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.

field notes

News, essays, reviews, surveillance

What Sound Looks Like

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


The city’s doorways are littered with antiquated doorbells, with replacement devices glued next to faulty equipment, with buttons rubbed hollow and faceplates cracked from years of abuse, stained by the elements. What you don’t see very often is a button, like this one, busted to its core, splayed like a fetal pig in a science lab, split like a child’s toy after an especially hyperactive birthday party. In a city with more than its share of lackluster doorbells, this one is still an outlier, the button itself missing entirely, the spring-like ribbon of metal twisted beyond use, the inner casing rusted. This device is devoid of any evidence of social interaction, all the more so when taken in the broader context of the entry: the flaked paint, the cracked seams, the rusting gate. And yet there is, still, something admirable about those twin screws, with their broad, flat faces and sizable gaps. They look tight, sturdy, stalwart. The doorbell may be beyond repair, and the doorway may suggest that no one cares enough to even try, but the screws are formidable: What’s left of this doorbell will be hanging around for some time to come.

An ongoing series cross-posted from instagram.com/dsqt.
Tag: / Leave a comment ]

This Week in Sound: Chernobyl Bird Detection +

Data loss + sports foul + Marvel temp tracks + academic formats + the sound of Tinder

A lightly annotated clipping service:

Windup Bird: Why not participate in the Bird Audio Detection challenge, currently underway thanks to the Machine Listening Lab of Queen Mary University of London in collaboration with the IEEE Signal Processing Society. “Detecting bird sounds in audio is an important task for automatic wildlife monitoring,” states the announcement post, which among other things introduces the concept of “automatic wildlife monitoring.” The deadline for participation is December, and there are two datasets — one of them from Chernobyl.

Kept Soundly: During a test run of a “fire suppression system” intended to keep safe the data systems of a Romanian bank, the extremely loud sound of gas canisters letting loose caused enough vibration to reportedly damage the bank’s hard drives, writes Andrada Fiscutean at Vice’s Motherboard.
(via Braulio Agnese)

No Love: A follow-up to last week’s piece about the tennis stadium where a newly installed roof kept out the rain but pumped up the volume: this time around it’s a tennis match during which, per the Associated Press, “a loud noise from a malfunctioning sound system interrupted a key point, resulting in a do-over.”
(via @BellyFullOfStar)

Excelsior, or Not: As Alexander Lu writes at comicsbeat.com, the current Marvel cinematic universe is peculiarly void of memorable scores. He looks into why, emphasizing the role of temp tracks. This isn’t the case with the Netflix TV series; the upcoming Luke Cage looks like it’s going to use hip-hop to maximum effect, thanks no doubt to Cheo Hodari Coker, a former music critic who also worked on the show Southland. Southland, famously, didn’t have a score at all, but it used the appearance of everyday music, like from passing cars and block parties, quite well. Perhaps things will improve when there’s a Dazzler movie. Or a Banshee one. Natalie Zutter weighed in the next day on the subject at tor.com.
(via Eric Searleman of the great superheronovels.com)

Paper Formats: Kristine Samson and Sanne Krogh Grogh have proposed a new academic format, the Audio Paper, “as appropriate for academic presentations.”

The Sound of Swiping: Tinder, the dating app, got a makeover in July. Mark Wilson at Fast Company Design reports on how the audio branding agency Listen gave it its own sounds, the app having previously relied on “stock sounds in the iOS library.”

This first appeared, in slightly different form, in the September 16, 2016, edition of the free Disquiet “This Week in Sound” email newsletter: tinyletter.com/disquiet.

/ Leave a comment ]

The Sonic Signatures of the Modular Synthesizer

Weighing in for Hannes Pasqualini's investigation

I first came into contact with Hannes Pasqualini, the Italy-based artist and designer, back in 2010. He contributed a small illustration for a Disquiet series about sonic visualization called Sketches of Sound. He drew a beautiful, detailed, psychedelic rendering of a tree sprouting musical parts. These days Hannes develops designs for actual musical instruments (see his papernoise.net portfolio) and writes about modular synthesizers (at horizontalpitch.com). He’s a very sensible, curious person, and he was intrigued recently by an offhand comment about a new instrument sounding “very modular” — that is, as in “reminiscent of a modular synthesizer.” Hannes dove into the question about whether modular synths have a sonic signature, asking folks like Enrico Cosimi, Joseph Fraioli (aka Datach’i), Olivier Gillet, Tim Prebble, Robin Rimbaud, Ben “DivKid” Wilson, and the guy who made the “very modular” comment in the first place, Richard Devine. I was pleased to be asked by Hannes to weigh in, which I did as follows:

Big picture I’d say my hope is you can’t always recognize a modular synthesizer when listening, because it is so varied in what it can accomplish. Modular synths are so rich with potential, it feels weird to use a word like “it” to encapsulate them. Especially when you get all those digital modules going — not just digital oscillators, but more complicated units like sequencers and so forth — it might arguably be indistinguishable from music you’d make on an iPad or a laptop. In addition, some of the most interesting work done with modulars sees them as part of a larger whole, combining them with software CV and with virtual modules, with Monomes, and serving as processing units for guitar, voice, and other external sources. Anyhow, to get back around to your question — and putting aside obvious things like specific modules with recognizable sonic signatures — I’d say that modular synths lend themselves particularly to a kind of exploratory, less-controlled experimental approach. This sort of approach reveals itself while the performance is going on: you start off in one place and end up in another. When I hear a hint of the weird that develops within the flow of a piece, it pricks up my ear and makes me wonder: modular?

His full piece, with everyone else’s far more informed comments, is at horizontalpitch.com.

This first appeared, in slightly different form, in the September 16, 2016, edition of the free Disquiet “This Week in Sound” email newsletter: tinyletter.com/disquiet.

Tag: / Leave a comment ]

What Sound Looks Like

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


Because nothing says Farmers Market like what seems to be the b-side of an Einstürzende Neubauten single. There were a half dozen of these within a block of each other.

An ongoing series cross-posted from instagram.com/dsqt.
Tag: / Leave a comment ]

What Sound Looks Like

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


Once upon a time, when the Earth rotated at 33 1/3, or 45, or 78, messages were regularly hidden in the inner circles of record albums. Little phrases — bits of wordplay, shoutouts, cryptic mantras — were scratched into the masters of vinyl releases, in between where the last track on a given side ended and where the adhered paper label’s outer edge began. (It’s still the case now, perhaps even more common as a matter of percentages, but that’s out of a far smaller amount of vinyl being produced each year.) These messages on the vinyl had an intimacy, a peculiarity, that made them something apart from commentary. Liner notes, in contrast, sought to lend meaning to a record album — sometimes full essays, like the ones on the back of jazz covers, and sometimes just tiny-type references to session players and equipment. Not quite packaging, not quite lyric, the inner-groove messages were only there if you looked for them. In the pre-Internet days, it might take weeks, or a chance encounter with a super fan, to decode what they meant. This message, a wonderfully terrible joke about the Energizer Bunny, appears on the internal circuitry of a synthesizer module. The other side of the module is where the patch cables go in and out. This side is the works, the soldered PCB board where information is encoded, and the information is about how sound and signal are processed. The bunny joke is the only part of this side of the device that’s human-readable.

An ongoing series cross-posted from instagram.com/dsqt.
Tag: / Leave a comment ]