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.

The Xenophonic Origins and Contemporary Pleasures of the Tuesday Noon Siren

A reflection on urban sound by Nick Sowers and Bryan Finoki

Because they are true professionals, the recording that Nick Sowers and Bryan Finoki made of the Tuesday noon civic warning siren in San Francisco has a lot of great detail. To begin with, there is the extended opening, which delays the arrival of the siren so that the listener, even one who’s never been to San Francisco, and even for San Franciscans who’ve never noticed the siren (I live here — this is more common than you might imagine), has a sense of how the sound — the alarm, and then the voice — emerges from everyday sound, from street noise, and wind, and chatter. In addition, Sowers and Finoki opted to record it near church bells. The siren rings out at noon, which means that in much of the city it collides with carillon of various denominations. In an accompanying post at their excellent (in)Fringe series at, they trace the background of the siren to its origins in Pear Harbor anxiety (“despite their current innocuous replay, they remain a reminder of a hysteric xenophobic past”). And they do justice to the siren’s role in daily (well, Tuesday-specific) life here: “All of them are installed atop poles or on roofs of buildings, and listening to them from different locations can signal interesting delays and cross-faded effects that almost mimic a hallucinatory interplay of the city’s acoustic skeletons.”

Track originally posted at More from Sowers at and from Finoki at Together they go by 52-blue, more on which at

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Guitar in the Garden

A Japan-Belgium collaboration

Nobuto Suda is a Kyoto, Japan–based musician. Stijn Hüwels, who goes by Steiner, is a musician based in Leuven, Belgium. Together they made the plainly titled “A Piece in Collaboration with Stijn Hüwels,” which Suda posted this week to his SoundCloud account. The piece is described as a tribute to the Mirei Shigemori Garden Museum in Kyoto. The garden dates from the late 1700s. The track is, like the garden, an exercise is architectural elegance that either is intruded upon or frames birdsong, depending on your perspective. (I vote for the latter.) In the track there is a simple acoustic guitar line that echoes into the distance. Sometimes that echoing matches the metrics of the original guitar, and sometimes the echo plays slightly against the source audio, testing the placidity of the overall track. Throughout, birdsong, perhaps recorded by Suda at the Shigemori, fills the space between the notes, much as a glass house reflects back the nature by which it is surrounded.

Track originally posted to More from Hüwels at More on the Shigemori at

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Ylva Lund Bergner Poisons Ears

Her "Euphorbia" works slowly and effectively.

There are many places where ambient music and contemporary classical music collide. Among the more fertile intersections is where the latter is a chamber work, and the collective impression is considerably less than the sum of the various parts. This isn’t to suggest any disappointment, quite the contrary — simply the controlled intensity of many instruments taking considerably limited action for an extended period.

“Euphorbia,” composed by Ylva Lund Bergner and performed by the Curious Chamber Players, is just such a work. It has the attenuated tension of Morton Feldman scoring a Mission: Impossible movie, the mix of chiming strings and droning horns and chattering noisemakers proceeding at a deliberate pace in which the drama is implicit rather than explicit.

The composition’s title, “Euphorbia,” we’re informed by Bergner, is from a poisonous plant in Denmark, where she lives (she’s originally from Sweden). She writes: “It is beautiful and very common. In the piece I wanted to transform the poisounous effect the plant would have one a human into music.” Her music is beautiful and by no means common.

Track originally posted at Get the album on which it appears at More from Bergner at More from the Curious Chamber Players at and

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When Music and Sound Conspire

A narrative-driven track from Conch

“Moreton” unfolds like a short segment from a wordless film. This is in part because the music in it consists largely of held chords on a synthesizer, just the sort of economical arrangement that merges with a film’s overall sound and insinuates itself into the action. And then there is that sound itself, which here presents a sequence of events: footsteps for an extended period, then what is almost certainly a gun being cocked and shot, and then a distant siren. Conch, to whom the piece is credited, says it’s the second track from a forthcoming album. Perhaps the full album with explain the mystery — or deepen it.

Track originally posted at

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What Sound Looks Like

An ongoing series cross-posted from

A modest little doorbell stands apart from the substantial mess it seems to have been called upon to help manage. First there is the original doorway itself. The street address, 634, appears on the door, behind a firm gate. Clearly the gate was installed after the door, because it duplicates the now partially illegible address number. That echo may be the facade’s most memorable characteristic. But it isn’t the only echo here. Note as well how the gate was formed to have holes for the pre-existing window and mail slot. The gate has, in addition, a knocker. At some point that knocker must have been deemed insufficient to the task, and the doorbell was installed, another echo, though more practical than the address number’s repetition, and less literal than the window and mail-slot passthroughs. It says something about the sheer visual density of the entrance that a visitor is likely to click on the doorbell without having taken a full inventory of the years of accrual the doorway represents.

An ongoing series cross-posted from
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