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

Listening to art.
Playing with audio.
Sounding out technology.
Composing in code.

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News, essays, reviews, surveillance

What Sound Looks Like

An ongoing series cross-posted from instagram.com/dsqt


At the end of every video shoot, the recording engineer calls “room tone” and everyone sits or stands in place, in silence. Usually there is someone on the shoot who doesn’t know what “room tone” means. They know enough, though, to stay silent until the engineer announces that enough audio has been captured, enough of the space’s inherent sound, its sense of space, its echo, its ambient foundation. I like figuring out who is unfamiliar with the term “room tone” and then discussing the concept with them. It isn’t, by any means, difficult to grasp that such a tone would be useful. Say you want to place a title card in the video. If you have no sound, then the viewer would experience a sudden drop in sound when the title card appears and a sudden sonic jut when the footage cuts back in. Discussing these two different silences — digital silence and room silence — always makes for a good conversation starter. In the right company, it extends into a broader consideration of assumptions about the concept of silence, how it is a platonic ideal, not a physical reality, as well as to how various types of silence — an echoing space, the light chatter of a workplace, the random intrusions of street noise — lend their own meaning.

An ongoing series cross-posted from instagram.com/dsqt.
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What Sound Looks Like

An ongoing series cross-posted from instagram.com/dsqt


A doorbell doesn’t always trigger a sound that the person hitting the button can hear. At a large apartment complex, it may trigger a tone many floors up, many walls past, many steps deep into the building. And those concerns don’t begin to factor in street noise and weather. How does the visitor know that the doorbell has done its job? How are we socialized to not hit it again and again when we don’t hear the bell ring? In this specific case, an additional sound element entirely is referenced: The visitors only know they have been welcomed into the building when a tiny click is provided by the lock mechanism. It’s like a mechanical intercom, an especially lofi and succinct Morse Code, a simple binary operation in which the silence of a null return means “Go away.”

An ongoing series cross-posted from instagram.com/dsqt.
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What Sound Looks Like

An ongoing series cross-posted from instagram.com/dsqt


This being San Francisco, when rent on my #noiseoffice went up over 50%, I figured that was part of the price of being in the city. But then friends and colleagues started directing me toward more cost-efficient options, and in the end much of what my current office’s rent included (shared conference room, waiting area, bathroom with shower) wasn’t all that necessary for me. Surprisingly quickly, I lucked out and found a place that was 40% less than my current rent (do the math regarding how much less that is than my projected rent). Anyhow, the new spot is also about 50% larger than my previous office, though lacking in some of the amenities (no street view, fewer windows, carpet instead of wood floors). For local flavor’s sake, my new office is in between that of a massage therapist and a crematorium. They don’t have an oven in the crematorium office — they just hold meetings there. This shot is the view out the one window in my office. The building neighbors a local church, whose bells ring clearly at 5pm, and likely other times of the day — when exactly I’ll find out after I move in.

An ongoing series cross-posted from instagram.com/dsqt.
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What Sound Looks Like

An ongoing series cross-posted from instagram.com/dsqt


I shot this last night while walking a few blocks to the local movie theater to catch a summer blockbuster. Even at 9pm, the night wasn’t dark enough for the illuminated doorbell buttons to be visible from much of a distance. They’re neither bright nor commonplace enough to provide a Christmas-tree effect. Later, after the movie, on the walk home, even though it was quite dark, they still really weren’t visible from a distance. Their light is just strong enough for when you’re near a given doorway. This one, clearly getting on in years, seems to suggest a non-existent functionality: that the apartment dwellers can turn on and off the light to signal whether or not they are welcoming visitors.

An ongoing series cross-posted from instagram.com/dsqt.
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What Sound Looks Like

An ongoing series cross-posted from instagram.com/dsqt


An LP by Lawrence Welk was playing when I walked in. #vinyl #records #soundstudies

An ongoing series cross-posted from instagram.com/dsqt.
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