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.

Ambient Turned Up to 11

A track from Maastricht-based Onar

There’s a sense with a lot of ambient music that if played loud it would change genres, that a simple alteration in amplitude would turn something meditative into something abrasive — which is to say, into something else entirely. That’s certainly true for some music that uses saw waves and white noise as a foundation. Hearing it at a high volume exaggerates the rough edges, brings out the harsh elements. But then there are tracks, like Onar’s “Let’s Try11,” that maintain a sense of calm, of peace, of gentleness, even as they’re turned up and up, which is a likely response when hearing this lovely piece. It’s built from swells, and swells upon swells, with an undercurrent of everyday ambience. The track’s title, purposefully or not, brings to mind Spinal Tap’s old joke about super-charged amplifiers. Turn this up to 11, and luxuriate in it.

Track originally posted at Found via a repost by Dave Dorgan. Onar is based in Maastricht, Netherlands. More at

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Disquiet Junto Project 0249: 80 Phases

Wish the minimalist composer Steve Reich a happy birthday.


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.

This project was posted in the morning, California time, on Thursday, October 6, 2016, with a deadline of 11:59pm wherever you are on Monday, October 10, 2016.

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

Disquiet Junto Project 0249: 80 Phases
Wish the minimalist composer Steve Reich a happy birthday.

Major thanks to Neil Stringfellow for proposing and helping to craft this project.

Project Steps:

Step 1: October 3 marked the 80th birthday of composer Steve Reich. Prepare to record a tribute to him.

Step 2: Select a short segment of sound or music that can be looped and, per Reich’s own technique, “phased.” Fortunately, the song “Happy Birthday” has entered the public domain. Consider using it.

Step 3: Take the segment from Step 2 and play it on repeat, layering the loop with slightly different timing to create a phasing effect. Play around with this, editing the loops until you have some successful or interesting sounds/accidents.

Step 4: Add some extra sounds or textures if you think the piece needs it.

Five More Important Steps When Your Track Is Done:

Step 1: Per the instructions below, be sure to include the project tag “disquiet0249” (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 please consider posting your track. (Assuming you post it on SoundCloud, a search for the tag will help me construct the playlist.)

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 morning, California time, on Thursday, October 6, 2016, with a deadline of 11:59pm wherever you are on Monday, October 10, 2016.

Length: The length is up to you. Four minutes feels about right.

Title/Tag: When posting your track, please include “disquiet0249” 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 249th weekly Disquiet Junto project — “Wish the minimalist composer Steve Reich a happy birthday” — 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.

Rain image by Rory MacLeod, used thanks to a Creative Commons license:

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A Beat Amid Voices

A new track from Oakland-based Marilyn McNeal


Marilyn McNeal’s new album, Spacetime, ranges from off-kilter techno (“Frere”) to folktronic blues (“Nice Home”) to downtempo beatcraft (“String Theory”), and in numerous other directions as well, often simultaneously. There are six tracks total, and each puts a unique spin on whatever realm of music it might feel closest to approximating. Perhaps the most significant treat is the track that, naturally, is most difficult to even begin to classify:

That track would be “Tower,” which loops several vocal lines — one deep and slow, one high-pitched and rapid, one ethereal and modulating this way and that — all of them echoing in and out of sync with each other. Through the post-verbal quilt runs this fascinating little beat, not much more than a terse click track, so innocuous it might not even be evident on initial listens. How that beat holds its own needle-drop composure amid the psychedelic syllabic cascades is just one of the piece’s many pleasures.

Track originally posted at More from McNeal, who is based in Oakland, California, at and

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If Rube Goldberg Composed Music

The machines of Louise Rossiter

There’s no note accompanying Louise Rossiter’s “Opening,” which was posted a little less than three weeks ago to the composer’s SoundCloud account. It’s a bracing piece of rhythmic sound, all the material seemingly drawn from gears, engines, and other motoric devices. It sounds like looms and telegraphs, typewriters and pistons, all sewn together into a perfectly flowing structure, one metric element giving way to the next, like if Rube Goldberg composed music.

Track originally posted at More from Rossiter, who’s from Scotland and is based in Leicester, at and

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Sonic Freeze Frame

From Massachusetts–based PrettyRobots+HungryGhosts

“Cascade V.1” by the (apparently?) anonymous Northampton, Massachusetts–based musician who goes by PrettyRobots+HungryGhosts, is a slow, tinkling drone that gains layers of quietly anxious activity as it proceeds until, true to its name, it explodes in a vibrantly refracting hall of mirrors stutter. Her piece is room tone and glass clicks, mood setting and light glitch, until it goes all sonic freeze frame. It’s grand.

Track originally posted at More at prettyrobots–

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