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.

Disquiet Junto Project 0255: Capone’s Ghost

What does the banjo music of the fabled criminal sound like?

al_capone_in_florida

Each Thursday in the Disquiet Junto group, 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. A SoundCloud account is helpful but not required. There’s no pressure to do every project. It’s weekly so that you know it’s there, every Thursday through Monday, when you have the time.

Tracks will be added to this playlist for the duration of the project:

This project was posted shortly after noon, California time, on Thursday, November 17, 2016, with a deadline of 11:59pm wherever you are on Monday, November 21, 2016.

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

Disquiet Junto Project 0255: Capone’s Ghost
What does the banjo music of the fabled criminal sound like?

Step 1: Ghost stories are prevalent throughout cultures. When they involve music, they manifest in ways that find parallels between two intangibles: ethereal presences, and a cultural form that you can, generally speaking, neither see nor touch. Now consider the case of Al Capone, who played banjo during his time on the famed prison island of Alcatraz in the San Francisco Bay — a banjo that is said to be heard long after his death.

Step 2: Create a short piece of what you think Capone’s ghostly banjo sounds like.

Five More Important Steps When Your Track Is Done:

Step 1: Per the instructions below, be sure to include the project tag “disquiet0255” (no spaces) in the name of your track. If you’re posting on SoundCloud in particular, this is essential to my locating the tracks and creating a playlist of them.

Step 2: Upload your track. It is helpful but not essential that you use SoundCloud to host your track.

Step 3: In the following discussion thread at llllllll.co please consider posting your track. (Assuming you post it on SoundCloud, a search for the tag will help me construct the playlist.)

http://llllllll.co/t/capones-ghost-disquiet-junto-project-0255/

Step 4: Annotate your track with a brief explanation of your approach and process.

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

Deadline: This project was posted shortly after noon, California time, on Thursday, November 17, 2016, with a deadline of 11:59pm wherever you are on Monday, November 21, 2016.

Length: The length is up to you, but two minutes sounds about right.

Title/Tag: When posting your track, please include “disquiet0255” in the title of the track, and where applicable (on SoundCloud, for example) as a tag.

Upload: When participating in this project, post one finished track with the project tag, and be sure to 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. Photos, video, and lists of equipment are always appreciated.

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 online, please be sure to include this information:

More on this 255th weekly Disquiet Junto project — “Capone’s Ghost: What does the banjo music of the fabled criminal sound like?” — at:

http://disquiet.com/0255/

More on the Disquiet Junto at:

http://disquiet.com/junto/

Subscribe to project announcements here:

http://tinyletter.com/disquiet-junto/

Project discussion takes place on llllllll.co:

llllllll.co/t/capones-ghost-disquiet-junto-project-0255/

There’s also on a Junto Slack. Send your email address to twitter.com/disquiet for Slack inclusion.

Public-domain mugshot associated with this project from Wikipedia.

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Major Thanks to Adobe Books, Marc Kate

For last night's 33 1/3 event

20161117-adobe33event

I had a great time last night yapping with Evie Nagy about our respective 33 1/3 books at Adobe Books in San Francisco under the informed guidance of the gracious Marc Kate. When Evie talked about Devo’s Freedom of Choice, I was instantly transported back to my friend Evan Cooper’s basement, circa high school. I was gonna read the part about Gracenote and cultural metadata from my book about Aphex Twin’s Selected Ambient Works Volume II, but it’s a little long at six pages, so instead I played “White Blur 1” and read the bit about that track from the first chapter of the book. It was especially timely, what with Brian Eno having come out of the woodwork earlier this week to reaffirm the definition of ambient, in his mind, to being rooted in generative processes, which is what the wind chime is all about. Thanks to everyone who came out. I met some Twitter avatars in the flesh for the first time, saw people I hadn’t seen in ages, intrigued some folks about the weekly Disquiet Junto projects, responded to audience questions about stuff like the changing nature of canonical albums and the role of description in music criticism, mentioned the upcoming Futuredraft talk I’m giving on December 1 about doorbells, and had phenomenal al pastor tacos and habanero salsa down the block from Adobe at Taqueria Guadalajara. (That’s me on the left in the photo and Marc Kate on the right.)

There were good questions last night, both from the host, Marc Kate, and from the audience. I thought I’d summarize and elaborate some of them here:

Q: What does the change in music-listening habits mean in terms of how works are defined as canonical?
A: To me, the decline in the concept of a cultural canon is an overall positive, not just a net positive. Individual works are less likely to be singled out as hulking achievements, forced to bear weight that they can’t support without consensual hallucination and received idolatry. In the place of that canon we have not only a much broader sense of cultural output, but we also look less at individual works and artists/bands, and more at scenes and communities and time periods. That’s a much more realistic and holistic way to appreciate culture.

Q: Used to be you couldn’t hear everything released, and record reviews filled that void, let you know what to expect. What role does description play in music criticism today, in the age of streaming?
A: I think the most important role of description hasn’t changed — it’s less about describing how the music sounds, and more about describing how the music works, what to listen for.

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This Week in Sound: Ambient Eno +

sound maps + space silence + Mac startup + Westworld's Djawadi + ...

1. This Week in Sound

A lightly annotated clipping service:

Well, at least the first day of 2017 will be good. Brian Eno (via brian-eno.net) has announced that he’s putting out a proper ambient album through the Warp label on January 1. And in the process he’s pushing back a bit at the broad use of the ubiquitous term. In a note album the forthcoming album, titled Reflections, he writes “I don’t think I understand what that term stands for anymore — it seems to have swollen to accommodate some quite unexpected bedfellows — but I still use it to distinguish it from pieces of music that have fixed duration and rhythmically connected, locked together elements.”

Emily S. Rueb writes at nytimes.com about an effort in Manhattan “to create an aural map that a group of researchers hopes will help city agencies monitor and enforce noise pollution, and will empower citizens to assist in the process.”

Monica Grady at theconversation.com explores sounds that push back at the idea of the vacuum being truly silent.

Rhett Jones at gizmodo.com notes the passing of the Mac startup sound.

Jordan Pearson at motherboard.vice.com ponders whether whales are the source of a mysterious “pinging” sound in the Arctic.

You know how every show with top-shelf surveillance, from Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. to the much missed Person of Interest, has people tap near their ear to suggest they’re interacting with some sort of near-invisible walkie talkie? Well, the headphone company Bragi, according to Mitchel Broussard at macrumors.com, is coming out with headphones enabled with “MyTap” that “lets them control the headphones through tap-based gestures placed directly on their cheek.”

Speaking of which: For those watching (and especially writing about) Westworld, while it’s of note that composer Ramin Djawadi also writes the music for Game of Thrones, please note that he in addition wrote the music for Jonathan Nolan’s previous AI-themed show, Person of Interest. People keep citing the Djawadi-Thrones connection (newyorker.com, independent.co.uk, and theguardian.com just to name a few) as direct or indirect evidence of HBO’s ambitions for Westworld, without mentioning that Nolan and Djawadi have a longstanding collaboration. (If you haven’t seen the fantastic Person of Interest, it is essentially an extrapolation of Colossus: The Forbin Project.) There are many mysteries to the enjoyable Westworld, and one thing I am fixated on is the (admittedly baseless) idea that while in the fictional Wild West of the AI theme park, guests themselves hear the same filmic background music that we, the show’s viewers, do. And, yeah, the anachronistic player piano music is fascinating, especially as the piano serves as a way to connect the code-enabled mechanization of AI to an old-west technology. By definition, the term “AI” is best used to describe machine intelligence that we haven’t yet normalized. No doubt those old pianos freaked out their share of saloon regulars.

2. Low(e) Tones

This is a public service announcement that “You Make Me” has become my favorite Nick Lowe song. It’s been “Without Love” for the longest time, but that’s changed. You learn a lot about a song if you sing it every other night to your kid at bedtime for six months straight. That’s especially true if you do so at increasingly slower tempos (which is my parenting sleepy time zen voodoo Jedi protip). I watched a bunch of videos recently about the Zvex Lofi Junky — it’s a nifty guitar pedal I noticed being used by a musician I admire — and I realized that what I like about it is how it sounds like it sounds when you sing something extra slow. The wave form, the ebb and flow, of your tone becomes an effect put upon the syllables that you’re singing. That’s a “warble” if it’s got some speed to it, but it’s warpy and syrupy and off-kilter if you do it super super slow. And I mean really slow. Gregorian Chant slow. Anyhow yeah, “You Make Me” is now my favorite Nick Lowe song, with the understanding that I mean “song” not “recording,” and I mean you sing it slow.

3. Recent Notable Deaths

RIP, pianist and songwriter Mose Allison (b. 1927)

RIP, David Mancuso (b. 1944), DJ and club culture figure

RIP, Billy Miller (b. 1954), Norton Records label founder

RIP, singer songwriter Leon Russell (b. 1942)

RIP, Victor Bailey (b. 1960), Weather Report bassist and ubiquitous sideman

RIP, George James (92), one of the last remaining Navajo Code Talkers of World War II

RIP, Leonard Cohen (b. 1934), who’s headed home to collect some serious royalties.

RIP, early synthesizer musician Jean-Jacques Perrey (b. 1929)

This first appeared, in slightly different form, in the November 15, 2016, edition of the free Disquiet “This Week in Sound” email newsletter: tinyletter.com/disquiet.

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A Taste of A Winged Victory

One track from the duo's forthcoming Iris soundtrack album

Update: The full audio is up at Spotify. You can listen there.

It’s just one track for now, but it will grow 18-fold by early next year — it’ll flower, just as the one track’s opening moments, mere distant piano notes, unfold into a dense and rapturous mix of mechanized static and soaring synthesizer drones. The track is “Galerie,” and it’s the sole one to appear thus far of the eventual 18 tracks that comprise Iris. The album is the score to Jalil Lespert’s film Iris, which seems, judging by the heavy-breathing trailer, to be a sexually charged thriller. A Winged Victory for the Sullen is Adam Bryanbaum Wiltzie (half of Stars of the Lid and half of the Dead Texan) and Dustin O’Halloran, who teamed with Francesco Donadello and a 40-piece orchestra for the recording.

Album originally posted at erasedtapes.bandcamp.com. More from A Winged Victory for the Sullen at awvfts.com.

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Stephen Vitiello’s Bifurcated Sunday

A guitar piece turned inside out.

Stephen Vitiello’s “L- guitar (Sundaybounce2)” is indeed, per the title, guitar-based and buoyant, and it does have the comfortable feel of something recorded on a day off. Of course, Vitiello is no armchair composer. Sound is his work, as an in-demand musician and artist, which means that his day off is perhaps more about experimentation, about work apart from work, about trying something out without the overarching impetus of one pressing project or another.

Much of the nearly 6 minutes of “L- guitar (Sundaybounce2)” is a plucked bit of electric six-string merging with and playing against a harmonic backdrop, the strings closely mic’d, often sounding like they’re being repeated, looped, treated, even as the melodic quality retains a charming surface that belies all the intricacy just below.

Halfway through is when the piece really takes off, when the chord gives way to a sound at most a quarter the density of what proceeded it. What follows is elements of that opening half broken and frayed, separated from each other. We’re left hearing a single note here, a torn phrase there, a bit of what could be a melodica left on its own. Often what remains is barely a note, more like the effects put upon the note, an inventory of all those intricacies. The second half is elegant and considered, purposefully apart from the charm of the opening half, and all the more imagination-teasing for the absence.

Track originally posted at soundcloud.com/stephenvitiello. More from Vitiello at stephenvitiello.com. He’s based in Virginia, where he’s a professor at Virginia Commonwealth University.

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