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.
As of November 5, 2015, there are 565 currently active members of the Disquiet Junto who have contributed tracks to the projects.
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 subscription list, you can join up here: tinyletter.com/disquiet-junto. And there’s an F.A.Q.
This page serves as an index of the assignments. They are listed here in chronological order:
These are the weekly projects to date:
0004: remixing Marcus Fischer And this is the initial post I made on Disquiet.com, announcing the project on January 7, 2012: “Sneek Peek.”
And this is the initial post I made on Disquiet.com, announcing the project on January 7, 2012: “Sneek Peek.”