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

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The Laptop Orchestra as Remix Engine

A piece by Ethan Hein

divergence-convergence

Friends who have attended creative-writing MFA programs have said the best thing about them is simply the unadulterated time during which to write. Friends who have done advanced programs in musical composition have stated even more practical concerns: That thesis or dissertation project may be the last time they’d ever hear their music performed by an actual orchestra (or chamber group, or chorus — insert your dream ensemble here).

Ethan Hein, a prolific writer on the intersection of music theory and sampling, among other subjects, expressed that sort of pleasure when he posted his “Divergence/Convergence Remix,” a rapturously chaotic mix of chance sonic encounters and hip-hop–derived syncopation. Hein writes of it:

My first legitimate composition to be performed by someone other than me. I was asked by Daphna Naphtali to write it for the NYU Laptop Orchestra. You can read about the process of writing the piece and see the score here: www.newmusicbox.org/articles/brahmss-third-racket/

The recording is the debut performance of Divergence/Convergence at NYU. While I was asked not to include dance beats in the piece, there was nothing stopping me from adding them to the version I posted here. I feel like they really tie the whole thing together.

There’s a more in-depth piece at newmusicbox.org in which he tracks his interest in the laptop orchestra, debates the aesthetics of classical music from John Cage to John Cleese, considers the role of pleasure in art, and then shares the rule set at the heart of “Divergence/Convergence”:

Each performer loads a short, shared sample. It should have a distinct attack and decay, for example a bell or gong. It can be pitched or unpitched, musical or unmusical.

Each performer triggers the sample repeatedly, either as a steady loop or at any arbitrary time interval.

After a few repetitions, each performer manipulates the sample as they see fit, via pitch shifting, time stretching, filtering, or other effects. Transformations should be gradual and clearly perceptible.

Once the entire ensemble is playing altered versions of the sample, the performers begin to undo their manipulations, preferably in the reverse order that they were originally applied.

When all performers have resumed playing back the original sample, the piece ends.

Track originally posted for free download at soundcloud.com/ethanhein. More from Hein at ethanhein.com. (Full disclosure: while writing about his piece, Hein refers to the Disquiet Junto as “the internet’s most happening electronic music collective,” which means a lot to me.)

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Hardware from a Musician Named for Hardware

Robin Rimbaud in cahoots on his own synthesizer module

That small grid screen you see in the screenshot above is from a prototype of a synthesizer module developed by the prolific British musician Scanner, aka Robin Rimbaud, who is working on the equipment in cahoots with James Carruthers and Adrien Harris. Scanner has been deep in modular synthesis of late, and it’s a natural development that he would go on to develop his own hardware. After all, Rimbaud takes his Scanner moniker from the police-band device that was central to his early recordings. This track is a test of the device, an 8-step sequencer now in prototype stage (hence its awkward physical dimensions). A sequencer is of limited use on its own, so here it is hear activating other modules, among them one that produces old-school percussion sounds, and the Music Thing, a module that allows access to banks of prerecorded samples. The result is a mash of blissfully chaotic layers of snippets. If the pulse and dynamics of a day on a busy urban street could be transformed into a musical score, it might sound like this.

For more on the device, there’s an interview with Carruthers, who runs through the device’s toolset on YouTube.

Track originally posted for free download at soundcloud.com/scanner. More from Carruthers at twitter.com/jamescarruthers and jamescarruthers.com.

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Disquiet Junto Project 0181: Instrumental Dream

Imagine your favorite instrument is dreaming while it sleeps — what does it sound like?

20150618-guitardream

Each Thursday in the Disquiet Junto group on SoundCloud.com and at Disquiet.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.

Tracks will be added to this playlist for the duration of the project:

This assignment was made in the early evening, California time, on Thursday, June 18, 2015, with a deadline of 11:59pm wherever you are on Monday, June 22, 2015.

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

Disquiet Junto Project 0181: Instrumental Dream
Imagine your favorite instrument is dreaming while it sleeps — what does it sound like?

Step 1: Focus on your favorite instrument.

Step 2: Imagine that your instrument sleeps.

Step 3: Imagine that your instrument dreams.

Step 4: What does it sound in your instrument’s dreams?

Step 5: Record what it sounds like.

Step 6: Upload your completed track to the Disquiet Junto group on SoundCloud.

Step 7: Then listen to and comment on tracks uploaded by your fellow Disquiet Junto participants.

Deadline: This assignment was made in the early evening, California time, on Thursday, June 18, 2015, with a deadline of 11:59pm wherever you are on Monday, June 22, 2015.

Length: The length of your finished work is up to you, but between one minute and four minutes is probably best in this context.

Upload: Please when posting your track on SoundCloud, only upload one track for this assignment, and 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. Photos, video, and lists of equipment are always appreciated.

Title/Tag: When adding your track to the Disquiet Junto group on Soundcloud.com, please include the term “disquiet0181-instrumentaldream” 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 include this information:

More on this 181st Disquiet Junto project (“Imagine your favorite instrument is dreaming while it sleeps — what does it sound like?”) at:

http://disquiet.com/2015/06/18/disquiet0181-instrumentaldream/

More on the Disquiet Junto at:

http://disquiet.com/junto/

Join the Disquiet Junto at:

http://soundcloud.com/groups/disquiet-junto/

Disquiet Junto general discussion takes place at:

http://disquiet.com/forums/

Image associated with this project by Tim Patterson used thanks to a Creative Commons license:

https://flic.kr/p/7bhwdM

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Sonic Color and Post-Drone Music

An exemplary track by Darren McClure

There are more than enough drone composers at work that we can begin to really appreciate post-drone music. Drone composers have opened our ears to works of ecstatic stasis, in which micro-shifts in texture and tone take center stage. In post-drone music, as exemplified by the exceptional “Yellow” from Darren McClure, those same elements are brought back into a more traditional compositional format, with a structure of give and take, in which thematic development plays a substantive role. The track is from McClure’s album Primary Locations, which was released earlier this month on Dragon’s Eye Recordings. Each of the tracks on Primary Locations investigates the sonic equivalent of the visual spectrum, and also comprises field recordings consistent with the theme. “Yellow,” for example, includes audio recorded on a “metal overpass supporting train lines.” This explains the rough shudder and brief snippets of bird song, among other facets of the piece.

Track originally posted at soundcloud.com/dragonseyerecordings. More from McClure at darrenmcclure.bandcamp.com and soundcloud.com/darrenmcclure.

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Disquiet Junto Project 0180: Matryoshka Music

Use the Russian nesting dolls as a model for a musical composition.

20150611-matryoshka

Each Thursday in the Disquiet Junto group on SoundCloud.com and at Disquiet.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.

Tracks will be added to this playlist for the duration of the project:

This assignment was made in the early evening, California time, on Thursday, June 11, 2015, with a deadline of 11:59pm wherever you are on Monday, June 15, 2015.

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

Disquiet Junto Project 0180: Matryoshka Music
Use the Russian nesting dolls as a model for a musical composition.

Step 1: Consider the Russian nesting doll called the matryoshka, in which hollowed-out wooden figurines are designed to be stored inside each other, excepting the smallest doll, which is solid.

Step 2: Compose a short piece of music that somehow takes as its basis the doll’s structure. (For a further constraint, imagine a matryoshka consisting of 6 dolls.)

Step 3: Upload your completed track to the Disquiet Junto group on SoundCloud.

Step 4: Then listen to and comment on tracks uploaded by your fellow Disquiet Junto participants.

Deadline: This assignment was made in the early evening, California time, on Thursday, June 11, 2015, with a deadline of 11:59pm wherever you are on Monday, June 15, 2015.

Length: The length of your finished work is up to you, but between two minutes and four minutes is probably best in this context.

Upload: Please when posting your track on SoundCloud, only upload one track for this assignment, and 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. Photos, video, and lists of equipment are always appreciated.

Title/Tag: When adding your track to the Disquiet Junto group on Soundcloud.com, please include the term “disquiet0180-matryoshkamusic” 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 include this information:

More on this 180th Disquiet Junto project — “Use the Russian nesting dolls as a model for a musical composition” — at:

http://disquiet.com/2015/06/11/disquiet0180-matryoshkamusic/

More on the Disquiet Junto at:

http://disquiet.com/junto/

Join the Disquiet Junto at:

http://soundcloud.com/groups/disquiet-junto/

Disquiet Junto general discussion takes place at:

http://disquiet.com/forums/

Image associated with this project by James Jordan used thanks to a Creative Commons license:

https://flic.kr/p/4oJYZG

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