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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The Technology of the Ether

An otherworldly half hour from Malmö, Sweden

We have no accepted documentary evidence of UFOs, and yet we know what they sound like. They hover, and have a tonal system apart from our own — except when, to eerie effect, they actively embrace one of Earth’s, as in the classic sequence from Close Encounters of the Third Kind — and seem both ethereal and technological at the same time. The technology of the ether is the heart of “I Assumed the Same,” a piece that Malmö, Sweden–based Pythagora (aka Dan Henry Pålsson) uploaded this week. It’s a “jamsession” (Pålsson’s word) he completed with Metek, a full half hour of murky jangles. They seem mechanical, conjuring up images of metal and routinized activity, and yet their otherworldliness is such that they can linger in the foreground and yet remain entirely out of reach.

Track originally posted at soundcloud.com/pythagora.

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Aphex Twin Reverses Himself

"Avril 14th," there and back again

Aphex Twin, aka Richard D. James, continues his return to semi-public existence as a musician by posting to his under-appreciated SoundCloud account, soundcloud.com/richarddjames, which as of this writing has just 7,089 subscribers. The account got some coverage this past week when he posted recordings attributed to his young son. He also revisited some of his own more youthful music, specifically “Avril 14th.” Originally appearing on the 2001 album Drukqs, “Avril 14th” is one of Aphex Twin’s most licensed tracks, having, among other things, appeared in a Sofia Coppola movie and been sampled as part of a Kanye West track (“Blame Game,” off My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy). The newly posted “Avril 14th Reversed Music Not Audio” is exactly that, not the song played backwards by reversing the recording, but the song played backwards a note at a time. The echo in the room is strong and seems to share a certain resonance with “Aisatsana,” the final track off Aphex Twin’s Syro, the recent album that marked his return to active pop-culture duty. It says something about the structural simplicity of the original “Avril 14th” song that the melody reversed sounds no less composed, no less thoughtful, no less lovely.

Of course, an Aphex Twin release is, as always, as much the beginning of a process as it is the end, which is to say post-release treatments have followed, such as the inevitable and welcome “what happens when you reverse the reversed” version. Hearing the melody unfold as a series of reversed notes is like listening to a funhouse mirror made of cellophane. It’s an instant-classic example of making the familiar exotic, and brings to mind the machinations that Hans Zimmer employed with the Inception score by interpolating Édith Piaf’s “Non, je ne regrette rien.” Here is the reversed reversal of “Avril 14th” by a Eugene, Oregon–based musician who goes by the name Granola:

And here, related to that room-resonance comment up top, is “Aisatsana,” off Syro:

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Disquiet Junto Project 0149: Processing the Present

The Assignment: Take a walk around the block and make something from it.


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.

This assignment was made in the evening, California time, on Thursday, November 6, with 11:59pm on the following Monday, November 10, 2014, as the deadline.

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

Disquiet Junto Project 0149: Processing the Present
The Assignment: Take a walk around the block and make something from it.

This week’s project is about everyday sound and processing the present.

Step 1: Read all the steps before initiating the project.

Step 2: Trace a path on a map that will take about three minutes to walk and that will end where it began.

Step 3: Walk that route and record the sounds you experience.

Step 4: Create an original monaural recording that is the result of that field recording being processed without the recording being edited or otherwise shortened, lengthened, or reorganized. This result should, naturally, be the same length as the source recording.

Step 5: Create a track that has the original audio in the left channel and the processed audio in the right channel.

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

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

Length: Your finished work should be about three minutes long.

Deadline: This assignment was made in the evening, California time, on Thursday, November 6, with 11:59pm on the following Monday, November 10, 2014, as the deadline.

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.

Title/Tag: When adding your track to the Disquiet Junto group on Soundcloud.com, please include the term “disquiet0149-processingthepresent″ 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 149th Disquiet Junto project — “Take a walk around the block and make something from it″ — at:


More on the Disquiet Junto at:


Join the Disquiet Junto at:


Disquiet Junto general discussion takes place at:


Photo associated with this project by Jerolek and used thanks to a Creative Commons license:


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Something Majestic That Way Goes

4.5-minutes of orbital bliss from Matthew Mercer

This 4.5-minute piece by Matthew Mercer has the inherent sense of forward motion of its title, “Headlong,” but takes it at an admirably slow pace. This isn’t the pace of something slowed down so much as something experienced in a perception-altering state. Waves of counterposed undulations form a wall of ambient noise, ethereal sounds made from masses of sharp shards. An ever-rising tone suggests something passing out of the atmosphere. All in all it’s like the doppler effect in full majestic mode.

Track originally posted at soundcloud.com/mercerm. More from Mercer at mattmercer.com. Based in Portland, Oregon, he is half of the group Microfilm microfilmmusic.com, the other half being vocalist Matt Keppel.

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Alarm Will Tag

A #dense #textural work by Jay Lin with the heart of a swarm

In a compact parallel to micro-fiction, liner notes have not so much gone away as been reduced to bare essentials. Liner notes more often than not these days take the form of a complementary blog post, or a brief text accompanying a track posted online, or — in the perhaps most constrained format — just a series of tags. Such is often the case with Alarm Will Sound, the highly regarded chamber ensemble, which regularly posts performances it does of works outside the standard chamber literature. Not that standard chamber repertoire is its modus operandi. This is the group that made its name initially with an album of Aphex Twin covers. The group’s SoundCloud page gives a false impression of its activity. The “spotlight” section up top focuses on music released about a year ago, if not longer. But down below more recent items pop up, including “Half-Glimpsed” by composer Jay Lin. It was posted just today. Recorded live at the Mizzou International Composers Festival on July 27, 2013, it is primarily built around a frenetic series of organized cacophonies. Even the quieter moments early on are antic, with strings and horns playing against each other in a swarm-like manner: individually at their own pace, but collectively forming something spacious and very much alive. And for context, there is just that datestamp and this brief collection of tags:

#contemporary classical
#chamber orchestra

Track originally posted at soundcloud.com/alarm-will-sound.

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