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.

Year-End Sounds

A seasonally appropriate track by Carbonates on Mars

The sheer glisten of “Warm Tranquility” by Carbonates on Mars suggests it almost immediately as holiday music, as year-end background sounds suitable to the fulcrum-like moment when one year slows considerably, almost to a halt, so as to ease transition to the next. It’s all gentle lulls and bright swells, a full 10 minutes of peace — “peace” often being what people mean when they use the words “silence” or “quiet.”

Track originally posted for free download at soundcloud.com/carbonates-on-mars. Carbonates on Mars is Gareth Farmer of Walsall, Great Britain, more from whom at twitter.com/gazzle71.

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Two Recent Talks

Sound art at CCA + "music comics" at the Academy of Art

I gave two talks recently in San Francisco. The first, on October 23, was part of Chris Kallmyer’s course at the California College of Art. The second, on November 11, was a standalone event at the Academy of Art.

The one for Kallmyer’s course, which is about sound as an artistic medium, was a chronology of my work in sound, starting in 2006 and running up to the present. That initial year, 2006, a decade after the launch of Disquiet.com, was, in retrospect, a big transition year for me. That was the year I put together the Our Lives in the Bush of Disquiet compilation, as a response to the open call for remixes that Brian Eno and David Byrne created to commemorate the 25th anniversary of their classic My Life in the Bush of Ghosts album. I then connected the dots from Our Lives in the Bush of Disquiet through a subsequent series of compilations I put together, all of which involved me asking musicians to respond to a specific compositional prompt — for example to defend Susan Philipsz in Lowlands: A Sigh Collective, to refute Megan McArdle in Despite the Downturn. Those 2010 projects led to a loosening of the curatorial method in the 2011 Insta/gr/ambient compilation, which was broader minded, and had about twice as many members as the earlier projects, and that in turn led to the far more open-ended Disquiet Junto, which as of this writing is finishing its 151st weekly project. In between I touched on the 2009 piece I had at the gallery Crewest in Los Angeles, the 2012 project of putting together a score for the exhibit Rob Walker curated at Apex Art in Manhattan, and my piece at a Dubai art gallery at the start of this year, and brought things into the present with the exhibit I currently have at the San Jose Museum of Art (more on which here at Disquiet.com shortly). I don’t think I’d ever really done a talk before in which all those things were connected as one continuum. It was very enjoyable to walk through, and Kallmyer’s students were curious, thoughtful, and intelligent.

The talk I gave at the Academy of Art was an overview of the work that went into the four comics I edited recently for Red Bull Music Academy (MF DOOM, DJ Krush, Can / Damo Suzuki, Isao Tomita). In the talk, I began back in 1992, when I started editing the comics at Pulse! magazine for what would turn out to be a decade, and then my half decade at Viz, the manga publisher. The Red Bull Music Academy comics combined those two periods, in that the comics drew creators from both Japan and North America. In preparation for the talk I had a bit of a realization about a question I’ve been asked regularly since 1992: “How do you edit comics?” I’ve long struggled with detailed explanations of what it means to edit a comic, and developed this theory about how people who can’t draw can have a tendency to read too much into how complex drawing is, when for someone who can draw a rough illustration is about as much effort as a paragraph is for a good writer. But I now think the question “How do you edit comics?” may have at its root a more simple misunderstanding. When a lot of people hear the word “edit” they think it means, at most, “copyedit,” and they are confused by how you can “copyedit” a picture. In the talk I gave at the Academy of Art I explained that true editing is, ultimately, a form of creative direction, whether or not pictures are involved. Anyhow, the opportunity to talk about comics at the Academy of Art (which is where I’ve taught my sound course for five semesters so far) was very enjoyable, and it was organized by Cameron Maddux.

Many thanks to Kallmyer and Maddux for the opportunities.

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Disquiet Junto Project 0151: Reliving Dead

The Assignment: Score a segment of George A. Romero's Night of the Living Dead using the movie's audio as source material.

20141120-notld

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 20, with 11:59pm on the following Monday, November 24, 2014, as the SoundCloud deadline — though the encouraged optional video part of the assignment can wait a day or two longer, if necessary.

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

Disquiet Junto Project 0151: Reliving Dead
The Assignment: Score a segment of George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead using the movie’s audio as source material.

Step 1: Download the classic film Night of the Living Dead, which is in the public domain, at the following URL:

http://goo.gl/rm1lMy

Step 2: Locate a short segment of interest, between 1 and 3 minutes, in which there is no musical score present.

Step 3: Compose a score for your chosen segment using only the audio from that segment as the source material. You can alter the source audio in any way you choose. You just can’t add any new sounds.

Step 4: Upload the finished track to the Disquiet Junto group on SoundCloud.

Step 5: Listen to and comment on tracks uploaded by your fellow Disquiet Junto participants.

Step 6: This part is optional, and you can take an additional couple of days if you need them. Upload the video segment combining the original audio and your score, and link to it from the notes field in your SoundCloud track.

Length: Your finished work should be between 1 and 3 minutes long, depending entirely on the length of the segment you selected.

Deadline: This assignment was made in the evening, California time, on Thursday, November 20, with 11:59pm on the following Monday, November 24, 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 “disquiet0151-relivingdead” 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 151st Disquiet Junto project — “Score a segment of George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead using the movie’s audio as source material” — at:

http://disquiet.com/2014/11/20/disquiet0151-relivingdead/

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 from the George Romero film Night of the Living Dead.

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Disquiet.com Email Newsletter

Getting back into people's inboxes

As the past few items posted here suggest, I’ve rebooted the Disquiet.com email newsletter. I used to do a Disquiet email newsletter quite frequently back in the late 1990s and early 2000s. In fact, I created Tower Records’ email newsletter, epulse, way back in 1994, two years before I launched Disquiet, and edited it on and off for a decade. I’m feeling pretty good about the new Disquiet email newsletter format, and that online reading habits are back in an email-friendly, newsletter-friendly mode. The old newsletters will be archived at tinyletter.com/disquiet. The first one is there now. Subscribers got it late Tuesday evening (California time — well, technically just after midnight on Wednesday). Generally speaking the material in it is a series of short items about music, the role of sound in media and art, some recent listening. I’ll occasionally have contests for giveaways of books and albums and apps and so forth. Some of the published material will be unique to the newsletter, some will draw from existing Disquiet posts, and some will be repurposed on the site.

You can subscribe here: tinyletter.com/disquiet.

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Writing Sound

Mira Grant wakes a woman from a coma

“His voice was no more or less compelling than the buzz of the machines around her.” That’s from Mira Grant’s novel Parasite (2014), describing the experience of a woman emerging from a coma. It continues: “None of his words meant anything to her, and so she dismissed them as unimportant stimuli in a world that was suddenly full of unimportant stimuli. … Then the other people in the room started making noise, as shrill and confused as the machines around her.” The sequel to Parasite, titled Symbiont, comes out later this month. I’m just behind in my reading.

This post first appeared in the Disquiet email newsletter: tinyletter.com/disquiet.

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