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

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Sounding out technology.
Composing in code.

Sarah Davachi on Old Synthesizers and New Ways of Listening

As a guest on Marc Kate's excellent Why We Listen podcast

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So, on Monday I wrote about the drones of Valiska. On Tuesday I wrote about the old-school synthesizer explorations of Sarah Davachi, focusing on her new album, Dominions. After posting that piece, I came to learn that the two musicians, coincidentally, know each other and are, in fact, playing a show together on May 5. On Wednesday I (purposefully) wrote about one of the musicians also playing a set on that same bill. And on Thursday I learned that Davachi is the guest on the latest edition, #36, of the Why We Listen podcast — furthering the coincidence factor, because I was the guest on #35.

The podcast is hosted by musician Marc Kate, who listens to and discusses three (or so) pieces of music with each guest. It’s a genius format to focus the podcast listener’s attention on Kate’s subject, because we listen to him listen. Davachi brought with her Dennis Wilson’s “Mexico,” James Tenney’s “Critical Band,” and John Frusciante’s “Untitled #11” and “Untitled #12.” In addition to talking about the pieces, Davachi talks about her own performance and compositional work. Subjects include moving from piano to synthesizer, working at a musical instrument museum, and bringing her “fidelity standards” down. There’s a great moment when she talks about how ambient music makes listeners uncomfortable because they don’t know — lost in the timeless-ness of it, in contrast with the attention-deficit nature of much pop culture — “what to do with their hands.”

The podcast is available at whywelisten.wordpress.com and on iTunes at apple.com. This link goes to the MP3 for direct download. More from Sarah Davachi, who is based in Montréal, Québec, at sarahdavachi.com.

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Disquiet Junto Project 0226: Bucky Ball

Compose music for a fictional greatest-hits collection of the electronic music of R. Buckminster Fuller.

Disquiet_Junto_BF_v1

Each Thursday in the Disquiet Junto group on SoundCloud.com and at disquiet.com/junto, 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. 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.

This project was posted in the afternoon, California time, on Thursday, April 28, 2016, with a deadline of 11:59pm wherever you are on Monday, May 2, 2016.

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

Disquiet Junto Project 0226: Bucky Ball
Compose music for a fictional greatest-hits collection of the electronic music of R. Buckminster Fuller.

This week’s project is based on an imaginary scenario. The electronic music of legendary architect, inventor, and theorist R. Buckminster Fuller is being compiled. You will make music for that compilation — music you imagine Buckminster Fuller might himself have composed. Thanks to C. Reider (actually, a dream that Reider had) for inspiring the project.

Step 1: Imagine there will be a collection of the electronic music of legendary architect, inventor, and theorist R. Buckminster Fuller.

Step 2: Compose and record a piece of music that you imagine Fuller might have created.

Step 3: Upload your completed track to the Disquiet Junto group on SoundCloud.

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 in the afternoon, California time, on Thursday, April 28, 2016, with a deadline of 11:59pm wherever you are on Monday, May 2, 2016.

Length: The length is up to you, though between two and five minutes feels about right.

Upload: Please when posting your track on SoundCloud, only upload one track for this project, 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.

Title/Tag: When adding your track to the Disquiet Junto group on Soundcloud.com, please in the title to your track include the term “disquiet0226.” Also use “disquiet0226” 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 226th weekly Disquiet Junto project (“Compose music for a fictional greatest-hits collection of the electronic music of R. Buckminster Fuller”) at:

http://disquiet.com/0226/

More on the Disquiet Junto at:

http://disquiet.com/junto/

Join the Disquiet Junto at:

http://soundcloud.com/groups/disquiet-junto/

Subscribe to project announcements here:

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

Disquiet Junto general discussion takes place at:

http://disquiet.com/forums/

Project inspired by a dream that C. Reider of Vuzh Music had:

http://vuzhmusic.com/

Image of album cover created for this project is by Brian Scott of Boon Design:

http://boondesign.com/

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The Blur of Music Discovery

And the video work of the third act on a Calgary synthesizer bill

I’ve written a bit about my confusion regarding the continued fortitude of the word “discovery” as it relates to automated, generally algorithm-derived music recommendations on streaming services. My sense is that the primary beneficiary of “discovery” is less the individuals that hear the music than the companies vying for those individuals’ attention, and not so much for their attention as, far more neutrally, their presence on the given service. There’s a difference between attention and competitive benefit. Apple Music doesn’t really care much if you’re really listening closely; it just cares that you’re using Apple Music and not using Spotify or Deezer or Google Play Music or another service.

There’s a long-running quip about how “writing about music is like dancing about architecture,” but in fact writing about music is, as it relates to many people’s listening habits, more like writing about wallpaper, or writing about perfume, or writing about lighting, or writing about something else that describes a largely inattentive, passive presence in one’s life, something more akin to casual cultural affinity than to strong feelings, let alone to matters of art.

In any case, this comes to mind because yesterday I wrote about Dominions, the phenomenal new album of synthesis by Sarah Davachi, and the day prior I wrote about “Loop1,” a track of restrained drones by Valiska (aka Krzysztof Sujata). What I didn’t realize until after I posted the Davachi write-up is that Davachi and Valiska know each other — and in fact are playing a concert together on May 5 at a place called Good Luck Bar in Calgary, Canada. Now, I know for a fact that the Davachi has been in my to-write-about bookmark folder for awhile, so it wasn’t simply a matter of having written about “Loop1” by Valiska, I then happened upon Davachi. And I’ve written about Valiksa, a longtime Junto participant, at least as long ago as 2012, so neither was it a matter of my Davachi listening having introduced me to him. In any case, I have no idea how this coincidence occurred, but the blur gets, innocently, at the myriad ways that musicians connect with each other and with audiences, leading to awareness that can be difficult to trace back, even if your browser’s cache and history remain intact. The pair’s music has little in common, and yet there is this association.

Perhaps the two posts in a row simply is a coincidence, but today’s post isn’t. When I mentioned the pairing on Twitter I got a reply from the third act on the Good Luck Bar bill, a duo called SH-2000, which consists of Barnaby Bennett and Patrick Whitten. It was Bennet who wrote to me (“maybe you can write about us in SH-2000 to round out the bill coverage? ;)”). They have a recent album out, Shhh (2015) that’s available for stream and purchase. Be sure, as well, to check out this video, titled “Oblique Quantumization,” by Bennett (and M. Geddes Gengras). It randomly plays through a variety of brief combinations of blippy synthesis and test-pattern visuals. The combination is quite hallucinogenic, at times disturbing, in a Saturday-morning pre-cartoon surveillance-state sort of way, and at other times quite elegant and entrancing:

More on the video at barnabybennett.snack.ws. More from Bennett at soundcloud.com/barnaby-bennett.

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The Synthesis of Sarah Davachi

As heard on her phenomenal new album, Dominions

sarahdavachi

Sarah Davachi’s phenomenal new album, Dominions, was recorded largely on old-model synthesizers and something known as the Orchestron, an instrument from the 1970s that plays from a library of sounds that are stored as an optical recording. The album’s five tracks explore various territories, among the more sedate being the churchly “Ordinal,” in which held chords shift to an indeterminate meter as various notes are introduce and removed. “Burgundy” begins in a similar space, its burgeoning atmospheric drone resembling early Terry Riley or La Monte Young, but as it proceeds it gets more and more busy, coming to sound like a symphony of car horns. It’s as if the listener first hears it from afar, several blocks away, and then slowly approaches, and by approaching comes to understand the chaos that was mistaken, from a distance, as calm.

The opening piece, “Feeler,” has the sound of truncated vocal snippets, the extended vowel given texture by the endless tiny appearances of a seam where the end of the sample meets with the start of it replaying. Beneath this is a layer of texture, maybe tape, maybe vinyl, maybe just the room in which it was recorded. Like “Burgundy” it gains mass and detail as it moves forward. Those are just three of the tracks of Dominion’s five. The whole thing is quite strong.

Album available at sarahdavachi.bandcamp.com. More from Sarah Davachi, who is based in Montréal, Québec, at sarahdavachi.com.

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The Sonic Artifacts of Threshold Breach

"Loop1" by Valiska of Calgary, Canada

Valiska is Krzysztof Sujata of Calgary, Canada, and “Loop1” is a gentle, restrained drone. It is part synthesizer, and seemingly part vocalized, and it grows with intensity until it risks being shattered. It ends where it starts, a floating whir, not unlike one of Robert Fripp’s tape loops filigrees, but in between it goes from gentle to lush to dense to the point where the tension frays the sounds themselves. At around three and a half minutes into the nearly six-minute run the repeated melodic line is superimposed with static, with noisy scintillate, with strong feedback. It’s as if the loop tools have been pushed passed their capacity, and we experience that threshold breach as a series of sonic artifacts. The noise subsides in time for the gentle aspect of the loop to re-emerge, but it sounds different now, the noise having receded but its memory coloring how the subsequent the quietness is experienced.

Track originally posted at soundcloud.com/valiska. More from Valiska at valiska.com and twitter.com/TheValiska.

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