commons license that allows for derivative works by remixing music from the Three Legs Duck netlabel. • 0049: Make a track, 50% of which is the sound of a tape cassette deck in motion. • 0050: Encode a word or phrase in Morse Code and employ that as a track’s rhythm. • 0051: Create a 2012 audio diary with a dozen five-second segments. • 0052: Celebrate the Creative Commons by remixing three tracks from the Bump Foot netlabel. • 0053: Record the sound of ice in a glass and make something of it (redux). • 0054: Create an original musical score for the day’s news. • 0055: Combine two Nils Frahm solo piano pieces into one. • 0056: Make music from the sound of the tick of a clock. • 0057: Use sounds from the Phonetics Lab Archive at UCLA to depict emotions. • 0058: Celebrate the Creative Commons by remixing three tracks from the Endless Ascent netlabel. • 0059: Make music from three randomly assigned vowels. • 0060: Record something about yourself and your music/sound in your own words and voice. • 0061: Record a single for which the cover would be the image suggested by a @textinstagram tweet. • 0062: Make music using just three sine waves. • 0063: Make a new piece of music based on an echo-laden re-recording of Gregorian chant. • 0064: Compose a piece to align with, from memory, 60 seconds of everyday sound. • 0065: Compose music atop a randomly assigned segment of a pre-existing track by Jared Brickman. • 0066: Collaborate posthumously with the late Jeffrey (Nofi) Melton. • 0067: Compose music for a phrase from Homer’s The Odyssey • 0068: Combine three songs from the first release of the new deriv.cc netlabel. • 0069: Make music from field recordings of earth, water, air, and fire. • 0070: Create a single piece of music from two tones and three beats. • 0071: Create an original score to the trailer to Christine Knowlton’s film about blind sailors. • 0072: Make a domestic score from sounds recorded in your own home. • 0073: Read a map of the San Andreas Fault as if it were a graphic notation score • 0074: Turn applause into music. • 0075: Make a 3-part, 18-second suite with the Vine app. • 0076: Use the sounds of the room in which you sleep as source audio for a score to you describing your dream. • 0077: Combine music from three different netlabels to create one track. • 0078: Create music by removing sound from a century-old Edison Symphony Orchestra recording. • 0079: Remix music from the movie Manos: The Hands of Fate (1966) to make a downtempo instrumental. • 0080: Make music with a metronome. • 0081: Create generative music with four loops of differing lengths • 0082: Create a minimal techno track using elements of a Haydn string quartet. • 0083: Treat a page from recently declassified documents related to NSA collection of telephone metadata records as a graphically notated score. • 0084: Connect two distinct field recordings via a transition between isolated elements. • 0085: Make a song with three simple parts (oscillator, drum machine, field recording). • 0086: Your next single is titled “Hyperloop.” Now record it. • 0087: Make five varied doorbell rings. • 0088: Make a track simulating 3D sound. • 0089: Use the sounds of interstellar space to make “goodbye music” for the Voyager 1 space probe. • 0090: Explore the sound of a radio caught between stations. • 0091: Explore the musical qualities of footsteps. • 0092: Use room tone to shape a three-part suite. • 0093: Combine music from three different netlabels to create one track. • 0094: Record an unlikely vocal trio with the sound of a bird, a kitten, and a pig. • 0095: Musicians post recent tracks with the express purpose of getting constructive feedback. • 0096: Pay tribute to the late Lou Reed’s noise classic. • 0097: Decode the music in a phrase from a book. • 0098: Combine original three spoken texts into one track. • 0099: Compose an 8-bit melody based on the “E G D” startup sound of the Xbox One. • 0100: Record the sound of water boiling and make something of it. • 101: Make a phase composition based on the sounds of three switches. • 0102: Record original secular holiday music: glistening, reflective, gentle. • 0103: Make a song based on last week’s “sonic tinsel” project. • 0104: Create a 2013 audio diary with a dozen five-second segments. • 0105: Record the sound of ice in a glass and make something of it (re-redux) • 0106: Treat the weather chart as a graphically notated score. • 0107: Use a wind chime as the rhythmic foundation for a track. • 0108: Create a soundscape for the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra. • 0109: Insert musical objects into an urban soundscape. • 0110: Celebrate the 100th birthday of that old cut-up, William S. Burroughs. • 0111: Rework work from Impulsive Habitat, Xylem, Zeromoon (via actsofsilence.com). • 0112: Turn your week’s dayplanner into music. • 0113: Record a piece of music that slowly improves, in tribute to the late Harold Ramis’ film Groundhog Day. • 0114: Combine elements of Dave Seidel’s album ~60 Hz (Irritable Hedgehog). • 0115: Record a duet with yourself, divided by a wall. • 0116:Record a score for daily dental hygiene. • 0117: Compose an original piece of music in response to a haiku. • 0118: What is the room tone of the Internet? • 0119: Write music to accompany the typing of a work of fiction. • 0120: Write a song based on the heartbeat of Marcel Duchamp. • 0121: Two projects of varying complexity inspired by Edward Frenkel’s book Love and Math. • 0122: Create music for a fake movie whose plot is “Poltergeist meets Wreck-It Ralph.” • 0123: Help Gizmodo create the soundscape of the home of the future.”
And this is the initial post I made on Disquiet.com, announcing the project on January 7, 2012: “Sneek Peek.”