February 13, 2014, is the official release date for my 33 1/3 book on Aphex Twin's 1994 album Selected Ambient Works Volume II, 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.


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Loops and Noise, Grit and Fragments

Music for grave robbers by San Francisco's Moldbreath

Much loop-based music has a sense of accrual, a sense of layers being added, phases being shifted. That is very much the mode of Moldbreath’s “Rose Buried in Sand Excision,” except that the layering of sound makes the opposite impression. The compositional approach is accrual, while the sounds are of something being disentombed. There is dirt being shifted, footsteps in nearby mud, crackling and shaking, all manner of low-tech mechanics. It’s dark and scary and morbid, and thoroughly impressive.

Track originally posted for free download at soundcloud.com/moldbreath.

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The Kalimba as Digital Muse

A downtempo excursion by Mereology from Chicago

Call it analog-digital tension, call it a tribute to Brian Eno’s admonition that computer music needs more “Africa” in it, or call it a desire for simple tools when endless tools abound. Whatever the cause, the kalimba is a favorite sample-ready source for electronic excursions, and it proves a worthy subject of attention on “Council Ring” by Chicago-based Mereology. The kalimba here is the root of low-key pachinko play, mixes of light random percussion that follow along a downtempo pace, abetted by lovely tonal foundational material:

Track originally posted for free download at soundcloud.com/mereology. The musician also goes by the name Will Farina. More at twitter.com/mereologyst.

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The Geophony + Biophony + Anthrophony of Memory

Reading a listening of a Berlin cemetary


The Berlin-based musician Micah Frank has posted this nearly two-minute recording of the Schönhauser Allee Cemetery (or Friedhof Schönhauser Allee in German). The Jewish cemetery dates from 1827. Frank’s annotation is simple. He marks it as a stereo recording, and he lists what he hears. What’s especially of note in regard to what he hears is less the sonic objects he finds distinct within the soundscape, so much as how he categorizes those objects. Seemingly drawing from the work of Bernie Krause, the notes here divide the sonic content into three complementary fields:

Geophony: rain, wind

Biophony: birds, insects

Anthrophony: air traffic, city noises

The words are fairly self-explanatory. “Anthrophony” refers to sounds made by humans. “Biophony” refers to sounds made by any other living organisms. “Geophony” refers to the remaining elements of nature. What makes them useful, and worthy of greater adoption by people who post field recordings, is how they usefully break down the sounds in a way that gives them context, makes them comprehensible, knowable, memorable. One might take issue with the difference between “anthrophony” and “biophony,” suggesting it creates a false dichotomy, but given that the intended listener is a human, the focus on “anthrophony” helps give the listener the sense of a broader role in the sound of the world.

There are numerous field recordings on Frank’s SoundCloud page, including ones from Puerto Rico:

And Woodstock, New York:

And the Baltic Sea near Rostock, Germany (“Geophony: waves”; “Anthrophony: beach cleaning equipment”):

Sometimes Frank plays with the source audio, as in this modified recording of his father-in-law’s home distillery (“My field recorder,” he writes, “picked up all of the bubbling and percolations in great detail”):

Berlin track originally posted at soundcloud.com/micahfrank. More on the historic cemetery at jg-berlin.org. More from Frank at twitter.com/micahfrank.

(Photo by Rae Allen from flickr.com, used via Creative Commons license.)

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Disquiet Junto Project 0132: Posthumous Nofi Trio

The Assignment: Collaborate with the late Jeffrey (Nofi) Melton using a previous tribute track.


Each Thursday at the Disquiet Junto group on Soundcloud.com a new compositional challenge is set before the group’s members, who then have just over four days to upload a track in response to the assignment. Membership in the Junto is open: just join and participate.

This assignment was made in the mid-afternoon, California time, on Thursday, July 10, with 11:59pm on the following Monday, July 14, 2013, as the deadline.

These are the instructions that went out to the group’s email list (at tinyletter.com/disquiet-junto):

Disquiet Junto Project 0132: Posthumous Nofi Trio

This week’s project is a tribute to the late Jeffrey Melton, the talented musician, best known on SoundCloud and Twitter as @nofi. The project builds on the Disquiet Junto Project 0066, which took place 66 weeks ago.

The Disquiet Junto Project 0066 had participants perform live over a segment of a live recording of Melton himself playing solo. The result was a series of posthumous duets. This week we’ll produce a series of posthumous trios. The steps are as follows:

Step 1: Choose one of the tracks that resulted from Disquiet Junto project 0066:


Step 2: Listen to your chosen track several times, to get to know it.

Step 3: Extend the file by 10 to 15 seconds.

Step 4: Record yourself performing live along with the track. Any instrumentation is fine. Just no voice. Be sure to play alone for approximately 10 seconds after the original track ends.

Step 5: Upload the track to the Disquiet Junto group on SoundCloud, following the directions below.

Background: Melton passed away March 30, 2013, in Fort Wayne, Indiana, where he lived with his wife and seven-year-old son. He was 42. Melton had been involved with the Disquiet Junto since the very first Junto project, back in January 2012, and he early on volunteered to create a Twitter list of the handles of participating Junto members.

Deadline: Monday, July 14, 2014, at 11:59pm wherever you are.

Length: The length of your finished work will be 10 to 15 seconds longer than the track you selected.

Information: Please when posting your track on SoundCloud, include a description of your process in planning, composing, and recording it. This description is an essential element of the communicative process inherent in the Disquiet Junto.

Title/Tag: When adding your track to the Disquiet Junto group on Soundcloud.com, please include the term “disquiet0132-posthumousnofitrio″ in the title of your track, and as a tag for your track.

Download: It is preferable that your track is set as downloadable, and that it allows for attributed remixing (i.e., a Creative Commons license permitting non-commercial sharing with attribution).

Linking: When posting the track, please be sure to link to the source track from project 0066, and to include this information:

More on this 132nd Disquiet Junto project — “Collaborate with the late Jeffrey (Nofi) Melton using a previous tribute track” — at:


More on the Disquiet Junto at:


Join the Disquiet Junto at:


Disquiet Junto general discussion takes place at:


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Numbers Stations and the Fog of War

A series of moodily coded sound pieces by Norah Lorway

4 5 97 02 04

If you tune your radio between stations and come across someone reading numbers like these, it’s likely because you’ve stumbled upon a numbers station, a lo-tech and enticingly antiquated means of transmitting encoded information.

The numbers up top contain basic information about numbers stations. The popular comprehension of numbers stations is largely founded on The Conet Project: Recordings of Shortwave Numbers Stations, a collection that initially consisted of four and, later, five compact discs. The set was released by the label Irdial-Discs in 1997. In 2002, the band Wilco used some of the sounds in a track, “Poor Places,” off its Yankee Hotel Foxtrot album. That album’s title is itself sourced from a phrase uttered on the Conet album. (Wilco later, in 2004, settled a suit about this unauthorized use.)

In a series of haunting pieces of subsumed numbers recitation, the England-based musician and sound artist Norah Lorway threads a needle. She maintains enough of the source audio that it is recognizable if not always comprehensible, yet buries it in enough sonic detritus that the result gives listeners the experience of having, on their own, come upon the numbers. At times, the numbers are kept entirely from sonic view, the voices giving way to harsh static, and to sudden noises that might be heard as air raid sirens or the clash of machine guns. The voices themselves are at times warped, rendered anxious, as if the utterances contain not just coded factual information but also raw emotional content.

This is a set of two of Lorway’s pieces. According to the brief accompanying note, there is also a third:

More from Lorway, who is based in Birmingham, England, at norahlorway.com, academia.edu, twitter.com/norahlo, and norahlorway.bandcamp.com.

(Thanks to Larry Johnson for the recommendation.)

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