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 0243: Synth Trial

The Assignment: Share the best track from your audition tape for Blade Runner 2.


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 in the morning, California time, on Thursday, August 25, 2016, with a deadline of 11:59pm wherever you are on Monday, August 29, 2016.

These are the instructions that went out to the group’s email list (at

Disquiet Junto Project 0243: Synth Trial
The Assignment: Share the best track from your audition tape for Blade Runner 2.

Please pay particular attention to all the instructions below, in light of SoundCloud having closed down its Groups functionality.

Big picture: One thing arising from the end of the Groups functionality is a broad goal, in which an account on SoundCloud is not necessary for Disquiet Junto project participation. We’ll continue to use SoundCloud, but it isn’t required to use SoundCloud. The aspiration is for the Junto to become “platform-agnostic,” which is why using a message forum, such as, as a central place for each project may work well.

And now, on to this week’s project.

Project Steps:

Step 1: As you now know, Jóhann Jóhannsson was selected to score Blade Runner 2. The news means, among other things, that you didn’t get the gig. Please reconcile yourself with this.

Step 2: Please share your favorite track from the audition tape you sent to Ridley Scott.

Five More Important Steps When Your Track Is Done:

Step 1: Per the instructions below, be sure to include the project tag “disquiet0243” (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: This is a fairly new step, if you’ve done a Junto project previously. In the following discussion thread at post your track:

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.

This project was posted in the morning, California time, on Thursday, August 25, 2016, with a deadline of 11:59pm wherever you are on Monday, August 29, 2016.

Length: The length is up to you. Three minutes seems like a good maximum.

Title/Tag: When posting your track, please include “disquiet0243” 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 243rd weekly Disquiet Junto project — “Share the best track from your audition tape for Blade Runner 2” — at:

More on the Disquiet Junto at:

Subscribe to project announcements here:

Project discussion takes place on

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

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Forum Digging and the Fate of Netlabels

I was interviewed for WFMU's Radio Free Culture podcast.


Radio Free Culture WFMU exists to, per its credo, “examine issues at the intersection of digital media and the arts.” I was excited to be interviewed for the podcast by Erik Schoster, aka the musician He Can Jog. We talk about a wide range of subjects, including the role of netlabels in the age of streaming, listening strategies in our age of sonic abundance (forum digging as the new crate digging), the benefits and challenges of platform agnosticism (in light of the Disquiet Junto’s shifting dependence on SoundCloud), the imminent 250th weekly Disquiet Junto project, the imminent 20th anniversary of (December 13, 2016), and the return to active duty of Aphex Twin.

I can’t seem to sort out how to embed the audio here, but you can listen at

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What Sound Looks Like

An ongoing series cross-posted from

In contrast with many home-brew domestic doorbell fixes, this one is easily understood. The black void where there was once a button for apartment number four has been addressed, so to speak, with a newer-model plastic standalone item. The photo may not make this clear, but that isn’t duct tape around the newer button. It’s a metal sheath of the same material as the gate. Despite what the varied buttons suggest, someone is in fact concerned with design continuity at this multi-unit building. If the broken button wasn’t easily rewired, the question lingers as to whether up in apartment four this new button is mirrored by a new bell. Perhaps every time it rings, it echoes through the building as a reminder to neighbors of other petty differences.

An ongoing series cross-posted from
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Listening to Yesterday: Conference Call

"You don't have to put on the red light. Those days are over."

  1. conference call
  2. user interface


The conference call lasted a little over an hour, four people in four different buildings on two different coasts. The discussion was mediated by a software interface. The software allowed for screen-sharing, but especially prominent on the interface, this being a live conversation, were markers for various aspects of the audio. A little microphone symbol was situated next to each speaker’s name — that’s speaker as in human, not as in sound-emitting technology — and a horizontal meter registered how loud someone was talking. Whoever spoke, their name appeared prominently next to the word “talking.” This was an imperfect approach, since had someone been sharing my laptop with me, my name would have appeared when they spoke. On this call we all knew each other well enough that the names were unnecessary.

I’ve seen variations on this speaker-identification model over the years. One that particularly stuck in my memory used a spatial relationship for the voices, so you’d see them on the screen in a manner that suggested they were, in essence, in different seats. It was a bit like an ambisonic Jedi Council: If you listened on headphones, the voices were also situated spatially across the stereo spectrum. You had the option to move them to where you wanted them, so you could group them according to role or organization. It seemed particularly useful as a means to evenly distribute the people who talked too much.

On the conference call tool yesterday, the microphone button was red when someone had muted it, green when they had it live. Color is a whole other ball of wax from sound. There are especially strong cultural associations with color, though the associations also vary widely around the globe. In the west, red is often seen as an admonition (stop, warning), whereas in Asia it can suggest happiness (good luck, joy). On this call, red was intended as neutral, a simple “off” in an on/off binary world, but it seemed to still carry some cultural baggage. I had it on red/mute most of the time so that my typing of notes didn’t fill up the sonic conversation space. I couldn’t help but think, though, that the red next to my name was unintentionally signaling disinterest. I also wondered if any of these whiz-bang digital conference-call tools could just filter out keyboard clatter.

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Music for Piano and Cicada

Loops both digital and natural courtesy of Denmark-based Robert Rizzi

The piano is not entirely lost, though per the title of the track it is deconstructed, and muddied by the presence of a field recording. The full track title is “Deconstructed piano improvisation and Field recording etude No.5,” by Robert Rizzi of Kolding, Denmark. The field recording is largely bug noise, “this summer of cicadas on Mallorca, Spain,” according to Rizzi. Amid the high-pitching buzzing, the piano is heard cutting in and out, notes more like shards than notes. They break in the middle or start midway. They repeat like a stutter, like a memory caught on a loop, sometimes so swiftly that the digital processing is self-evident, but often with a whispery, casual quality — almost flute-like at times — that makes this half-real piano sound just as real, just as natural, as nature’s own looping white noise.

Track originally posted at More from Rizzi at

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