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.

What Sound Looks Like

An ongoing series cross-posted from

Noise office: The red book is the new Rothko bio. The yellow poster is my fake Rothko, a framed Pantone poster.

Cross-posted from
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Straddling Experimentation and Accessibility

Stringbot's "Shapeshifted"

One of the great things about Stringbot’s music is that even as it ventures into noisy areas and explores the automated patterning made available by modular synthesis, it retains an inherent pop appeal. “Shapeshifted” is a great example of how he straddles these two ends of the continuum, between experimentation and accessibility. The beat here has a vaguely random feel, not the rhythm itself but the way it plays out, how filters alter the relation of the foreground and the background, and how the foreground sound itself is modulated. At times it is pinched, at others deeply echoed; it can feel like a handmade instrument one moment, and a machine-tooled automaton the next. All the more interesting is how the beat moves, in a nuanced manner, from one such stage to another. That main percussive element is steady, with an enjoyable bounce to it. It has the feel of something Laurie Anderson might intone over.

The track is a trial run of a new piece of gear that Stringbot obtained, something called the Shapeshifter, a collaboration between the companies Cylonix and Intellijel. In the image accompanying the track, it’s the one with the lit-up rectangle on the bottom half of the shot. More on the module at and

Track originally posted at Stringbot is Joshua Davison, who is based in Chicago, Illinois.

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Beat in the Cathedral

A multi-stage piece by Darkmatter

When the piece “Ternary Cathedral” by Darkmatter opens, it consists largely of a shimmery, muted melodic line, like the high end of a pipe organ set in reverie mode. It is heard in a dark echoing chamber, and as time passes, distortion enters. The inbound backdrop for that melodic bit seems to be the same phrase set through some heavy filter. A brief drum pattern helps connect the two, finding a rhythm in the fairly loose and cloud-like melody, and hammering it home. That the beat doesn’t last very long makes it doubly interesting — usually a beat is the backbone of a track; here it is a cameo, one element among many.

Track originally posted at More from Dark Matter, based in London, at

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The Birds: After and Before

Transmuted field recordings by Richard Fair (aka Audiodays)

By the sounds of Richard Fair’s “Birdy Birdy,” the temporary autonomous zone has gone to seed. The birds have taken over the biodome, the dusty, moldering place long vacated by humans. The air is thick with the birds, and the cold surface echoes their songs with mechanical affect. Simple, cheerful tunes are quickly transmuted into something threatening, something hard. The birdsong itself is beginning to show evidence of an environmental feedback cycle, the birds’ own tune becoming slower, drowsier, more defensive, more feral. (Fair is aware of such a transaction, having written in a brief post: “I do wonder if the birds outside are reacting to what I’m doing in.”)

“Birdy Birdy” is not a real field recording, in the sense that it is not a pristine document, not by any means. What it is is the result of a field recording, a fairly blissfully mundane one, turned electronically into something quite other. The source audio was posted by Fair, who goes by Audiodays, of Norwich, England, as “Norwich Birdsong 17 May 2015.” It is bird song heard in the urban wild, complete with motorcycles and other evidence of 21st-century life. “Birdy Birdy” was posted shortly thereafter, the diary turned into a fiction.

This is the after:

This is the before:

More from Fair at and He also has a podcast.

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Sine Waves for Samuel Beckett

Existentially precise music by Dave Seidel for an upcoming performance of Play

There are three characters in Samuel Beckett’s play Play, one for each of the three points on the lover’s triangle. Dave Seidel is preparing a score for a live performance of Beckett’s Play (something he announced back in January), and the first taste matches the characters’ geometry with a kind of existential precision. That is, the work is both intellectually diagrammatic and eternally open-ended. The piece, titled “Threefold Soliloquy,” is comprised of three sine waves — three groups of three, actually. They’re set to intersect in a generative manner, the waves overlapping, intersecting, creating resulting new patterns. No two performances of Seidel’s composition will play out the same way — well, not statistically speaking. Presumably these overlaps are intended to reference not only the varying connections between the characters, but the cacophony of voices with which the play opens and closes. At the start and end of Play, the three characters are directed to speak “altogether.” The script notes the intended effect: “Voices faint, largely unintelligible.”

For reference, here is a version of the play directed by Anthony Minghella back in 2001, featuring Alan Rickman, Kristin Scott Thomas, and Juliet Stevenson. Minghella elects to echo their voices to a purgatorial extreme afforded him by staging this for highly edited video rather than live performance:

Track originally posted for free download at More from Seidel at his website,

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